Project Wonderful

Friday, September 30, 2011

If you only read one article on the War on Voting...

I've been referencing the 'GOP War On Voting' a lot lately, but I realize I haven't provided much context for those who are starting at the subject from scratch. Luckily now I don't have to because this article did it for me!

I started reading the article thinking I could share the highlights with you, but honestly it was such a complete explanation and so much better than I could do that as a Campaignsick first, I am just copy and pasting it below. Please don't think I'm coping out on you! We'll be back to my regularly scheduled sneakiness tomorrow.

The national trauma of the 2000 presidential election and its messy denouement in Florida and the U.S. Supreme Court made, for a brief moment, election reform a cause célèbre. The scrutiny of election administration went far beyond the vote counting and recounting that dominated headlines. The Florida saga cast a harsh light on the whole country's archaic and fragmented system of election administration, exemplified by a state where hundreds of thousands of citizens were disenfranchised by incompetent and malicious voter purges, Reconstruction-era felon voting bans, improper record-keeping, and deliberate deception and harassment.

The outrage generated by the revelations of 2000 soon spent itself or was channeled into other avenues, producing, as a sort of consolation prize, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, an underambitious and underfunded law mainly aimed at preventing partisan mischief in vote counting. The fundamental problem of accepting 50 different systems for election administration, complicated even more in states like Florida where local election officials control most decisions with minimal federal, state or judicial oversight, was barely touched by HAVA. As Judith Browne-Dianis, of the civil rights group the Advancement Project, told me: "The same cracks in the system have persisted."

But most politicians in both parties paid lip service to the idea that every American citizen had a right to vote, and that higher voting levels of the sort taken for granted in most democracies would be a good thing. "Convenience voting" via mail and early on-site balloting, or simply liberalized "absentee" voting, spread rapidly throughout the last decade, often as a way to minimize Election Day confusion or chicanery. In Florida itself, Republican Govs. Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist relaxed and then abolished the state's practice of disenfranchising nonviolent felons for a period of time after their release.

No more. In the wake of the 2010 elections, Republican governors and legislatures are engaging in a wave of restrictive voting legislation unlike anything this country has seen since the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which signaled the defeat of the South's long effort to prevent universal suffrage. This wave of activism is too universal to be a coincidence, and too broad to reflect anything other than a general determination to restrict the franchise.

Millions of voters are affected. In Florida new Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation reversing Crist's order automatically restoring the voting rights of nonviolent ex-felons. In one fell swoop, Scott extinguished the right to vote for 97,000 Florida citizens and placed more than a million others in danger of disenfranchisement. In a close contest for the Sunshine State's 29 electoral votes, such measures could be as crucial to the outcome as the various vote suppression efforts of 2000.

As Ari Berman explained in an excellent recent summary of these developments for Rolling Stone, restrictive legislation, which has been introduced in 38 states and enacted (so far) in at least 12, can be divided into four main categories: restrictions on voter registration drives by nonpartisan, nonprofit civic and advocacy groups; cutbacks in early voting opportunities; new, burdensome identification requirements for voting; and reinstitution of bans on voting by ex-felons.

While new voter ID laws have clearly been coordinated by the powerful conservative state legislative lobbying network ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), other initiatives have spread almost virally. Virtually all of these restrictions demonstrably target segments of the electorate -- the very poor, African-Americans and Hispanics, college students, and organizations trying to register all of the above -- that tend to vote for Democrats.

Virtually all have been justified by their sponsors as measures to prevent "voter fraud," a phenomenon for which there is remarkably little evidence anywhere in the country. As Tovah Andrea Wang, an election law expert at Demos, has concluded: "[L]aw enforcement statistics, reports from elections officials and widespread research have proved that voter fraud at the polling place is virtually nonexistent." The Bush administration's Justice Department tried to a scandalous degree to find cases of voter fraud to prosecute, and failed.

But as Marge Baker, executive vice president of People for the American Way, observes:

So-called anti-fraud laws are almost always thinly veiled attempts to prevent large segments of the population from making it to the ballot box ... low-income voters, college students, people of color, the elderly. The people behind these laws know that there is no "voter fraud" epidemic. They just want to make it as difficult as possible for certain types of people to vote.

If so, is the motivation simply and purely partisanship? That's the conclusion reached by former President Bill Clinton, who told a Campus Progress audience in July: "They are trying to make the 2012 electorate look more like the 2010 electorate than the 2008 electorate."

