Just because Republicans relied on Russian interference to win the 2016 Presidential election doesn’t mean they’ve exhausted their means of winning elections. As of March 4, the federal government hadn’t spent a dime of the $120 million allotted to fight foreign election interference, according to The Hill. And according to The Nation, the Republican-majority Supreme Court has gutted the Voting Rights Act to provide 868 fewer places to vote, most in areas with strong minority populations. The United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions has even stifled voter registration efforts of minorities. But Republicans put all their eggs in winning the Presidency basket because it would allow them to use the 2020 census to their advantage.

Brookings Institution demographer William Frey projects that whites will become the minority in the under-18 age group in 2020 and that the white share of the population will fall under 60 percent for the first time. So if Republicans can’t convince minorities to support them, they have to do what they can to preserve the illusion that their base is not dwindling.

The census is more than just a means of determining America’s population and demographics. It determines the number of Congressional representatives and electoral votes states receive, how $675 billion in federal funding is allocated to states and cities annually for schools, public housing, roads and health care, and how states will redraw local and federal voting districts.

For instance, if the 2020 census is conducted fairly, Election Data Services expects Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Alabama to lose one Congressional seat each. Those nine Congressional seats would most likely be redistributed to Texas, receiving three, Florida, receiving two, and Oregon, Colorado, Arizona and North Carolina all receiving one.

But minority populations tend to be undercounted and white populations overcounted during the census. According to Mother Jones, the 2010 census overcounted white residents by nearly one percent and failed to count 1.5 million people of color. This leads to minority populations being under-represented in Congress and under-served by federal funding. And the Trump Administration plans to rig the census like never before.

The citizenship question will scare immigrants from completing the census

The census is not a count of Americans, but a count of people residing in America. It is a count of American-born citizens and illegal immigrants alike. And while federal law prohibits the census bureau from sharing data with anyone, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement, most illegal immigrants don’t know that and are naturally afraid of completing the census. They are probably more aware that the Secret Service used census data to round up Japanese Americans and send them to internment camps during World War II, or that failure to answer a census question could result in a fine of up to $100. Immigrants should know that skipping the question won’t likely result in a fine, and your census response will be counted whether you answer the citizenship question or not. Instead, some immigrants actually up and move upon being interviewed, and Census Bureau data shows that undocumented immigrants are “hard to count.”

The state of California has the most to lose if a citizenship question is added to the census, which Commerce Department Secretary Wilbur Ross has already announced will be the case for the first time since 1950, citing the aforementioned Voting Rights Act as a reason for the addition. California and 13 other states are suing the federal government over the citizenship question in fear of losing federal funds and representation because of their large, foreign-born populations. According to Mother Jones, “California’s finance office estimates the state will lose $1,900 annually for each uncounted resident in 2020.”

Worst yet for California is that 20 percent of its residents live in hard-to-count areas, “where more than a quarter of all households failed to mail back their 2010 census forms, including a third of Latinos and African Americans.” California has 10 of the 50 counties in the country with the lowest census response rates -- home to 8.4 million people -- a population larger than that of 38 states, so you can see why the state is suing over the census citizenship question.

Republicans have cut funding for the 2020 census

Just like the Environmental Protection Agency, Republicans have cut funding for the Census Bureau to basically make it dysfunctional. Back in 2012, despite objections by the Obama Administration, Congress told the Census Bureau to spend less money on the 2020 census than it had in 2010. This is after the Census Bureau failed to count 1.5 million minority residents of the United States.

With Donald Trump taking office, Congress cut the bureau’s budget another 10 percent and gave it no additional funding for 2018 -- a time the bureau generally receives a major budget boost to prepare for the census. Now the Census Bureau has half as many regional centers and field offices as it did in 2010, and the 2020 census will be conducted with 300,000 enumerators -- 200,000 fewer than in 2010.

At the same time 10 years ago, there were 120 Census Bureau employees; there are currently 40. And the $340 million promotional ad campaign for the 2010 census will likely go towards working out the kinks of the new technology replacing the boots on the ground.

The 2020 census will rely on digital software for the first time

The result of less funding is an investment in technology instead of people. For the first time, the U.S. census survey will be made available online in 2020. Instead of carrying clipboards, census enumerators will carry tablets, and regardless of the vulnerability of the 2020 census data to foreign interference and hacking, people will be missed, even with the increased availability an online survey provides. That is, if the software works. If the online census rollout is anything like the Healthcare.gov rollout, the 2020 census could be a complete disaster.

Planning and testing for the 2020 census has also taken a big hit by budget limitations. Field tests in Puerto Rico and on Native American reservations in North Dakota, South Dakota and Washington were cancelled last year, and two of three rehearsals planned for this April were also cancelled.

While traditional paper surveys will be mailed to 20 percent of American households that have poor internet access, “36 percent of African Americans and 30 percent of Hispanics have neither a computer nor broadband internet at home, and a Pew Research Center survey published last year found that more than a third of Americans making less than $30,000 a year lack smartphones,” according to Mother Jones. So people will be missed by the Census Bureau, and the people most likely to be missed are minorities.

