Tag Archives: voting

3 Must-Ask Environmental Questions for the Presidential Candidates

The upcoming presidential debates offer the perfect opportunity to implore candidates about their environmental values and potential policies. That’s especially true because throughout the Republican primary process, none of the contenders were asked a single question about how they’d deal with energy, pollution, toxic chemicals, land use, wilderness preservation or wildlife.

Now that the race has narrowed to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, it’s important that the debate moderators ask them to reveal not only their economic and foreign policy positions, but their environmental positions as well. Millions of Americans will watch the debates and make their voting decision based on what they hear and see. They deserve to know what Clinton and Trump believe when it comes to protecting the planetor not.

Here is the schedule for the upcoming debates:

Presidential Debates Between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

* September 26, 2016 – Moderator, Lester Holt of NBC

* October 9, 2016 – Moderators, Martha Radditz of ABC and Anderson Cooper of CNN

* October 19, 2016 – Moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News

There will also be a debate among the candidates for vice president, Democrat Tim Kaine, and Republican Mike Pence.

What are the 3 most important questions about the environment the moderators of the presidential debates should ask all candidates?

Climate Change:If only one question can be asked, it should be about the most pressing environmental issue people on every continent face: climate change. Here are some possible ways to frame the question:

* Do you believe climate change is a serious threat to the environment, our national security and our health?

* Climate change has been directly linked to burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. Do you support reducing our use of fossil fuels and accelerating our reliance onand support for renewables like solar, wind and geothermal?

* How would your administration revise current U.S. energy policy so our country could meet the

Paris climate change accords

our government recently agreed to?

Moms Clean Air Force is urging voters to contact NBC’s Lester Holt and tell him to ask the candidates a question specifically about climate change.

Here’s how you can do that, too.Toxic Chemicals

– There are over 80,000 chemicals circulating in our world every day, and many of them are toxic to human health. Though the Toxic Substances Control Act was recently updated and

signed into law

, people are still exposed to dangerous chemical substances on a daily basis.

* If elected, what additional steps would your administration take to protect people from chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects, infertility, attention deficit disorder and other health problems?

* Would your administration adoptthe

Precautionary Principle

as the framework for approving or banning new chemicals?

* How would your administration hold the manufacturers of toxic chemicals liable or accountable for the impact they have on human health and the environment?

Air and Water Pollution – We have an inalienable right to drink clean water and breathe clean air. Yet, our communities often suffer through “red alert” air quality alarms because the air is so polluted. The sources of our drinking water are contaminated with agricultural runoff, fire retardants, rocket fuel, arsenic and more.

* What specific public policies or executive orders would you support to reduce air pollution and improve water quality?

* People living in low-income communities are disproportionately affected by dirty air and unsafe water, as we saw recently with the lead-in-drinking-water scandal in Flint, Michigan. What will your administration do to ensure that people, especially children, have access to healthy air and water no matter where they live?

* In some parts of the U.S., the problem is that drinking water is unsafe. In other parts, the problem is that drought and overconsumption have seriously depleted available water supplies. What would you and your administration do to make sure, not only that water is clean enough to drink, but that there is enough water to go around for all citizens of the U.S.?

What questions would you ask the two presidential candidates if you had the chance? Please share!

Related:

5 “Deplorables” That Trump’s Campaign has EmboldenedYounger Americans Vote Pro-Environment…When They Actually Vote

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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3 Must-Ask Environmental Questions for the Presidential Candidates

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Here’s How Ferguson Has Kept Blacks off the Local School Board

Mother Jones

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Black students make up more than 75 percent of students in the Ferguson-Florissant School District in Missouri, but only three of the seven school board members are black. On Monday, a federal district judge in the state ruled that the at-large election system used to choose the school board representatives violated the Voting Rights Act.

“It is my finding that the cumulative effects of historical discrimination, current political practices, and the socioeconomic conditions present in the District impact the ability of African Americans in Ferguson-Florissant School District to participate equally in Board elections,” District Judge Rodney Sippel wrote in an opinion. He added that the process “deprives African American voters of an equal opportunity to elect representatives of their choice” and that no elections could be conducted until a new system was put in place.

Voters in Ferguson had elected school board representatives every year in two or three at-large races, instead of voting for candidates representing specific subdistricts. The case, filed in December 2014 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri and the Missouri chapter of the NAACP, alleged that this practice diluted black voter strength, leaving them “all but locked out of the political process.”