The prevalence of restrictive measures in key 2012 swing states certainly reinforces this impression. With Scott's order Florida rolled back the early voting that played a key role in Obama's 2008 victory. New voter ID laws were pioneered in Indiana, the red state most famously carried by Obama in 2008. A voter ID bill passed in the Legislature in North Carolina, but was vetoed by the governor, a Democrat.

Cynical as such actions may seem, they do reflect an ideology. For some conservatives, however, there is a deeper motive than partisanship that helps explain the rapid proliferation of restrictive legislation. It hearkens back to much older debates over the franchise that raged from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries: the belief that voting is a "privilege" rather than a right, and one best exercised by "responsible" or "productive" members of the community. And it's not really surprising that old-school doubts about the very concept of "voting rights" have accompanied the dramatic rise to power of "constitutional conservatives" who strongly believe that no popular majority should have the power to modify fixed concepts of property rights and limited government as handed down by the Founders, who themselves acted (according to many Tea Partyers) according to a divine mandate.

You hear echoes of this ancient anti-democratic conviction scattered all across the Tea Party Movement and among many state legislators active in voting for restriction legislation. Tea Party Nation president Judson Phillips created a furor in November of 2010 by suggesting that voting should be restricted to property owners, as it often was prior to enactment of the 15th Amendment.

Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers flatly claimed voting was "not a right" during debate over a photo ID bill (a statement he later partially walked back). So, too, did Florida state Sen. Mike Bennett in a similar debate. Republican legislators and party leaders in Wisconsin, Maine and New Hampshire said all sorts of disparaging things about the civic qualifications of college students in the process of seeking to keep them from voting on campus.

Suffusing much of this sentiment is the pervasive Tea Party fear that voters without "skin in the game," that is, "property ownership or significant tax liability," will be prone to voting for big government and "welfare" at the expense of "productive" citizens. Few would publicly go so far as right-wing author Matthew Vadim, who briefly became a Fox celebrity for his argument that registering poor people to vote is "like handing out burglary tools to criminals," since they "can be counted on to vote themselves more benefits by electing redistributionist politicians."

But throughout the conservative and Tea Party subculture you find countless people who subscribe to the "Cloward-Piven Strategy" (popularized by Glenn Beck) that liberals have been engaged in a deliberate effort for decades to buy votes with expanded welfare benefits. And from practically the moment the financial crisis exploded, a preferred conservative-activist interpretation (advanced most aggressively by presidential candidate Michele Bachmann) has involved an elaborate variation on the Cloward-Piven Strategy.

The story is that the obscure community organizing group ACORN utilized the provisions of the Community Reinvestment Act to destroy the housing and banking industries with mortgages for shiftless poor and minority borrowers who were then encouraged to elect "socialist" politicians like Barack Obama to bail them out. This particular conspiracy theory has been especially potent since ACORN's often-clumsy voter registration efforts also happen to be at the very center of Republican claims of widespread voter fraud.

Conservative suspicions that letting poor people vote leads to "socialism" have been most evident in the strange furor among tax-hating Republicans about the number of Americans who do not have net federal income tax liability. These "lucky duckies" (as the Wall Street Journal famously called them in a 2002 Op-Ed deploring the low taxes paid by the poor) have no "skin in the game." Thus, as the Journal put it, "can hardly be expected to care about tax relief for everybody else ... [and] are also that much more detached from recognizing the costs of government."

While it's unlikely Republican politicians will come right out and advocate higher taxes on the poor (although some "fair tax" schemes calling for a shift to consumption taxes would have the same effect), the resentment of them as freeloaders who get to "vote themselves welfare" probably does operate as a fine rationalization for placing landmines on their path to the voting booth.

All in all, the conservative commitment to full voting rights, which used to be a bipartisan totem that Republican operatives undermined in the dark and out of sight, is probably dead for the foreseeable future. And the war on voting will continue.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Taking Back Religion FROM OUR SCHOOLS

"Because of this, people in public schools are going to get to know who Jesus Christ is."

The above video is from a mandatory meeting at a public school in South Carolina."I never get mad because they teach evolution." don't get mad when they teach math and social studies either, right?