How you can help make sure the 2020 census is accurate

You can help make sure the 2020 census is accurate by, first, filling out the census form. Whether you’re a legal resident of the United States, a foreign visitor with a temporary work visa, or an illegal immigrant, you should complete the 2020 census survey.

You can also make sure your neighbors complete the census by making them aware of the importance of the census, and that your community’s Congressional representation and federal funding depends on it. You can assure your foreign-born neighbors that census data won’t be shared with ICE or any other agency, and that skipping the citizenship question won’t disqualify your census response. You can also organize a series of census survey days at your local library so those without internet access or a home address can complete the 2020 census.

You don’t have to be a hired enumerator for the Census Bureau to make sure the 2020 census is accurate, but if you’re interested in serving as a census enumerator, follow this link. If you speak a second language, that would make you an ideal candidate in states with high immigrant populations.


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The state of voter suppression in America

Just because President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission has been disbanded doesn’t mean the state of voter suppression in America has improved. Many states fought to defend the privacy of its voters from the voter fraud commission and won, but the fight has just begun to curb voter suppression in states throughout America.

Suppressing the Student Vote in America

Young voters can sway elections, and the Republican-led New Hampshire Senate has passed a “poll tax” that will suppress student voting. The bill will likely pass the Republican-led House, but Republican Governor Chris Sununu doesn’t support the bill and could veto it. Regardless, the constitutionality of the bill has been called into question.

The 24th Amendment to the Constitution states: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.”

Now the New Hampshire law isn’t a “tax” in the exact sense of the word. Instead of forcing out-of-state students to pay a tax to access the polls, which would be unconstitutional, House Bill 372 allows the State of New Hampshire to impose fines on voters who do not have a New Hampshire driver’s license, even though it is legal to vote in the state with an out-of-state license.

The bill would impose two obligations on new voters. Within 60 days of registering to vote, a New Hampshire voter would need to register her car with the state and obtain a New Hampshire driver’s license, the cost of which could amount to over $200.

Suppressing the Minority Vote in America

Minorities have already been deciding elections in America, with black voters making the difference in Alabama. This is a major threat to Conservative incumbents, and Conservative-led, state legislatures have taken measures to suppress the minority vote in America.

Ohio’s law purging voters who have not participated in consecutive elections or failed to respond to a notice from state officials will likely be upheld by the Conservative majority of the Supreme Court.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the essence of the case is whether Ohio’s law is “disenfranchising disproportionately certain cities where large groups of minorities live, where large groups of homeless people live, and across the country they’re the group that votes the least.”

While federal law doesn’t allow states to use failure to vote as a reason for purging voters from rolls, federal law also calls on states to keep accurate voter rolls and allows for removal when a person fails to respond to a state’s request to confirm registration and then fails to vote in two federal elections. Ohio sends a notice after a voter misses a single election, and removes said voter if they don’t reply. It’s the most aggressive law of its kind in America.

Redistricting All the Rage in America

With the 2020 census upcoming, the redrawing of states’ voting districts is getting a lot of attention, especially in the courts. Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ruled 5-2 that its voter district map was partisan gerrymandered to benefit Republicans and must be redrawn.

Meanwhile, in North Carolina, the U.S. Supreme Court delayed a lower-court order that would have forced North Carolina Republicans to redraw its state’s congressional district map while similar cases involving Wisconsin legislative districts and one Maryland congressional district are considered by the Supreme Court.

Bills governing redistricting were introduced in 27 states in 2017. Here’s a complete list of those bills. What’s the reason for so much redistricting legislation? Well, 37 state legislatures have primary control of their own district lines, and 42 legislatures have primary control over the congressional lines in their state (including five of the states with just one congressional district). And why wouldn’t an incumbent legislator draw district lines to his or her advantage? That’s why organizations like Common Cause are having success campaigning for independent commissions to handle district drawing. All of the 27 states with pending legislation governing redistricting have bills calling for a commission separate from the legislature to handle the map-making.

For instance, in Minnesota, there are companion bills calling for independent commissions to handle redistricting. HF 246 and SB 2052 call for a commission of former judges to draw district lines, but objectors to the bills say former judges aren’t representative of Minnesota’s minority populations. In nearby Michigan, bills have been introduced mirroring California’s citizens’ commission for redistricting -- the favorite model of organizations working toward democratic, competitive elections.

So while the state of voter suppression in America is improving and bound to continue improving for voters, there will still be states where partisan gerrymandered districts result in undemocratic, noncompetitive elections in 2018 and 2020. And until every state gets redistricting out of the hands of incumbent legislators, free elections are an impossibility.


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Democrats all over America are staking claim to Doug Jones’s victory over alleged sexual predator Roy Moore for Alabama’s Senate seat, Tuesday night. But it was women, and specifically black women, who made the difference in Alabama -- women and a football coach.

