2021 Ballot Proposals: statewide, local

I looked on the ballot from both sides, now.

Before I could vote on November 2, 2021, or earlier, I needed to get up to speed on the 2021 Ballot Proposals. There are five statewide items in New York State, and two in the city of Albany.

There may be other local propositions where you live. They will likely be on the REVERSE side of the ballot from the candidates’ listings, so check out both sides!

The five state proposals are found here.

Ballot Proposal 1

Amending the Apportionment and Redistricting Process
This proposed constitutional amendment would freeze the number of state senators at 63, amend the process for the counting of the state’s population, delete certain provisions that violate the United States Constitution, repeal and amend certain requirements for the appointment of the co-executive directors of the redistricting commission and amend the manner of drawing district lines for congressional and state legislative offices. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

The Census guy in me supports:
Requiring that state assembly and senate district lines be based on the total population of the state, and require the state to count all residents, including non-citizens and Native Americans if the federal census fails to include them.
Provide for incarcerated people to be counted at their place of the last residence, instead of at their place of incarceration, for the purpose of redistricting. This practice is already established by state statute for Senate and Assembly districts.

I’m ambivalent about this:
Freeze the number of state senators at the current number of 63. Currently, under the state constitution, the number of senators was originally set at 50 and thereafter increased over time to 63.
On one hand, I would support Congress getting larger to counteract the unfairness the current system is applied to larger states. On the other hand, we’re talking about the historically dysfunctional state legislature.

All in all, I’m still thinking about this. Notably, the League of Women Voters of the City of New York recommends a NO vote. This is due, in part, because, “The proposed amendment would unfairly empower the majority party by preventing the minority party from having input into the final proposed maps.” Help me with this one, people.

Ballot Proposal 2

Right to Clean Air, Clean Water, and a Healthful Environment
The proposed amendment to Article I of the New York Constitution would establish the right of each person to clean air and water and a healthful environment.

Of course YES. But how would this work, exactly?

Ballot Proposal 3

Eliminating Ten-Day-Advance Voter Registration Requirement
The proposed amendment would delete the current requirement… that a citizen be registered to vote at least ten days before an election and would allow the Legislature to enact laws permitting a citizen to register to vote less than ten days before the election.

YES.

Ballot Proposal 4

Authorizing No-Excuse Absentee Ballot Voting
The proposed amendment would delete from the current provision on absentee ballots the requirement that an absentee voter must be unable to appear at the polls by reason of absence from the county or illness or physical disability.

YES. People oughtn’t have to lie about how sick/infirm they are.

Ballot Proposal 5

Increasing the Jurisdiction of the New York City Civil Court
The proposed amendment would increase the New York City Civil Court’s jurisdiction by allowing it to hear and decide claims for up to $50,000 instead of the current jurisdictional limit of $25,000.

Sure. It seems to be a response to inflationary pressures. The NYC LWV is YES on Props 2-4, and takes no position on 5.

The local items

Proposition: Council residency requirement
Shall the Charter of the City of Albany be amended to require any person seeking election as a member of the Common Council to be an elector and resident of the ward for which the person is seeking election for a continuous period of at least three hundred sixty-five (365) days prior to taking office and during the entire term of office, except in limited circumstances following reapportionment of Common Council wards?

What? That’s NOT the law already? YES.

Proposition: Increase Community Police Review Board Authority

Shall Article XLIV of Chapter 42 of the Code of the City of Albany be amended to increase the Community Police Review Board’s authority and ability to conduct investigations and to exercise oversight, review, and resolution of community complaints alleging abuse of police authority?

The IDEA of the CPRB was grand. But it has been a paper tiger. “The law was already affirmed by the Albany Common Council, in a unanimous 14-0 vote, in March but requires a citywide referendum from the public to go into effect. That would be a YES.

Building confidence in US elections (2005)

“Measures to encourage and achieve the greatest possible participation in elections”

“I wish that we could just have someone out there say in 2005, Jimmy Carter and James Baker did the Carter-Baker Commission to both tried to expand voting and make it more secure. They had 87 recommendations. Adopt them all. It means you won’t have ballot harvesting, but it means it will be easier to vote.”