I was reflecting recently about how hard it would be for me to be part of a religion that evangelized. A man was screaming out bible verses on my way home from synagogue. I thought "Even though it makes people uncomfortable if you really, sincerely, believed that they would burn in fire for all eternity unless they changed, wouldn't you try to help them?" And then I thought, "That's why we have Separation of Church and State." If someone comes up to you on the street you can just walk away. If you go to a religious school it's your choice to attend. If you're uncomfortable at these places, you can leave. All children are required to attend public (or choose to go to private) school. I can't even imagine how uncomfortable a Jewish or Muslim or just non-religious student would feel at this assembly...or at the school afterwards. I think religion can play a hugely important role in a child's life, but no one ever got the benefits of religion by being coerced into it and the resentment that can stem from that kind of coercion is exactly why so many people distrust religion.

Please join me in signing the ACLU petition.

L'Shana Tova,

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

2012 E-Voting Machines are Super-hackable

Voting machines used by as many as a quarter of American voters heading to the polls in 2012 can be hacked with just $10.50 in parts and an 8th grade science education, according to computer science and security experts at the Vulnerability Assessment Team at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois says

I found the video pretty boring, but if you're the "take it apart and see for myself" type, you might find it appealing.

In case you don't want to watch the boring video or read the less boring article, let me break it down for you. They are not talking about cyber attacks, although they imply those are possible as well. They are talking about physical attacks on the machine, basically rewiring it to run by remote control, which they call a "man in the middle" attack. That is in a way scarier, because you don't need highly specialized knowledge to pull it off. Apparently it's pretty easy (they keep referring to being able to do it with an 8th grade education, but I must have skipped that day) and very cheap and if it happened, there would be no physical evidence to arouse suspicion.
Test team member, John Warner explains, "The really nice thing about this attack, the man-in-the-middle, is that there's no soldering or destruction of the circuit board of any kind. You can remove this attack and leave no forensic evidence that we've been there...Gaining access to the inside of the Diebold [that's the brand of voting machine] touch-screen is as simple as picking the rudimentary lock, or using a standard hotel minibar key, as all of the machines use the same easily copied key, available at most office supply stores."
This is why I tell people it will be years before we have national at home ivoting. We can't guarantee security when we have the physical machines.

Now granted, we assume that the machines will be stored in a place with trustworthy personnel (...or you know, underpaid disgruntled board of elections workers). And more reasonably we realize that for this type of hack to have any sort of widespread effect, there would have to be a national or statewide conspiracy to physically tamper with machines. Sure one super corrupt County Party Chair might be able to rig an election (a problem in and of itself), but I would put it past even the least scrupulous of national parities to be able to pull off that kind of coordinated attack. You would really need cyber hacking for that. (I mean what? I was home all evening! I want an attorney!) Still, when it comes to the integrity of our voting systems are we really okay with "it's probably fine?"

So, while I don't find it overly concerning, I do find it dumb that we made voting machines that a zealous intern could hack into. So does the team at Argonne National. Team leader Roger Johnston explains:
"The machines themselves need to be designed better, with the idea that people may be trying to get into them. If you're just thinking about the fact that someone can try to get in, you can design the seals better, for example. Don't do things like use a standard blank key for every machine. Spend an extra four bucks and get a better lock. You don't have to have state of the art security, but you can do some things where it takes at least a little bit of skill to get in."
Why don't Republicans focus on this if they're so concerned about election fraud?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fusion Voting: I've been meaning to talk to you about that.

Start this video at 1:32

Did you know that New York has Fusion Voting? Okay, back up. Do you know what Fusion Voting is? It's cool. I didn't either until I applied for a job with The Working Families Party in 2009. I've been meaning to write about Fusion Voting (also called Electoral Fusion) since I started this blog. Talking with colleagues this week about the rules we create when setting up electoral systems resparked my interest.

Here's how it works: WFP, or another third party, endorses a candidate already in the race. For WFP it is usually, but not always, a Democrat. Voters can vote for the candidate on either the Democratic or the Working Families Party line, and the votes for the candidate from both lines are tallied together. For example, if candidate X receives 30% of the total votes cast on the Democratic Party line and 20% of the total votes on the WFP line, while candidate Y receives 45% of the total votes on the Republican line, candidate X still wins!

In a country where we have first past the post, as opposed to party list proportional representation, critics argue that Fusion Voting doesn't make much of a difference. Voters who would have voted for the candidate on one line vote for her on the other, but ultimately the result is the same. But Fusion Voting allows voters to voice discontent with the two big political parties without "spoiling" the election ala Ralph Nader in 2000. It also allows a party like WFP to put its resources (particularly its spectacular paid canvass) behind candidates that actually have a chance of winning. Because WFP does not endorse in every election, a WFP endorsement does hold some weight in and of itself, signifying to educated voters that the endorsed candidate is someone who will take working class issues seriously. At the same time it holds elected officials accountable to these voters and their interests. A large percentage of the winner's vote on the WFP line sends the message "you were elected to fight for minimum wage, health care, affordable housing, etc and you better do it or next time you may not be so lucky."