The black vote wasn’t suppressed this time

According to Mother Jones, 235 calls were made to The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law as of 3:24 p.m. EST, Tuesday, reporting all manner of voter suppression tactics common in black neighborhoods, like bringing in police to check voters’ warrants for arrest and incorrectly turning away voters with inactive statuses. Long lines weren’t enough to deter black voters from the polls this time, as 38 percent of Alabama’s registered voters turned out for the special election, which far exceeded expectations of 20 to 25 percent.

Black women accounted for 18 percent of the vote in Alabama on Tuesday, and despite almost two-thirds of white, Alabama women finding a reason to vote for Moore, it wasn’t enough, as another 10 percent of voters went to Jones in the form of white women. That’s 28 percent of the vote right there, and with black men accounting for another 12 percent, Jones needed just 10 percent of remaining white, male voters to choose him to have a majority.

Alabama football coach Nick Saban turned the tide

Jones got eight percent of the remaining votes of white men instead, which was enough thanks to Alabama Crimson Tide head football coach Nick Saban...probably. We don’t yet know who Alabamians (it should be Alabamans because that’s how Alabamians pronounce it) chose to write-in, but the bulk of 22,777 write-in votes had to have gone to Coach Saban. Many think Saban will finish third in the election.

Alabama a victory for democracy, not Democrats

The Alabama special election for the U.S. Senate was a victory for democracy, not Democrats. Sure, a Democrat won a Senate seat that’s been filled by a Republican since 1996. And sure, the Republican majority in the Senate is down to one seat, which Democrats are likely to win in 2018. But Democrats didn’t win in Alabama because Alabamians are suddenly leaning Democratic. And they didn’t win because Alabamians are fed up with Donald Trump. They won because Alabamians didn’t want to be the laughing stock of America for electing an alleged sexual predator with a specific interest in 14-year-old girls. Jones will most certainly be replaced by a Republican come 2020. Until then, Alabamians will get a chance to see what Democrats will do for them.

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Back to Voting on Paper Ballots?

A hue and cry is mounting around the country that voting machines used on Election Day are eminently hackable. Congress is investigating charges by the Office of Homeland Security that Russia attempted to hack into voting machines in 21 different states. So is the integrity of our election system being undermined? Are computer hackers able to change election results? What gives?

Obviously, there is something fishy going on. It’s not just the election system being hacked. New reports have told us that computer systems of major companies like Sony, Equifax and even the U.S. Office of Personnel Management have been broken into. So how can we be sure that your vote cast the polls on Election Day is secure?

There is a recent push by election reformers to go back to, can you believe, paper ballots. That’s right. Just like the first American elections back in the 1800s. There is a non-profit group called Verify Voting that is telling state officials: “We have a single technology at our disposal that is invulnerable to hacking: paper.” So will elections officials do an about face and reinstitute the paper ballot system?

When I was elected as Louisiana Secretary of State back in 1979, there were a number of election fraud allegations. I formed an Election Integrity Commission and appointed former Secretary of State Wade O. Martin to head up the effort to weed out voter fraud. Were election shenanigans going on in the Bayou State? I often quoted former governor Earl Long, who once said: “Oh Lord, when I die, let me be buried in Louisiana. So I can stay active in politics.” Of course there was voter fraud back then using paper ballots.

As one retired local sheriff told me, you could make the election results dance with paper ballots during absentee voting. Here’s how one could beat the system. During the two-week absentee voting period, the sheriff would have his deputies pick up agreeable voters and bring them to the courthouse to vote.

A piece of paper was cut as the same size as the official ballot. The first voter was given the fake ballot and instructed go into the Clerk of Court’s office where absentee voting was taking place. He was instructed to drop the fake ballot into the voting box, put the real ballot into his pocket, bring it back out to the sheriff, where he was paid five or ten dollars, whatever the going rate was to buy votes back then.

Once the first official ballot was in hand, the vote buyer would mark the ballot for whoever he was supporting, give it to the next voter, tell the voter to put the official ballot into the ballot box, return with an unmarked ballot, and he would be paid for his effort. This could go on all day for the two-week voting period with hundreds of illegal votes being cast.

This scheme was used, particularly in rural areas in the state, by numerous candidates who were trying to beat the system. So no system at the present time seems to be foolproof. But elections officials should move cautiously about throwing the current system to the wind and go back to paper ballots.

Louisiana presently has some 10,000 voting machines in 64 parishes. Current Secretary of State Tom Schedler is confident that the present election system works in Louisiana. He’s done a commendable job so far. But he has his work cut out in the future in putting in place cybersecurity that protects the integrity of the ballot, but still makes it easy for citizens to cast their vote.

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

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Jim Brown is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. His column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show, Common Sense, each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Communication Network.

 

 

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The only surprise from the recent barrage of sexual allegations brought against, first, members of Hollywood’s power elite, and later, members of the political power elite, is that it took this long for victims to air their allegations. It should surprise no one that Kevin Spacey and Louis CK are sexually deviant, and it should surprise no one that men granted political power -- even George Bush and Al Franken -- tend to be predatorily handsy.