ACLU attorney Julie Ebenstein explained in April 2015 that since black voters in the district as a whole made up less than half the voting-age population, they were “systematically unable to elect” board members of their choice when casting ballots across all board seats. In 12 elections that took place between 2000 and 2015, five black candidates won school board seats out of 24 potential candidates, the judge noted in his opinion. Over that period, 22 white candidates won seats out of 37 potential contenders.

Cindy Ormsby, the school district’s attorney, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the district was “very disappointed in the court’s decision.”

You can read the opinion below:

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NAACP vs Fegurson Florissant Voting Rights Decision (PDF)

NAACP vs Fegurson Florissant Voting Rights Decision (Text)

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Here’s How Ferguson Has Kept Blacks off the Local School Board

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Voting Rights Advocates Score a Huge Win in North Carolina

Mother Jones

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A federal appeals court struck down a restrictive voting law in North Carolina on Friday, ruling that the state legislature acted with the intent to limit African American voting in enacting the measure. The law, which took effect in March, contained provisions that created new ID requirements, eliminated same-day voter registration, reduced early voting by a week, blocked a law that allowed 16 and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote, and prevented ballots cast in the wrong precincts from being counted.

The law, originally passed in 2013 after the US Supreme Court gutted a key section of the Voting Rights Act, was immediately challenged by a lawsuit but was upheld at the district court level in April. Friday’s decision reverses the lower court’s ruling.

“In holding that the legislature did not enact the challenged provisions with discriminatory intent, the court seems to have missed the forest in carefully surveying the many trees,” wrote Judge Diana Gribbon Motz for the unanimous three-judge panel. “This failure of perspective led the court to ignore critical facts bearing on legislative intent, including the inextricable link between race and politics in North Carolina.”

The court’s decision notes that North Carolina’s law was initiated by state Republicans the day after the Supreme Court gutted a key portion of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. That decision, Shelby v. Holder, ruled that the mechanism used to determine which states needed pre-clearance for voting law changes due to a history of racial discrimination was outdated. This ruling cleared the way for states like North Carolina—which previously had to have all voting law and procedural changes reviewed by the US Department of Justice or a federal judge—to enact any voting changes they wished.

Marc Elias, one of the lawyers who fought the law on behalf of a group of younger voters in North Carolina, told Mother Jones Friday that the decision represented a strong rebuke of race-based voting legislation.

“The Fourth Circuit decision is a milestone in the protection of voting rights,” Elias said. “It is a great day for the citizens of North Carolina and those who care about voting rights. Significantly, the court put down an important marker against discrimination in voting when it wrote, ‘We recognize that elections have consequences, but winning an election does not empower anyone in any party to engage in purposeful racial discrimination.'”

Rick Hasen, a national expert on election law, wrote Friday that the decision reversed “the largest collection of voting rollbacks contained in a single law that I could find since the 1965 passage of the Voting Rights Act.” Hasen noted that this was the third major voting rights victory of the past two weeks. On July 19, a federal court weakened Wisconsin’s strict voter ID law; the next day, a panel of federal judges ruled that Texas’ strict voter ID law violated federal law.

The state of North Carolina could now seek to have the case reheard before the entire Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, or it could appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

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Voting Rights Advocates Score a Huge Win in North Carolina

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Native Americans Are Taking the Fight for Voting Rights to Court

Mother Jones

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On Tuesday night, the long lines of Arizona primary voters highlighted the potentially disastrous fallout from a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The specter of a new disenfranchisement controversy was all too familiar for a group of people who have been fighting for their right to vote in Arizona and much of the West for years: Native Americans. “What’s happening in Indian Country is reflective of what’s happening nationwide,” says Daniel McCool, political science professor at the University of Utah and coauthor of the book Native Vote.

Earlier this month, Indian Country Media Network reported that Native American and Alaska Natives have flagged voting-related problems in 17 states, via litigation or tribal diplomacy with local officials. For example, in Alaska—which will hold its Democratic caucuses Saturday—Alaska Natives scored a victory in September 2014, when a federal judge concluded that state election officials violated the Voting Rights Act when they failed to translate voting materials for Alaska Natives in rural sections of the state. After nine months of talks, they reached a settlement to get election pamphlets translated into six dialects of Yup’ik and Gwich’in through 2020, granting them language assistance ahead of the caucuses this weekend.