Watch the video from 1:32 to 4:52 for a great explanation of Fusion Voting as well as the reason it is now only legal in 8 states (hint: special interests). Fusion Voting does not solve all the problems inherit in our electoral system, but it does ameliorate some. I think most Americans who pay attention would agree that we've created a system so entangled in special interests and money that it's hard to see how to pull ourselves up out the rabbit hole. So while Fusion Voting might not solve everything, at this point in our electoral history, are we in a position to turn a good idea down?

NGP VAN: A Match Made in Heaven


Peanut butter and Jelly. Zack Morris and Kelly Kapowski. Beer and baseball. Some things just belong together.

For those of you less obsessed with the Voter Activation Network than me (ie everyone) let's take a step back. As it says in the press release, "VAN is the architect of the Democratic National Committee’s VoteBuilder database, which is distributed to thousands of Democratic campaigns across the nation. In 2008, VoteBuilder was used by Obama for America to manage the largest voter contact and volunteer program in campaign history." For the record, VAN (the actual product is called VoteBuidler and the company is VAN, but we use the two interchangeably) was around before the Obama campaign and it's basically a field organizer's best friend. Votebuilder is how we track and manage volunteer and voter contact data. If it's not in the VAN, it doesn't exist. It's what make us better at field campaigns than Republicans and frankly a large part of what made me good at my job. It can generate lists of volunteers or voters based on where they live, what events they've attended, even create a walklist complete with map and driving directions or a call list with phone numbers, sex, age and party registration. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Without the VAN, I'd be useless.

The one drawback to Votebuilder has always been that it doesn't effectively track donor data. It's tools are set up for field, not finance. Consequently we have needed another tool to track donor data; who has gotten an ask, who we need to follow up with, who has maxed out, etc. Enter National Geographic and Political Software. From the press release, "NGP is used by the DNC, DSCC, DCCC, DGA, and DLCC; over 75 percent of the Democrats in the U.S. House and Senate; almost all the Democratic state parties; and in total over 1,700 Democrats, PACs, and other organizations and corporations. For 14 years, NGP has helped clients succeed and win by delivering a mix of products, political and technology expertise, and outstanding client services." NGP is the gold standard for tracking finance data.

The problem is, it's possible for field and finance to be working very similar lists at the same time and not know about it. Their asks are not coordinated. When I call to ask if you'll attend a fundraiser on Thursday, I don't know that you're scheduled for door knocking that day. If I make a persuasion call to a voter and she pledges a donation, I don't have the tools to enter it in the system. Or at least...not until now...

NGP and VAN are getting married! It's true, most campaign relationships don't last, but I think these two crazy kids are gonna make it!

"NGP has focused on the financial side of campaigning (fundraising and compliance tools) and VAN on the field (voter contact and volunteer management). The combined company will offer an array of campaign technology services including systems to manage voter contact, volunteer management, fundraising and compliance, union organizing, membership management, and phone services. These services are complemented by a suite of new media tools: broadcast email, online contributions, website tools, all integrated with the VAN and NGP databases. "

Apparently this press released happened in November?! How is it possible that I didn't know about this? It would be like Perez Hilton missing a press release that Elton John got Lady Gaga pregnant. It's that big a deal. When I sent the link to an old bro-worker, amidst his shouts of glee he commented "If I had been waiting for a sign from God about something, I would have just assumed this was it." I suspect I will have to edit this post tomorrow, but I was too excited not to share. And seriously...if I found out you knew about this and didn't tell me...well...let's just say you will not be my plus one to the wedding. NationalField is gonna be so jealous!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Campaign Quickie

J: So, some old dude on the phone threatened to kill me because I called him... he's my candidates neighbor... and when he found out I was from the campaign he hung up.

Me: Oooh tell me more!

J: Then called back and left a message saying "if you're a solicitor take me off your list."

Me: Ahaha. Does he know he is the dude's neighbor?

J: Yes, we gave him a yard sign on Saturday. He seemed fine.

Oh...les joies de campaign.