Perhaps the victims of America’s politicians needed Hollywood’s victims to come out to feel safe enough to reveal the wrongdoings of their alleged predators. That too should surprise no one. After all, a Hollywood producer like Harvey Weinstein might be able to write a check and make allegations of sexual harassment disappear, but an American politician could make their accuser disappear. All it would take is a bit of evidence planting to place an American citizen in Guantanamo Bay and never give them a trial.

American politics are more like House of Cards than most people would probably like to believe. That show would be a hit with or without Spacey because Americans love the criminal or violent nature of competition in all things -- politics included. Television ratings are indicative of this.

While the 2016 Presidential Election drew eyes away from NFL games, Sunday Night Football was still the most watched television show of the 2016-17 season, followed by Thursday Night Football, then NCIS, a show about investigating violent, criminal acts. Another Thursday Night Football game rounded out the top four. Violence draws viewers.

If you include online television offerings, Orange is the New Black tops the list of most watched streaming shows of last year -- a show about life in prison. Next is Stranger Things, a show about supernatural forces, conspiracy theories and governmental corruption. Fuller House, a sequel to the family favorite Full House, is refreshingly third most-watched, followed by two Marvel shows featuring comic book heroes, and, no doubt, violence. House of Cards was sixth.

American politics were a reality TV show long before Donald Trump or House of Cards. The Red Scare, Vietnam, Watergate, the Cold War, the Bay of Pigs, the Gulf War, Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, the antics of George W. Bush -- all were watched by all, turning public servants into celebrities. When you put people on a pedestal, they’ll take advantage of it in order to stay there.

Regardless, the problem is not that these men are ill-trained to deal with women in the workplace. Training is not the issue, regardless of what lawmakers say. Men shouldn’t require obedience training in order to recognize that exposing their genitals or grabbing people by the genitals on any floor let alone the House floor is wrong. Every instance of that behavior was committed by someone incapable of serving public office. That’s it, and that’s all.

I don’t care if you grew up when Mad Men office behavior was the norm, and James Bond was still groping Moneypenny. Your inability or unwillingness to change your behavior is exactly why Congress has accomplished fuck all since Obamacare. You are stuck in your ways, and they aren’t the ways of the American people.

This is our problem and our fault as voters. Notice that it’s rarely women accused of sexual misconduct, yet the overwhelming majority of our elected officials are men. This problem could be avoided almost entirely if we elected more women to office.

Less than 20 percent of U.S. Congressional seats are filled by women, and less than 25 percent of state legislators are women. There are just six female governors, and only 39 women have ever served as governor.

So during the 2018 midterm elections, instead of looking for a “D” or an “R” behind an unfamiliar name on the ballot, consider giving women the advantage for once. At the very least, they tend to keep their hands to themselves.

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Make America great for you

I’ll forward this by revealing that I have always lived in America and have never been outside America’s borders, almost strictly because of economic inability to do so. I’ll also prelude this by saying I don’t necessarily want to leave America currently. While I acquired a passport and New Zealand work visa prior to the 2016 Presidential Election, I decided to give America one last chance despite the election. I figure I’ll give my homeland until after the 2020 election to prove its worth. How did I find happiness in a country I find appalling and embarrassing?

Step 1: Surround Yourself with Like-minded People

I started simple: by putting myself in a place I felt more welcome in America. Not everyone can just pack up and move, though. I’m lucky enough to be a white male from a family that started and maintained a lower-middle-class status thanks to my parents’ union jobs.

I recognize that I took advantage of my economic advantage, and I acknowledge that I’ll never truly understand the economic disadvantage facing minorities in this country. My advice to them is to stand their ground. You might feel yourself becoming less and less welcome in your own hometown as gentrification raises your rent, then forces you to live further from your work, probably in an area where your vote is lost in a sea of suburbia, with the community’s ship captained by an elected official who turns a blind, patched eye as his crew of constituents forces you to walk the plank and maroon you along with your fellow minorities.

You might feel trapped on a deserted island in your suburban community, but you’ll notice the population of that island increase in number and diversity everyday. Gentrification might be the old gerrymandering, but eventually, minorities are going to take over suburbs just as they did cities.

This country is huge, but jobs aren’t following victims of gentrification to the suburbs. Suburban communities best be prepared for an influx of minorities, but something tells me they’re not. Regardless, if you can’t move to improve your surroundings, you must stand your ground, and do so in a manner that’s nonviolent and respectable.

When a member of the minority, it’s essential to do everything cleaner, kinder and gentler than the majority. Think about this: the success of the white supremacists’ movement depends on their opposition looking worse than them. Their entire rallying effort is dependent upon relativity. Sure, what they represent is objectively awful, so their only hope is that they represent themselves more respectably than their opposition. Their message takes a backseat to the reaction to their message. It’s been understandably difficult for them to accomplish given the hate in their ranks, but when it does happen, it allows them to stand behind their unfounded beliefs that non-white people are uncivilized or inherently violent and don’t belong amongst upstanding, white people.

