Russ Feingold: Trump’s Voter Suppression Must Be Defeated. Here’s One Thing We Can Do


By Russ Feingold
The Guardian (9/5/17)

So much news in the US recently has been upsetting, and rarely uplifting; but the champions of voting rights have reasons to be both aghast at recent headlines and encouraged by them. On the one hand, the Trump-Pence “election integrity” commission’s every move continues to underscore concerns that it is driving at 90mph towards national voter suppression. Then there is the sudden decision by Donald Trump and attorney general Jeff Session’s Department of Justice to support purging voter rolls in Ohio. It’s enough to make voters feel like they have a target on their back.

On the other hand, Rhode Island recently became the ninth state to enact AVR – automatic voter registration – and on 28 August Illinois became the 10th when its Republican governor signed the bill into law. While the federal government perpetuates myths and conspiracies in an effort to justify taking the vote away from citizens, more and more states are taking local action to strengthen and protect this most fundamental democratic right.

Rather than raising concerns about purging voter rolls and voter suppression, the country has an opportunity to champion voting rights and actually improve the legitimacy of our elections and our democracy. 

Roughly 41% of eligible voters didn’t vote in the 2016 election. Such low voter participation is a significant dent in the credibility and legitimacy of our elections. Our government gains its legitimacy by being representative of the people, but if the reality is that it only represents a little more than half of eligible voters, that premise is shaky.

We cannot make people vote, but we can certainly make it easier for them to do so. And it can be achieved without pillaging state voting records to build a national voter database that is susceptible to abuse and hacking.

AVR involves two steps. The first is that eligible voters are registered to vote, or have their voting information updated, any time they interact with state agencies, or with federal agencies under national AVR. Second, those agencies electronically relay the information to appropriate state electoral officials. The results are more registered voters and more up-to-date voter rolls.

It is one of the single greatest ways to improve the legitimacy of our elections, and in turn our democracy. It results in a default “opt-out” system, whereby people have to take action to opt out of being registered, rather than having to go out of their way to register to vote. …

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(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2017. Open source and free to use with link to )

  • South Dakota GOP Secretary Of State Purges Voters As She Runs For Congress — And Most Of Them Are Democrats – South Dakota Republican Secretary of State Shantel Krebs, who is running for a U.S. congressional seat, has effectively invalidated 3 percent of registered voters in the state — and the large majority of them are Democrats. The Dakota Free Press reported that although the total number of voters had increased to 597,856 between the general election and June 2017, that number is now falling due to the voter purge. “Thus, in three months, the Secretary of State managed to scrub 3.06% of the names on the voter rolls,” the Free Press explained. “Looking just at Active voters and using the 2.14% August purge rate as the baseline, Democrats got purged harder than Republicans.” In August alone, 2.63 percent of purged voters were registered as Democrats, 1.87 percent were Republican and 2.01 percent were independents. … Read the Rest


Schwarzenegger’s Next Bipartisan Political Act: Terminating Gerrymandering

By Joe Garofoli
San Francisco Chonicle (9/4/17)

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a master at marketing, having scaled to the top of three different professions.

But these days, the former bodybuilder and movie star is taking on perhaps his biggest sales challenge since he made “Last Action Hero”: He’s trying to get people to care about redistricting, the critical but arcane process of drawing political districts.

“Nobody is probably going to change their opinion about redistricting because President Obama and Eric Holder talk about it. They might if Schwarzenegger does.”

How those boundaries are drawn, block by block, once every decade, can determine which party controls the state legislatures and Congress. In many states, the process is overseen by a few politicians or whichever party dominates the legislature. That often leads to gerrymandering — districts created to favor a single party.

This distortion perpetuates a system in which 98 percent of House membersare regularly re-elected in politically safe districts and is a big reason gridlock continues in Washington: The same players return year after year with no real fear of competition at home.

That lack of competition, Schwarzenegger said, has made voters think the system is rigged. And that frustration, he said, led many to vote for President Trump.

“People elected an outsider because of frustration,” Schwarzenegger said. “That’s one way of reaction. The other way is to fix the system.”

The 70-year-old is at the forefront of a push to change that system. …

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Bipartisan Swath Of Lawmakers Files Supreme Court Briefs Against Gerrymandering

By Edward-Isaac Dovere
Politico (9/5/17)

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s push for nonpartisan redistricting gained significant Republican support on Tuesday, with Ohio Gov. John Kasich signing on to his amicus brief at the Supreme Court and Arizona Sen. John McCain filing a separate friend-of-the-court brief.

Then 36 current and former members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, filed yet another amicus brief that includes the chairman of the Freedom Caucus and the former chairman of the Progressive Caucus.

The court is scheduled to hear a case in October, Gill v. Whitford, that could abolish partisan gerrymandering. Schwarzenegger, the former California governor, has made gathering support for it a priority. He spent last week calling members of Congress and governors directly, urging them to sign on.

Kasich tweeted on Tuesday evening: “Gerrymandering erodes democracy. ‘We the people…’ still needs to mean something. Unfortunately, gerrymandering restricts voters’ ability to keep our leaders in check.”

McCain and his colleague Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) wrote that they “see firsthand the concerns of constituents who increasingly view politics as a game run by powerful special interests that have changed the rules to win the game,” calling their brief a “bipartisan report from the political front lines” that they hope will sway the Court. …

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