At least SOMEONE is making it easier to vote

You've gotta hand it to the OFA new media team. In the throws of what has been termed the "GOP War On Voting" they've created a tool to fight fire with civic engagement. does everything for you but put the stamp on your registration and drop it in the mail (which some people would *still* need to get in their registrations but that's another issue).

You choose your state, fill in the fields provided and populates a voter registration form ready to print and mail. It can even help you request an absentee ballot or change your registration address. The PDF generated by the site comes with a handy instructions (basically fold, stamp and mail) and an envelope already addressed to the board of elections. As if that weren't enough, your submission triggers an automatically generated email reminding you to submit the form (and how), thanking you for your support of the President (voter reg drives have to be non-partisan so you could technically register as a Republican, but the site is being marketing to Dems) and linking you to ways to stay involved. That's some field organizer follow up at its finest. (Okay, better if I got a phone call five seconds later asking me to volunteer, but the election year is young.)

I just want to throw out there...when one party is making it easier to vote while another is trying to keep people from voting, you gotta wonder who truly represents the will of the people.

For the record, I registered Democrat.

<3, Nancy
UPDATE: received another (2nd) follow up email from, a day after I signed up, copy and pasted below. Way to follow up.

Nancy --

It's been 1 day since you filled out your voter registration form. Have you signed it and mailed it in yet?

The signed voter registration form must be postmarked by 1:00 AM on October 14, 2011 -- just 17 days away.

If you haven't yet, please mail your completed form to:

NYS Board of Elections
40 Steuben Street

Albany, NY 12207-2108

If you've already mailed your form, click here to let us know:

I mailed my voter registration form

Do you have questions about registering to vote? Call:

(518) 473-5086

You can print a new copy of your registration form by clicking here

If your form is incorrect, you've recently moved, or you need to start over, you can edit your form.

After you mail your form, make sure your family, friends and neighbors do the same.



Sunday, September 25, 2011

Saudi Women Will Vote in Local Elections

Grad school is kicking my butt, but I am too excited about this not to share. Saudi King Abdullah announced Sunday that the nation's women will gain the right to vote and run as candidates in local elections to be held in 2015.
Saudi women have been capitalizing on the air of reform in the region by organizing protests against the ban on female drivers and other inequitable Saudi laws.

Critics rightfully point out that women are still not allowed to drive in the kingdom and that the advancement won't take effect until 2015, but I still believe that King Abdullah deserves praise. Saudi Arabia is in an interesting situation in that the ruling family is considerably more liberal than the highly politically and economically influential ulema (the body of Islamic religious leaders and jurists). King Abdullah made it clear that he consulted with these leaders, however ultimately the decision was his and arrived at in part because of a social networking campaign led by female activists. Times they are a changin'.

Is it a small step? Yes. But it's a step forward.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I can't make this stuff up

Arizona State Senate President and author of the controversial Arizona immigration law, SB 1070, Russell Pearce is facing a recall election.

First, I'd like to take a moment to appreciate that. Whatever problems we may have with our system of governance, we live in a country where voters can hold politicians accountable for their actions and, miraculously, activists in Arizona were engaged and organized enough to make that happen. Bravo to them and to United States for having this system! See what happens when you get involved?

Now, here's why this story is interesting. Pearce and his supporters are running a campaign so sleazy, I can't decide whether to laugh or cry. These illegal campaign signs, are just the tip of the iceberg. There is debate as to whether Pearce supporters were responsible for an attempt to intimidate his opponent, Republican Jerry Lewis, (no relation) by THROWING A PADLOCK AT HIS GROIN.

More substantially, Pearce's campaign was caught plagiarizing anti-immigration material from...wait for it...white supremacists. And, running a fake Mexican American candidate (particularly obnoxious considering his views on immigration) in an attempt to split his opponent's vote. See the yard sign above.

I would like to write some witty commentary for you, but some things just speak for themselves. Stay classy, Tea Party.

How to end partisan politics

President Clinton (you may know him as Secretary of State Clinton's husband), argues that if we don't want partisan politicians in Washington, we should stop electing them.

"We live in a time where there's this huge disconnect between the way the political system works and the way the economic system works. Every place the American economy is booming, cooperation is the order of the day...But conflict is still good politics in Washington. So, until the American people make it clear that -- however they voted in past elections -- they want these folks to work together and to do something, there's going to be a little ambivalence in Washington."

Great neighbors think alike.

Note: I think this article incorrectly refers to Pres.Clinton as Pres.Obama at one point. Maybe it will be fixed by the time you read this.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

About Last Night...