Frankly, if I found myself amongst white supremacists, I probably couldn’t resist fighting them -- and I’m white! I couldn’t imagine the anger and frustration a non-white person would have in their presence, nor the resolve necessary to resist attacking them.

This country is huge and diverse. There’s a place for everyone in America regardless of color, creed, or sexual identification and preference, despite what’s on the news every night. There are  even places for Democratic Socialists, but Eastern Montana isn’t one of them. The first key to make America great for you is to find a place populated with people like you and who accept you.

Step 2: Move to a Place Where Your Interests are Already Represented

First and foremost, I sought the same thing those Boston Tea Party folks were seeking. I wanted to live in a place where my elected officials actually represented my interests and spent my taxes on things I need and want. That sort of representation requires democratic, competitive elections offering something more than the lesser of two evils.

Since Minneapolis utilizes ranked-choice voting and holds no primaries, a vast and diverse ballot of candidates is the result. There were 16 different candidates running for Minneapolis mayor in 2017. My hometown has had the same mayor for as long as I can remember, and he’s never truly been challenged.

Quantity doesn’t always result in quality, however. You can end up with plenty of bad candidates on a ballot if you put yourself in the wrong place. As a Democratic Socialist, my vote in Eastern Montana was mostly pointless except for local bond issues -- and even then I was in the minority.

The “D” behind a name on an Eastern Montana ballot is a death sentence, because Democrats don’t win elections in Eastern Montana (our mayor being the lone exception). I’ve been in meetings with Democrats considering campaigns in Eastern Montana, and they admit their best chance to win is to switch parties and hope to win a crowded primary. So even the Democrats are Republicans in Eastern Montana, making Democratic representation nonexistent.

Since Minnesota has a long, storied history of union jobs and still has a strong union presence, it’s most apt to allow for the growth of a Labor Party. The Democratic Farmer Labor Party is indicative of the strong, Left-leaning labor movement, as is Ginger Jentzen’s near-win as a Socialist for city council in Minneapolis. I went into the election with my interests well-represented and came out of the election with even better representation. The opposite would have been true had I remained in Eastern Montana.

Step 3: Find a Place that Allows You to Enjoy Your Free Time

America is the entertainment capital of the world. Our President is a reality TV star. We built a tourist attraction in the middle of the desert, and we’re the home of most professional sports teams. There’s always something to do in America, but not everywhere in America.

The third step to make America great for you is settling in a place with entertainment you enjoy, because what’s more important than enjoying the few hours you’re not working? And when it comes down to it, Minneapolis is home to everything I love.

I’ve long been a fan of the Minnesota Twins and Vikings. Some of my earliest memories are of the 1991 Worlds Series, and some of my most disappointing memories are of Minnesota Vikings football. I discovered that I loved hockey the season before the 2012-13 lockout, and after almost giving up on the sport, the Stanley Cup Playoffs brought me back, and I’ve been a Minnesota Wild fan since.

I hadn’t paid much attention to the NBA since Michael Jordan retired, but I’ve always been a fan of coaches more so than players -- probably because I had very little athletic ability and was always told how good a coach I’d be someday. I grew up in awe of Mike Krzyzewski, mostly because he made a small, unathletic guy like me into a legitimate starting point guard -- Steve Wojciechowski. So when Tom Thibodeau was hired by the Minnesota Timberwolves, it piqued my interest in professional basketball. And when Jimmy Butler -- my favorite player -- was acquired prior to the 2017-18 season, I became a Timberwolves season ticket holder.

I’m also just a mile or so from live music or a play any night of the week and a few miles from the nearest lake to go fishing or boating. But while my entertainment options only provide a means of temporarily forgetting the mess that is America, at least I’m not allowing the mess to dictate my mood like I was in Eastern Montana, where you make your own fun or focus on all the things that depress you.

Don’t let the state of the union get you down. If you can’t move to a place with like-minded people where your interests are already well represented, do your best to reach out to the like-minded people in your community and build a coalition to move your community instead of moving yourself. If you can afford to move, find a place with people you enjoy, where your tax dollars are used on things you appreciate and with entertainment options you enjoy.

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If the 2017 elections are any indication of what’s to come in the 2018 midterms, Republicans are in trouble, and not because of a clean sweep by Democrats in Virginia on Tuesday. It was how Republicans lost on Tuesday, and how badly, that should have them concerned.

Democrats Sweep the Big Three in Virginia

The Virginia governor’s race that got all the media attention wasn’t close. Polls had Democrat Ralph Norman leading slightly, but his lead over Republican Ed Gillespie had shrunk from as many as nine points to three or fewer points in a matter of days. Warnings of past polls leaning Left in Virginia gave Republicans hope, but it was false hope, as Norman won by 8.6 percentage points.

The most important election for Democrats on Tuesday was that of Virginia’s attorney general. State attorneys general have been the best (and in many instances the last) line of defense for Democrats against the actions of Donald Trump’s administration, especially the travel ban. Incumbent Democrat Mark Herring beat Republican challenger John Adams by 6.5 percentage points.