I heard someone suggest this on one of those talking-heads shows two months ago. It made sense in building confidence in US elections.

The Commission had “five sturdy pillars.”

“Voter registration that is convenient for voters to complete and even simpler to renew and that produces complete, accurate, and valid list of citizens who are eligible to vote.”

This means not having wholesale purging of voter lists. Voters who move more often – students, renters, e.g. – should not be disenfranchised.

“Voter identification, tied directly to voter registration, that balances election integrity without introducing new barriers to voting, including the casting and counting of ballots.”

Prior to the pandemic, I never had to show my ID when I voted. The last two times, once involving early voting at a central location, and the other in an alternative site, I did. This is not to say it might not be onerous for others.

I’m suggesting something that’s a bit of a bugaboo for some: an option for people to receive an identification card that is FREE and not onerous to obtain. Or, in the alternative, a wider array of verification documents that don’t discourage the franchise.

When requiring, say, a driver’s license/non-driver’s license and the nearest DMV is two bus rides away with long lines, THAT is a barrier to voting. Too often, the ID requirements have been used to, de facto, disenfranchise.

More participation

“Measures to encourage and achieve the greatest possible participation in elections by enabling all eligible voters to have an equal opportunity to vote and have their votes counted.”

Having one drop-off box for ballots per county may seem fair in the abstract. But when one county has a few hundred and another has a few hundred thousand – well, no. People standing in long lines because there are too few polling places in “selected” communities.

I’ve been consistent in giving ex-felons the right to vote. It’s our duty as a nation to rehabilitate. How does that happen when the formerly incarcerated are denied the franchise?

“Voting machines that tabulate voter preferences accurately and transparently, minimize under- and over-votes,
restricting mail-in voting and allow for verifiability and full recounts”

This means non-hackable computers and paper records.

“Fair, impartial, and effective election administration.”

This would preclude a former elected person from asking an official to “find” him some votes.

My great fear is that if we can’t find a way to have elections that most people recognize as legitimate, the country will not exist. That may seem melodramatic, but I firmly believe it.

Amendments 15, 19, 24, 26

As I’ve noted many times, the arc of the Constitution bends towards greater participation in voting by its citizenry. Letting black people and women and 18-year-olds vote. Getting rid of the poll tax. Ultimately, we should be heading forward in making

BTW, the suggestion was offered up by Sarah Isgur, a veteran of the Trump Justice Department, who’s now a political analyst for “The Dispatch.” She suggested it on the July 11 episode of This Week

Read the 2005 report. It’s only 113 pages long, and it has pictures! What do you think can be done to create a more perfect union that enough people can get behind?

The Call of Wisdom (Proverbs 1)

Big Lies

WisdomAt my church yesterday, the liturgical Old Testament lesson was Proverbs 1:20-33. It describes a personified Wisdom, and, not so incidentally, as a woman.

The New Revised Stand Version (NRSV) reads, in part:

Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares, she raises her voice.
At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?”

But there is a Bible translation called The Message, by Peterson. It was the preferred translation by my late friend Keith Barber.

This take is far more pointed:

Lady Wisdom goes out in the street and shouts. At the town center, she makes her speech. In the middle of the traffic, she takes her stand. At the busiest corner she calls out:

“Simpletons! How long will you wallow in ignorance? Cynics! How long will you feed your cynicism? Idiots! How long will you refuse to learn?”

The birth of the Big Lie

And it feels like she’s addressing, oh EVERYTHING that is happening. Mark Evanier pointed to an essay by Lucian K. Truscott IV, and quotes this section:

“The legacy 9/11 has left us is that there is no common set of facts we can agree on about anything: Not about the COVID pandemic and masks and vaccines; not about the climate change that has killed hundreds and left town after town burned to the ground or underwater and destroyed by tornadoes and hurricanes.

“We cannot agree that votes counted amount to elections won or lost. We cannot even agree on the common good of vaccines that will save us, that science is worth studying, that learned experts are worth listening to.”