Obama is still not losing the Jewish vote.

A couple of months ago, I argued that President Obama had not lost the Jewish vote, despite a speech he made earlier this summer advocating a return to the 1967 Israel/Palestine borders. After yesterday's special election in which Republican Bob Turner beat Democrat David Weprin in the race to (wait for it...) fill Anthony Weiner's traditionally Democratic seat in a heavily Jewish district, I stand by my position: President Obama is not losing anything that he ever had.

Even before it happened, Democratic alarmists/Republicans/most media outlets, were pushing the narrative that yesterday's election would be a referendum on President Obama in general and more specifically his policies on Israel. But President Obama was not running in this election and yesterday's results are attributable to qualities specific to this district and these candidates.

First off, there's David Weprin himself. Now that the election is officially over, I feel more comfortable voicing my impression of Weprin as deeply unlikeable. I don't remember the details of our conversation so much as I remember the candidate coming off as conceded and slightly creepy. And I know I'm not alone. An LA Times article highlighting Former Mayor Koch's role in the referendum narrative contains this little gem regarding Weprin's mustache, '"Really … you look sleazy," said Pearl Siegelman, a Democratic district leader in Brooklyn's Sheepshead Bay.' My point here is not to engage in the least impressive name dropping ever (apologies in advance, there's another one coming up), but to contrast the off putting Weprin with highly charismatic Barack Obama and Anthony Weiner.

In addition, several sources have referenced the fact that Weprin, like many of yesterday's voters, is an Orthodox Jew. I do vividly remember shaking hands with Weprin, a no-no for highly observant Jews, and I don't remember him wearing a yarmulke. Far be it for me to define another person's Judaism, Weprin may be well observant and may rightfully consider himself Orthodox, but not in same way that Assemblyman Dov Hikind and the Jews in that district do. As this article points out:

"The Democrats originally thought they were doing themselves a favor by nominating Weprin, himself an Orthodox Jew. There were jitters about the Jewish vote at the start of the race, so...the Democrats cynically slapped Weprin on the ballot to ensure that they could use his Judaism as a hedge against a potential threat from a non-Jewish Republican candidate. Instead, Weprin’s clumsy attempts to play up his Orthodox identity contributed to the implosion of his campaign. Yes, he talked about his Jewishness and always wore a yarmulke when speaking to Orthodox audiences, but he also voted to legalize gay marriage. In fact, he not only voted for gay marriage, he gave a speech on the floor of the state assembly in which he claimed that his religion supported his vote."

I've also encountered Assemblyman Hikind in my professional past and here is what I can you about him:

Number one, that dude needs like half a reason to not endorse a Democrat. In fact in 2008 he endorsed McCain for President and before that he endorsed George W. Bush. Again, it's hard to claim that President Obama is "losing" something he never had. Hikind did, however, endorse Weprin for Comptroller in 2009.

Second, Hikind and his constituents are extremely anti-marriage equality. In 2009, Assemblyman Hikind endorsed the City Council candidate I managed despite the fact that my candidate was pro-equality. It was a HUGE DEAL even though all the viable candidates were pro-equality and mine was the only practicing Jew in the five-way race. The association very nearly resulted in scandal for both Hikind and my candidate, but was endured because of what each brought to the table for the other. Assemblyman Hikind is highly attuned to the needs and moods of his district (not necessarily a bad thing). The reason he chose to endorse my candidate was because of a track record of securing low income housing (a big deal in those neighborhoods) and a commitment to bring resources to local yeshivas and other community institutions. At the time, marriage equality was less imminent in New York and certainly not prominent on the agenda for a City Councilman. If it had been, you can bet Hikind would have endorsed someone else. Last but not least, Hikind wields a considerable amount of power in his district and in the New York City Orthodox Jewish community at large. When my candidate secured Hikind's endorsement (just before I was hired onto the race) I was told that we had in effect secured the Orthodox vote.

So what changed about Weprin between 2009 and 2011? It wasn't his relationship to Israel, it was his recent pro-equal marriage vote and corresponding comments. How do I know? Not only because of the evidence presented above, but because Dov Hikind said so:

"Hikind, a staunch supporter of Israel, did not employ this argument when he explained his decision. He emphasized that Weprin had lost his vote by bringing in his religion to back his vote for the gay marriage law that carried the New York legislature in June. The fact that he backed the law at all cost Weprin Orthodox votes.