Democrat Justin Fairfax completed the clean sweep of Virginia with a win over Republican Jill Vogel to become lieutenant governor. He won by 5.4 percentage points. The real gains for Democrats were made in Virginia’s district elections, though.

Republican Majority in Virginia House Vanishes

The biggest blow for Republicans came in Virginia’s House of Delegates, where they’ve lost 14 seats as of this writing, with two more close races predicted for Democrats and another three tossups predicted to go to Republicans. If Democrats win just one of those Republican-leaning tossups -- perhaps the 94th District, where Republican David Yancey and Democrat Shelly Simonds each have 49 percent of the vote -- the Democratic Party would hold a majority in the Virginia House for the first time since 2000. The wins are especially sweet for Democrats because Republicans experienced their largest majority just last year, holding 67 of the 100 seats.

The success Democrats had in Virginia’s districts is unprecedented. Democrats have never taken back as many Virginia House seats as they did Tuesday. It’s been 40 years since Democrats picked up 13 House seats in the Commonwealth, and they were already starting with a 65-seat majority back then.

The history of Virginia’s House of Delegates is one of epic streaks. Democrats held the majority for a century, and when it flipped to the Republicans, it looked as though it would take another century for Democrats to take back control. It took 100 years for the Virginia House to go from a Democratic majority to a Republican majority and, perhaps, just one night to swing the Virginia House back to the Democrats.

How and Why did Virginia Go Blue?

To say the current administration and do-nothing Congress didn’t have something to do with the Republicans’ losses in Virginia would be naive. Trump’s record-low approval rating is representative of the general sentiment of Americans, and with Republicans in the White House, they’re already starting from behind. The party occupying the White House tends to lose more midterm elections than it wins, and those losses are loosely predicated on the President’s approval rating. The effects on voter turnout are already apparent.

Democrats showed up to vote in 2017. Voter turnout was up 16 percent in Virginia compared to the last election for governor in 2013, but that’s nothing when you compare Tuesday’s voter turnout to that of the 2015 election.

Less than 30 percent of registered Virginia voters voted in 2015, which came to a grand total of 1,509,864 voters -- a decrease in voter turnout of over 11 percent from the previous year. Almost 1.1 million more Virginians voted in 2017 than in 2015. That’s a 72 percent increase, so to say Democrats were motivated is an understatement.

What Does the Future Hold?

Democrats also won the elections they should have in New Jersey and New York, and Maine even expanded Medicaid. But the races that reveal the most about the views of the average American and what the future holds for American elections are those for city council. The ever-changing political leanings of communities debut in city council elections long before they’re seen on the national scale. And no city council election revealed more about the future of American politics than that of Minneapolis’s Ward 3.

Ginger Jentzen, running as a Socialist, received more than a third of first-place votes in a four-candidate race. Since she won the popular vote, Jentzen gets to cannibalize the second- and third- choice votes that went to her from voters whose first choice has no chance of winning. For instance, Samantha Pree-Winston received just 10.5 percent of first-place votes and has no shot at winning the election, so those voters who chose her as their first-choice help decide the election with their second and third choices. Those second-choice votes are allocated to the candidates voters chose as first-choice votes. If there’s still not a candidate with a majority of the vote, the candidate in last place is eliminated, and their second-choice votes are allocated to the candidates they chose as first-place votes.

This is where ranked-choice voting proves its worth at Jentzen’s expense. Jentzen might have won the election using a traditional ballot where voters can choose just one candidate, and the candidate with the most votes wins. But her lack of second- and third-choice votes makes her winning of the popular vote irrelevant, unless she had secured a majority (50 percent plus one vote) in first-choice votes.

Unfortunately for Jentzen, it looks as though she wasn’t many voters’ second or third choice. Jentzen received just 13.7 percent and 18.3 percent of second- and third-choice votes, which makes it difficult for her to pick up the majority needed to win the election. Jentzen’s supporters likely chose just one candidate -- Jentzen -- forgoing their second and third choices, resulting in a lot of first-choice votes and not much else. It’s a sound strategy nonetheless. Jentzen just needed another 1.500 first-place votes or so.

Regardless, the strong showing by Jentzen proves a political point: socialism isn’t a dirty word -- in Minneapolis at least. That might not be saying much given Minnesota’s history of strong unions, but Jentzen’s successful campaign will inspire other Socialists to run for office unafraid of the misinformed perception of their party affiliation. At the very least, this little city council election revealed that Left-leaning voters aren’t afraid of moving further Left than the Democratic Party has been willing to go, which bodes well for Bernie Sanders in 2020.

The Democrats left nothing up for debate on Tuesday. Had they lost any one of the Virginia elections or gained half as many Virginia House seats, Republicans might have been relieved or found reason for hope. Instead, they can see the train coming and can’t get off the tracks.

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Know Your Rights

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Imagine a world where the winner of an election actually earns a majority of the popular vote. Imagine a world without primaries, and political campaigns without attack ads. Imagine a world where you visit your polling place for your local elections and instead of choosing the lesser of two evils, ranking three to six candidates by your order of preference. This is the world of ranked-choice voting.