9 Facts that Blow Up the Voter-Fraud Myth

Meanwhile, congressional efforts to protect voting rights for Native Americans and Alaska Natives have come to a halt. Last July, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) announced a bill that would prevent states from moving polling places to inconvenient locations, banishing in-person voting on reservations, and altering early voting locations. The bill, inspired by a voting access case in Montana that compelled three counties to open satellite offices on reservations, has stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Here are a few other cases to keep in mind:

Poor Bear v. Jackson County: In September 2014, members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe from the Pine Ridge Reservation filed a lawsuit against Jackson County, South Dakota, alleging that county officials refused to create a satellite office where Sioux residents could register and file in-person absentee ballots. For tribal citizens, the closest place to submit their absentee ballots is the county auditor’s office in Kadoka, a town that’s 95 percent white and roughly 27 miles away. (Native Americans must travel twice as far as white residents in the county to submit ballots in person, according to the lawsuit.) Voters can also submit absentee ballots by mail, but they have to submit an affidavit to prove their identity if they lack a tribal photo ID card, a potential hardship for Native American voters.

The county commission declined to approve the office because “it believed funding was not available,” despite a Help America Vote Act plan that allowed the county to use state funds to create the office. After residents filed for a preliminary injunction, the commission agreed to open a temporary satellite voting office in the runup to Election Day 2014. Last November, in an agreement with South Dakota’s secretary of state, the Jackson County Commission approved a satellite site through 2023.

Brakebill v. Jaeger: In January, seven members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians filed a lawsuit against North Dakota state secretary Alvin Jaeger, alleging that the strict requirements under the state’s voter ID law imposed a discriminatory burden on Native Americans. When the state enacted House Bill 1332 in April 2015, it limited the forms of permissible identification at voting booths, required forms of identification to display the voter’s home address and date of birth, and eliminated a provision that allowed voters to use a voucher or affidavit if they failed to bring an ID. The lawsuit alleges that the bill “disenfranchised and imposed significant barriers for qualified Native American voters by establishing strict voter ID and residence requirements.”

According to the lawsuit, Native Americans in North Dakota have to travel an average of nearly 30 miles to obtain a driver’s license. The lawsuit also claims that many Native Americans lack tribal government IDs with residential addresses, which is an alternative form of ID under state law. In February, Jaeger tried to get the case tossed out, arguing that the voter ID law was constitutional. The judge has yet to decide.

Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission v. San Juan County: Less than two years ago, prospective Navajo Nation voters in San Juan County, Utah—where Native Americans are nearly 47 percent of the population—had to travel an average of two hours to submit a ballot in the predominantly white city of Monticello, without access to reliable public transportation. That’s because in 2014, according to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and others in late February, the county closed polling places and switched over to mail-in ballots, placing a “disproportionately severe burden” on Navajo residents. The county has yet to respond in court to the case.

It wasn’t the first time San Juan County has been sued for violating the Voting Rights Act. In fact, the Navajo Nation claimed in a previous lawsuit that the county commission “relied on race” when it decided not to change the boundary lines for a largely Native American district in 2011, three decades after they were initially drawn. In February, US District Judge Robert Shelby ordered the county to redraw its election district lines after he ruled that its current boundaries, which were set after a settlement with the Justice Department in the 1980s, were unconstitutional.

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Native Americans Are Taking the Fight for Voting Rights to Court

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Book Review: Give Us the Ballot by Ari Berman

Mother Jones

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Give Us the Ballot

By Ari Berman

FARRAR, STRAUS AND GIROUX

Shark attacks are more common in Florida than voter fraud, yet in 2011 the state cut early voting and shut down registration drives in the name of making elections more secure. In Give Us the Ballot, journalist Ari Berman explores the increasingly sophisticated tricks devised to keep minorities out of the voting booth over the past half century, tracing a path from an era of overtly racist campaign ads—”Suppose your wife is driving home at 11 o’clock at night. She is stopped by a highway patrolman. He turns out to be black. Think about it…Elect George Wallace”—to the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision gutting the Voting Rights Act. With 2016 on the horizon, Berman helps us understand why we’re still fighting over who gets to exercise this most basic of American rights.