'I will not support David Weprin,' said the Brooklyn state Assemblyman. 'Weprin basically used his Jewish orthodoxy to say gay marriage is OK. He used his orthodoxy to say gay marriage is kosher. That crossed the line," Hikind added.

And since Hikind is so lockstep with his constituents it is reasonable to assume this goes for them as well.

Furthermore, if yesterday's election were truly a referendum on President Obama and not the peculiarities of a specific candidate and district, then Democrats would not have maintained all six of the contested New York State Assembly seats.

Finally, if President Obama had been losing the "Israel vote" (distinct, I would argue, from the "Jewish vote") he is on his way to gaining it back. While all this was going on, President Obama was making a statement against a United Nations vote for Palestinian statehood. "If this came to the Security Council we would object very strongly, precisely because we think it would be counterproductive."

So there you have it. President Obama is STILL NOT LOSING THE JEWISH VOTE. Now let's take a moment to mourn the end off all the Weiner puns and then move on.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Never Forget.

One of my professors told the following story in class today:

He was consulting on a city council race in NYC in the Battery Park area. Primaries in NYC are this time of year so he was down there doing some GOTV. Suddenly, he saw a plane crash into his base's biggest polling place, aka the World Trade Center. So what did he do? Run? Call 911? Call his wife to let her know he was okay? Nope. He called the Board of Elections to make sure his constituents would still be able to vote. (The guy at the BOE was unaware of the crash and told him he would have to call him back.)

The story was sad and funny and definitely something I could imagine one of my colleagues doing. One of the worst (and sometimes best) aspects of campaigning is its all consuming nature. We become so obsessed with an election that we forget why that election matters, what it represents and the underlying ideals that we are fighting for. Yes, elections are important, but they're important because (we hope) they bring forward the best people and ideas. Elections are a mechanism by which we can indirectly control our quality of life, but they are not life itself...a reminder I think we could all use sometimes.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Q: What does Sarah Palin have in common with scissors?

A: No one wants to run with her either.

This one liner courtesy of one of my Israeli friends from Birthright.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Oh right, there's a Republican debate tonight.

You can watch it here.

I hope they used Election Protection

Does anyone remember Votergasm? It was the group that tried to increase voter turnout during the 2004 Presidential election by having participants sign a pledge to have sex with a voter on election night and abstain from sex with non-voters. I recently read an article that reminded me about it and began clicking around on their (partially defunct but worth the effort) website. I high recommend the NSFW "action pictorials" especially the ones on absentee voting and starting an issue advocacy group.

Sexy voting!

How can you replace Weiner?

Oh hey. I've been so busy that I actually forgot we have a special election going on, right here in my new/old home state! It is a crying shame that we are even in this position because Anthony Weiner should never have resigned. Not that tweeting your penis is behavior fitting of a Congressman (or anyone), but neither is lying about global warming and they do that all the time. I've met David Weprin and well...let's just say I found him less than charming and not just because he looks like a villian in a childrens movie (SRSLY.) However, I firmly believe that that seat needs to be held by a Democrat... (specifically Anthony Weiner but what's done is done) and that we cannot afford to lose any more seats, so if you live in that district make sure to vote on this Tues the 13th!

Alas, Weiner! We hardly knew ye!

There are no small turnouts, only small voters

I've seen this guy's United States Election Project before and was none too impressed. Not only because the website looks like it's from 1999 but more importantly because his statistics don't usually match up with others I've come across.

Here he argues that voter turnout has not declined significantly since 1972, but only appears to be declining because we are essentially measuring wrong, that is, using the entire voting age population including people with non-citizen status, felons, etc. Have we really? I look forward to being able to find these things out myself as I pursue my statistics education.

My concern is that this seems like an argument that could lend credence to what has unofficially been dubbed the GOP's War on Voting (See posts titled "Today in Voter Suppression.") Whether or not turnout is declining, it's still upsettingly low and just like hunger or violence, the goal isn't to decrease voter apathy but to virtually eradicate it.

Note: Thank you to commenter "Dan" for commenting on this post. I think we were saying the same thing, but you made me realize my language was unclear. Changes reflected above.

Vicious Cycle

Excellent article by a former Republican operative shared by my friend Alec. It highlights the vicious cycle of voter suppression and voter apathy that plagues our country and allows the GOP to succeed.