In the ranked-choice voting world, it’s less likely a candidate will give up on a voter, assuming they’ll never get their vote because a candidate likely needs both the first-choice rankings from his or her core supporters as well as some lower rankings from other voters to win an election. The result is more civil campaigning by candidates and more discussion of issues voters find important. A Rutger-Eagleton poll found that likely voters in cities using ranked-choice voting in 2013 and 2014 perceived less candidate criticism and negative campaigning and were more satisfied with the conduct of candidate campaigns.

Ranked-choice voting also reduces the influence of money in campaigns because of the elimination of negative campaigning and use of attack ads. A survey of over 200 candidates in ranked-choice voting municipalities found that candidates were less likely to use television or radio ads, more likely to praise their rivals and less likely to report that their or their opponent’s campaign portrayed candidates negatively.

Ranked-choice voting also eliminates the need for primary elections, which saves taxpayer dollars, but it also makes voters feel like their vote has value, which makes them more likely to vote. In Minneapolis, the number of votes cast in the 2013 municipal election were nearly double that of 2009, when ranked-choice voting was first implemented. A study by University of Missouri-St. Louis professor David Kimball and PhD candidate Joseph Anthony found that voter turnout increases by 10 percent when compared to the primary and runoff elections ranked-choice elections replace.

Most importantly, ranked-choice voting makes elections more democratic. It eliminates the lesser-of-two-evils “option” and opens elections up to third-, fourth- and fifth-party candidates, giving America’s diverse populace the diverse electorate it deserves. Even if a voter’s highest-ranked candidate loses, that voter's vote will still count for their second-, third-, fourth-, fifth- or even sixth-ranked candidate.

Passing and implementing ranked-choice voting everywhere is an easy and effective way to make our elections more democratic and ensure that those elected best represent the concerns and values of us.

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Know Your Rights

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U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ruled that Texas’s new voter I.D. law is invalid and made it sound like any similar voter I.D. law would be ruled the same. It’s the fifth time a voter I.D. law has been ruled invalid, and it’s because the laws were created with “discriminatory intent.” Since this law’s predecessor was created with discriminatory intent, all reincarnations of said law would also be created with the intent of taking voting rights from people without access to photo I.D. services. Judge Ramos has basically said for a third time, “These are not anti-voter fraud laws. These are anti-voter laws.”

You might wonder why someone wouldn’t have a photo I.D, but in a lot of places they’re prohibitively expensive. In Texas, acquiring a photo I.D. can cost between $78 and $390 (“The High Cost of ‘Free’ Photo Voter Identification Cards,” p. 54). How? Even if the photo I.D. is free, the trip to the DMV isn’t. Some people have to take a bus or cab to visit the nearest grocery store, and the closest DMV is likely further from home than food. If they don’t have a birth certificate, that’s another document they have to pay to get. If they can’t find their marriage certificate and took their partner’s name, they’ll need to acquire that document, too.

Judge Ramos went so far as to suggest Texas elections be subjected to Department of Justice oversight, which hasn’t been the case since 2013, when the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. So if there are judges with the same sense as Ramos in other states that have adopted voter I.D. laws (there are 32 of them), they could use Ramos’s decision as precedent to bring back DOJ regulation of elections that was specifically part of the Voting Rights Act to make sure this type of discrimination didn’t happen. Instead, states have adopted Jim Crow laws and passed them off as a defense against voter fraud. If you were wondering what the possible voter fraud was in Texas, it was .000038 percent in 2012.

So this is all a big win for voters, right? Well, if you haven’t noticed, Jeff Sessions isn’t exactly fond of brown people voting. When the Voting Rights Act was gutted of sections designed to protect the minority or impoverished voter, Sessions called it “Good news...for the South.” His home state of Alabama tried to close 31 DMVs, mostly in majority-black neighborhoods, right after passing laws that required a photo I.D. to vote.

Even if Texas, or any other Southern state, was again subject to elections with DOJ oversight, what kind of oversight do you think Sessions would provide? By controlling the ballot to elections in the world’s most powerful country, Sessions would become more powerful than the President, because he will have been responsible for electing the President. That makes him the most powerful man in the world.

But will Sessions be the attorney general in power when all this goes down? Given the fracturing of the Republican Party by Donald Trump and his record-low approval rating for a President this far into his first term, it’s highly unlikely Sessions and Trump remain in office after 2020. But if the Texas appeal is heard before the 2018 midterm elections, Sessions could keep minorities and impoverished voters from the polls to preserve a Republican majority in Congress. Saving Trump might be too tall a task for even the most powerful man in the world, though.

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Know Your Rights

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Gentrification is the old gerrymandering

The United States Supreme Court will rule on partisan gerrymandering for the first time since 2004, deciding whether Wisconsin Republicans drew electoral district lines with the unfair intent of strengthening their political presence in the state. Gill v. Whitford will be heard by the Supreme Court in the fall and could result in a ruling that will set the boundaries for drawing electoral district boundaries.