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Book Review: Give Us the Ballot by Ari Berman

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On the Selma Anniversary, These North Carolina Activists Will March Backwards

Mother Jones

Activists, politicians, and luminaries from across the nation will flock to Selma, Alabama, this weekend to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the nonviolent voting-rights march that was undermined by police-sanctioned attacks, presaging the passage, six months later, of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But this year’s events, which include a reenactment of the fateful march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, are shaping up to have a more activist edge than past commemorations.

Some black leaders, such as North Carolina NAACP president Rev. Doctor William Barber II, will use the day to highlight the assault on black voting rights in the wake of a 2013 Supreme Court decision that rolled back a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. Rather than make it across the bridge, Barber and his delegation plan to turn around and march back toward Selma.

“For the last fifty years we’ve been walking across that bridge to celebrate how the civil rights leaders pushed us forward. This year, we have to turn around,” he told me. This change in routine, he says, is a response to the politicians who “will come down to Selma and give all these platitudes and talk about how they love the people of the past, but won’t ensure a Voting Rights Act that meets the test of history today.” And that “is a step backward.”

Prior to the Supreme Court ruling, the VRA required nine historically racist states, including North Carolina, along with several counties, to get permission from the Department of Justice before modifying their voting laws. It paid off. In 2012, for instance, North Carolina ranked 11th out of 50 states in voter turnout, with 65 percent of registered voters casting a ballot.

But the gains, ironically enough, helped influence the court’s decision in the case of Shelby County v. Holder. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. held that it was unconstitutional to single out just a few states for these voting requirements, especially after all this time—”nearly 50 years later,” he wrote, “things have changed dramatically.”

They can change back, too. In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg likened the majority’s reasoning to throwing away an umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.

Prescient words: Freed from DOJ oversight, several of those states quickly reversed course, enacting a deluge of new, restrictive voting laws. Within two months of the ruling, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed a package of legislation that was, for anyone who favors access to the ballot box, a nightmare: Same day registration? Gone. Pre-registration for for 16- and 17-year-olds? Also gone. A shorter early registration period? Check. Extended voting hours when voting demand exceeds the availability of voting machines? Nixed. The ability to vote in a precinct outside of where one resides? Nope. Then there’s the most contested provision: the requirement for voters to present a state-approved ID starting in 2016. Without a valid driver’s license, state ID card, US military ID, veteran card, or passport, North Carolina voters are out of luck.

“Voting should not difficult. It should not be something that we have to jump over hurdles to do,” says Donita Judge, a senior attorney at the Advancement Project, a civil rights nonprofit. She and her colleagues promptly sued the state over the new voting restrictions. A number of other groups, including the League of Women Voters, has joined the lawsuit, which is set for a trial in July.

A similar lawsuit filed by the DOJ not long after prompted sneers from Gov. McCrory: “I believe if showing a voter ID is good enough and fair enough for our own president in Illinois, then it’s good enough for the people in North Carolina.” The package, he said, is “common sense reform” aimed at curbing voter fraud and maintaining democratic integrity. Never mind that, between 2000 and 2010, there were 47,000 reported UFO sightings, but only 13 credible cases of someone trying to impersonate a voter. “It’s a red herring. It’s been proven time and time again that there is very minimal voting fraud,” Judge says. “What we do have is politicians manipulating elections—it’s more election fraud then voting fraud.”

Indeed, the sorts of restrictions North Carolina has put in place have been shown time and again to have a disproportionate impact on minority voters. The Advancement Project notes that black turnout leaped from 42 percent in 2000 to 69 percent in 2012 after same-day registration and early voting were implemented. (Granted, there wasn’t an electable black guy running in 2000.) But in 2013, Democracy North Carolina released a report showing that 34 percent of the state’s registered black voters lacked a state-issued ID—overall, 318,000 registered voters lack one, according to data from the state board of elections.

“When people can’t vote, they lack the ability to choose who represents them and therefore who has their best interest at heart, but they also lack the ability to weigh in on important issues, like the criminal justice system,” Judge says. “If you can’t vote, you’re not going to end up on juries, so you don’t have a voice.”

Hence the backward march. “Fifty years ago, they didn’t settle in the face of death, in the face of the Klan, in the face of accepted police brutality. And if they didn’t accept then, we can’t accept now,” Rev. Barber explains. “If they died for us to have these rights, there is no way in the world we can be afraid of the Koch Brothers, of the Tea Party, of regressive politicians.”