As a librarian who tries to find facts for people, this blatant disregard for truth has continually made me, at first, angry, but ultimately very, very sad. And I don’t know what to do about it.

Proverbs 1 (Peterson):

What if catastrophe strikes and there’s nothing to show for your life but rubble and ashes? You’ll need me then. You’ll call for me, but don’t expect an answer. No matter how hard you look, you won’t find me…

Don’t you see what happens, you simpletons, you idiots? Carelessness kills; complacency is murder. First, pay attention to me, and then relax. Now you can take it easy-you’re in good hands.

Soon-to-be governor Kathy Hochul

Erie County

Kathy HochulSomeone from outside of New York State asked me what I thought of soon-to-be New York State Governor Kathy Hochul. The answer is that I had hardly thought of her at all. In fact, a month ago, if someone had shown me an unlabeled picture of her, it’s only about 50/50 that I would have been able to identify her.

This is a good thing, actually. She wasn’t tied at the hip to Andrew Cuomo, and has, so far, said the right things about cleaning house.

Daily Kos notes: “Hochul will be New York’s first governor from the Buffalo area since none other than Democrat Grover Cleveland, who won the top job in 1882 after a short stint as mayor. She’s also the first bona fide Upstate resident to hold the post since Republican Nathan Miller of Cortland County left office in 1922.”

From Buffalo to Albany

This upstate/downstate issue has been an issue in the state since approximately forever. Heck, where upstate begins – Poughkeepsie, maybe – is subject to debate. (And that doesn’t even count the people who’ve decided that Buffalo’s actually in the Midwest US because it’s closer to Detroit, Mi (255 miles/411 km) than New York City (374 miles/601 km).

Daily Kos: “As distant as her geographic roots are from the Queens-born Cuomo’s, so too does her personal style differ. As Roll Call’s Jim Saska puts it, ‘Where Cuomo was feared, Hochul is beloved; where Cuomo had judged, Hochul has empathized.'”

Her relatively conservative record when running for Congress a decade ago became a liability when running for lieutenant governor. She was primaried twice and did less well in her primaries than Cuomo did in his. I voted for her opponents both times. I picked in 2014 legal scholar Tim Wu, who lost 60-40, and in 2018, low-profile New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams, lost by only a 53-47 margin. So since I’ve not voted for Cuomo in 2014 or 2018, I’ve never voted for her.

Enough is Enough

Still, I’m very willing to give her a chance. After Andrew, she’ll be a refreshing change. She says she’s running for governor next year, and she absolutely had to announce that. If she didn’t, she’d be an instant lame duck. It’ll be a contentious primary in June 2022.

From the Times Union: “She has led Cuomo’s 10 regional economic development councils, chaired a task force on heroin and opioid abuse and addiction, and led the governor’s ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign to combat sexual assault on college campuses. She is married to William Hochul, the former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, who is now in private practice. They are the parents of two children.”

The history community is excited to see her in the new job. As IHARE notes: “The incoming Governor is far better qualified… I say this not because she has a background in such history but because of her training in office. For the past few years, she has held what is routinely regarded as a ‘ceremonial’ position. As such she has spent a lot of time outside of Albany traveling to a multitude of local events. These events from time to time include history sites and conferences.

I wish Kathy Hochul good luck as the state’s first female governor.

War on the United States Postal Service

Postmaster general Louis DeJoy is an RNC megadonor.

United States Postal ServiceThere has been a war on the United States Postal Service. It did not start this year, or with this regime, or even in the past decade.

Back in 2006, the Republican Congress passed legislation to impose extraordinary new financial burdens on the USPS. It required that the entity prepay retirement health benefits 75 years in advance. According to the American Postal Workers Union, the mandate is responsible for more than 90 percent of Postal Service net losses since 2007. It is a threat to its economic viability. Check out John Oliver’s piece from May 2020.

That said, the attack on the USPS has escalated this year. As many outlets have reported, IMPOTUS has confirmed it. He’s killing the Post Office to also destroy the election.

The postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, was appointed in May 2020. He is a megadonor of the regime but has no prior expertise pertaining to the Postal Service. He has disrupted the mission of the United States Postal Service, which is to deliver mail to Americans in a timely fashion.

In the last couple of months, mail delivery has dramatically slowed down. “The efforts to sabotage the United States Postal Service are anything but subtle.” It includes mail sorting machines removed without reason, shelves detached to slow down hand sorting, and postal drop boxes being taken away.” Fortunately, in the short term, due to the outcry, these measures have been temporarily stopped. Still, the handpicked postmaster general isn’t threatening to destroy the Post Office; he’s destroying the Post Office.

Reorganization?

This month, there was a major shake-up at the Postal Service. Twenty-three executives were reassigned or displaced, taking out those who might complain. As The Washington Post reported, Postal Service employees with decades of experience have disappeared from the organizational chart. “DeJoy has created a whole new structure, with all new people, to execute his inside attack on the service.” This isn’t coincidental. Or subtle.

“The reshuffling threatens to heighten tensions between postal officials and lawmakers, who are troubled by delivery delays. The Postal Service banned employees from working overtime and making extra trips to deliver mail.” They are “wary of the administration’s influence on the Postal Service.” As well they should.

Last week, djt “made it clear that he was attacking the Post Office explicitly to destroy its ability to handle mail-in ballots. “They want $25 billion for the Post Office. Now they need that money in order to make the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots. But if they don’t get those two items that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it.”

In fact, the United States Postal Service has notified 46 states and the District of Columbia that they may be unable to deliver some ballots cast by mail for the November election in time to be counted. IMPOTUS is publicly opposing any effort to strengthen the Postal Service because he’s afraid it will enable more voters to vote safely by mail in November.

RNC cronies

“This isn’t just a Trump effort… Not only are Republicans meeting with DeJoy to plan the destruction of the Postal Service, but this also isn’t the first time most of these Republicans have met DeJoy.” He was a top National Republican Committee money guy who was actually in charge of fundraising before being handed the keys to one of the nation’s most vital institutions.

The NRC is engaged in a massive campaign to limit mail-in ballots. They are spending tens of millions of dollars on lawsuits to limit the franchise. They fight against states attempting to expand mail-in ballots and for ballot restrictions.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has done nothing to defend the Postal Service, allowing the Senate to fill the board of governors with IMPOTUS appointees. By extension, he has limited Americans’ ability to vote in the most important election of our lifetimes. (Note: he’s yup for re-election in 2020.)

The post office was codified in Article 1. Section 8 of the US Constitution. Why destroy a public service? These efforts delay not only elections but the delivery of checks, bill payments, legal documents, Census forms, and vital medications in the midst of a pandemic. And yes, with millions of people planning to vote by mail, we need to ensure that our ballots arrive and are counted.

An odd sidebar: IMPOTUS Suddenly Urged Florida Voters To Use Mail Ballots. Perhaps he is afraid of losing in his newly-adopted state. He’s done so himself, with some difficulty. “It may be the tactically correct move. But it just comes at the cost of completely undermining his attempt to delegitimize the process. He began with such little credibility outside his support base that he may not care.”

This should happen

I’m happy to see the USPS inspector general is investigating changes at post offices. The story notes: “The Democrats also requested that the IG assess whether DeJoy and his wife – who ‘reportedly own assets worth tens of millions of dollars in Postal Service competitors and contractors have fully complied with ethics requirements.” This is according to a statement from Senator Elizabeth Warren’s office.

Also, Louis DeJoy has agreed to testify at a Congressional hearing on August 24.

The Senate should pass H.R.2382, the USPS Fairness Act. This legislation would specifically repeal the harmful and costly requirement that the U.S. Postal Service prepay retirement health benefits 75 years in advance. This bill would unsaddle the USPS of an immense and unnecessary financial burden.

The USPS board of governors should require the Postmaster General to permanently reverse this assault on America’s Postal Service, or else remove Louis DeJoy from the position.