 

The case at hand is pretty straightforward. While 51 percent of Wisconsin voters were Democrats in 2012, Republicans won 60 of the 99 seats in the state’s Congress. Republicans say that’s because Democrats have the disadvantage of living in metropolitan areas like Milwaukee and Madison, which is true. Metropolitans are generally underrepresented given the populations in their districts compared to the populations of rural districts, and that’s not Republicans’ fault.

 

But there’s more to the story. Thanks to the work of University of Chicago law professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos, there’s a new way to measure whether district lines are fair representations of representation or partisan gerrymandering designed to be advantageous to the political party drawing the lines. The efficiency gap measures “wasted votes,” or the number of votes wasted in a district where one party wins an election easily.

 

For example, take those metropolitan voters in Wisconsin. In Wisconsin’s fourth Congressional district, which includes parts of Milwaukee, incumbent Democrat Gwen Moore won 77 percent of the vote in a race that didn’t feature Republican opposition. You could argue that Moore wouldn’t have required all those votes to win even if there was a Republican challenger. Those would be considered wasted votes, and voters living on the edges of Milwaukee should have instead voted in neighboring first, fifth and sixth districts to make races more competitive.

 

The same could be said for Wisconsin’s second district that contains Madison. Incumbent Democrat Mark Pocan wasted votes beating Republican challenger Peter Theron by almost 150,000. Move 100,000 of those wasted votes to the sixth district and Wisconsin would have one more Democratic Senator. And we haven’t even started looking at the state assembly.

 

If we look at the Milwaukee area again, there are two districts, the 14th and 21st, that had competitive races Republicans won in 2016. Each race was decided by about 5,000 votes. Wisconsin's 14th district is bordered on the east by the 12th, 17th and 18th districts. Those districts are closer to Milwaukee and all went Democratic. In fact, there was no Republican opposition in any of those races, so the Democrats needed just over 5,000 votes of the 58,000 wasted votes they got in those three races to take the 14th district. Had the east boundary of the 14th district been drawn closer to Milwaukee, the Democrats would have likely won that district.

 

Wisconsin’s 21st district is neighbored by the 20th district to the north, which went to the Democrats unopposed. Another 21,222 votes were wasted in the 20th district, and Democrats needed just 5,000 to take the 21st district.

 

It’s a similar story for Wisconsin’s 42nd district, which is neighbored by the 79th and 81st districts, which went Democrat by a combined 16,000 wasted votes. Democrat George Ferriter needed just 5,000 of those votes to swing the 42nd district blue.

 

The point is Wisconsin Republicans probably gained seats by drawing the district lines where they did, which is not supposed to happen. This is the Republicans’ fault because they were last to draw the districts, and the Supreme Court could rule that the districts must be redrawn to make races more competitive. That was the ruling in the lower court.

 

If the Supreme Court agrees with the lower court, it would set the efficiency gap as legal precedent when determining whether partisan gerrymandering has taken place. It would also give the party disadvantaged by the gerrymandering a better chance of righting the wrong and achieving more accurate representation throughout states. That’s no small accomplishment, but it’s not a solution by any means, because gentrification is the old gerrymandering.

 

Gerrymandering has been around almost as long as America, but even older than America is gentrification, which will continue to weaken the power of the minority vote despite a ruling on gerrymandering. While gerrymandering is the drawing of lines around communities, gentrification is actively creating communities by displacing other communities.

 

There’s nothing stopping a city council our county commission from purchasing land to build whatever they want to “improve” their city or county. Cities, counties and states don’t need your permission to build “improvements.” They can just buy you or your landlord out. If you live in a metropolitan area, you’re likely familiar with these projects and might have been displaced because of them.

 

New research by the University of Minnesota found that “over a third of low-income census tracts in Minneapolis underwent gentrification...and about a quarter of low-income census tracts in St. Paul gentrified” from 2000 to 2014. Northeast Minneapolis is the best example of gentrification in the area, which tends to happen in downtown areas near public transit. So the people who actually need the bus and train to get to work no longer have access to it or have to walk/ride even farther to work.

 

But brown people moving to suburban or rural areas should even out the vote there, right? Wrong. Minorities had a voice in metropolitan areas because they had power in numbers. Those numbers being spread around suburban and rural areas dissipates the power of that collective vote. Those displaced people also lose local representation that’s been dedicated to their interests. They were a member of the majority when it came to their local community, and they are now a minority in a new community. Just like the local elected officials in the cities, the local elected officials of the suburbs and rural areas have the interests of the majority in mind.

Those same Wisconsin Republicans who allegedly committed partisan gerrymandering will simply resort to “improving” their communities and spreading the minority vote around into suburban and rural districts via gentrification in the future. Even if the Supreme Court rules the Wisconsin Republicans were in the wrong, gentrification makes gerrymandering unnecessary, because if you can move the people instead of the lines there’s no need to move the lines. Moving the lines is just cheaper and easier, for now. That’s why gentrification is the old gerrymandering.

 

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Know Your Rights

 

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