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On the Selma Anniversary, These North Carolina Activists Will March Backwards

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Court Strikes Down Arkansas Voter ID Law

Mother Jones

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On Wednesday, the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the state’s restrictive voter ID law, ruling that it violated the state’s constitution. The unanimous decision, which comes just days before early voting begins in the state, could impact a Senate race considered key to a Republican takeover of the Senate.

Arkansas’ law, enacted in 2013 after the Republican-controlled legislature overrode the Democratic Gov. Mike Beebee’s veto, would have required voters to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls. Studies have shown that photo ID laws disproportionately burden minority and poor voters, making them less likely to vote. The state Supreme Court ruled that the voter ID law imposes a voting eligibility requirement that “falls outside” those the state constitution enumerates—namely, that a voter must only be a US citizen, an Arkansas resident, at least 18 years of age, and registered to vote—and was therefore invalid.

The court’s ruling could help swing in Democrats’ favor the tight Senate race between Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor and his opponent, Republican Rep. Tom Cotton.

After the Supreme Court gutted a section of the Voting Rights Act last year, Republican state legislatures around the country enacted a slew of harsh voting laws. Since the 2010 election, new restrictions have been enacted in 21 states. Fourteen of those were passed for the first time this year.

Arkansas was one of seven states in which opponents of restrictive voting laws filed lawsuits ahead of the 2014 midterms. Last week, the Supreme Court blocked Wisconsin’s voter ID law. A federal court last Thursday struck down a similar law in Texas—only to have its ruling reversed this week by an appeals court. The US Supreme Court recently allowed North Carolina and Ohio to enforce their strict new voting laws.

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Court Strikes Down Arkansas Voter ID Law

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New Voting Rights Act Bill Won’t Stop ID Schemes

Mother Jones

Civil rights advocates and some progressives are voicing concerns about a bipartisan Voting Rights Act overhaul introduced in both houses of Congress Thursday. The proposal would reinstate federal oversight of states with a recent history of voter discrimination, though it leaves voter ID laws off the list of grievances that qualify as discrimination.

The original Voting Rights Act, passed in 1965 and amended most recently in 2006, subjected states and counties that had historically used a “test or device” like literacy tests or racial gerrymandering to restrict voting to special oversight—any new election laws in those places had to be approved as nondiscriminatory by the federal government.

The formula for determining which jurisdictions needed oversight—which included Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia along with parts of California, Florida, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, and South Dakota—was ruled unconstitutional in a controversial Supreme Court decision last year. In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts called the formula outdated, writing, “It would have been irrational for Congress to distinguish between states in such a fundamental way based on 40-year-old data, when today’s statistics tell an entirely different story.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and John Conyers (D-Mich.) introduced a bill to revamp that formula and reinstate the Voting Rights Act’s protections. Under the proposal, any states whose electoral changes violated federal laws (like Texas’ redistricting attempt, which federal judges tossed out in 2012 due to its dilution of minority voting power) five times over the past 15 years would be subject to federal scrutiny, while any local jurisdiction with three violations or one violation and “persistent, extremely low minority turnout” would get the same treatment. Under these rules, only Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas would fall under statewide federal oversight.

While members of the Congressional Black Caucus signaled their support for the legislation, according to National Journal, the Hispanic Caucus and civil rights organizations have expressed misgivings. Voter ID laws are exempted from the violations list, meaning restrictive changes passed in North Carolina, Texas, and elsewhere won’t be held against those states. “These voter ID laws make it harder for people of color to have a say in our democracy,” said Katherine Culliton-González, director of voter protection for the civil rights advocacy organization Advancement Project. “There’s no reason for this distinction. It’s arbitrary.” (Voter ID laws can still be blocked if the Department of Justice or federal courts deem them unfair; they just won’t count toward a state’s five-violation total.)

Culliton-González also took issue with a provision that only court rulings, not consent decrees or settlements, will count in a state’s violation total. Organizations like Advancement Project often settle voting rights lawsuits to get changes implemented faster, she said, whereas the proposed bill would incentivize drawing out court proceedings.

Still, Advancement Project and the ACLU have called the legislation an important first step. Provisions like the voter ID exemption may be necessary to win support from conservatives and other lawmakers from affected states, even if the legislation is a longshot to pass. For progressives on the fence, it’s a matter of how much they’re wiling to compromise to see a big element of the Voting Rights Act back in action.

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New Voting Rights Act Bill Won’t Stop ID Schemes

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