On voter apathy: "There are tens of millions of low-information voters who hardly know which party controls which branch of government, let alone which party is pursuing a particular legislative tactic. These voters' confusion over who did what allows them to form the conclusion that "they are all crooks," and that "government is no good," further leading them to think, "a plague on both your houses" and "the parties are like two kids in a school yard." This ill-informed public cynicism, in its turn, further intensifies the long-term decline in public trust in government that has been taking place since the early 1960s - a distrust that has been stoked by Republican rhetoric at every turn."

On the media's portrayal of politics:"This constant drizzle of "there the two parties go again!" stories out of the news bureaus, combined with the hazy confusion of low-information voters, means that the long-term Republican strategy of undermining confidence in our democratic institutions has reaped electoral dividends. The United States has nearly the lowest voter participation among Western democracies; this, again, is a consequence of the decline of trust in government institutions - if government is a racket and both parties are the same, why vote? And if the uninvolved middle declines to vote, it increases the electoral clout of a minority that is constantly being whipped into a lather by three hours daily of Rush Limbaugh or Fox News. There were only 44 million Republican voters in the 2010 mid-term elections, but they effectively canceled the political results of the election of President Obama by 69 million voters."

On voter suppression: "Undermining Americans' belief in their own institutions of self-government remains a prime GOP electoral strategy. But if this technique falls short of producing Karl Rove's dream of 30 years of unchallengeable one-party rule (as all such techniques always fall short of achieving the angry and embittered true believer's New Jerusalem), there are other even less savory techniques upon which to fall back. Ever since Republicans captured the majority in a number of state legislatures last November, they have systematically attempted to make it more difficult to vote: by onerous voter ID requirements (in Wisconsin, Republicans have legislated photo IDs while simultaneously shutting Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices in Democratic constituencies while at the same time lengthening the hours of operation of DMV offices in GOP constituencies); by narrowing registration periods; and by residency requirements that may disenfranchise university students."

Friday, September 2, 2011

No one thinks Sarah Palin should run for President

Even the Tea Party. Can we move on now?

FEC does something non-controversial

Allowing Gabrielle Giffords to use campaign funds for increased personal security.

As you may remember the Congresswoman and her staff were attacked at a Congress on your Corner event back in January. Six people died and Rep.Giffords suffered extensive injuries.

“We all hope that the alarm is never triggered,” said FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub... “This was perhaps the easiest request that we have gotten in the last three years.”

Today in Voter Suppression

New Mexico's Secretary of State wants to investigate 64,000 voter registrations by cross checking them with the state's Motor Vehicle Division's database. Unfortunately that's not going to work.

Here's what I found most interesting. According to the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law,"If the right to vote [in New York City] were conditioned on a proper match, up to 20 percent of new voter registrations would have been rejected solely because of data entry errors. Similar 'matching' error rates of 20-30 percent were discovered in Washington State. And the Social Security Administration has reported a 28.5 percent failed match rate nationwide." Whoa. Having worked with quite a few state voter files I guess that number should not surprise me, but it does highlight how much inaccuracy there is in our well...everything. This is why I reaaaallly think we should have a national voting database to eliminate at least some of the discrepancies that occur by moving from state to state.

The Fair Elections Legal Network wrote Secretary of State Duran objecting to the measure. "We fear that your attempt to ensure 'accuracy and integrity' in the system has had the opposite effect as unsubstantiated claims of large numbers of irregularities on voter registration records do not lead to greater accuracy of records and may, indeed, serve to undermine confidence in the system."

No one has taken legal action but the President of the the FELN implied that could be a next step. In his letter he quoted the following New Mexico state law "It is unlawful for the qualified elector's month and day of birth or any portion of the qualified elector's social security number required on the certificate of registration to be copied, conveyed or used by anyone other than the person registering to vote, either before or after it is filed with the county clerk, and by elections administrators in their official capacity."

It sounds like the FELM is right. The Secretary of State's actions, though possibly well intentioned, would serve no purpose except to undermine confidence and threaten privacy, which would, of course, reduce voter turnout.

OFA 2012 is doing a wave of hiring

See Below. I don't think I applied for a job with the 2012 campaign but maybe they have my resume on file from 2010. There's a link in the email if anyone is interested in applying.

Friend --

At some point in the past few months, you applied for a position on the 2012 campaign -- thanks so much for your interest in joining our team.

We've recently posted a couple of new field, digital, and operations positions, and we wanted to make sure you were among the first to know about them.

Even if you've already applied for a position, now is a great time to submit a new application or update the information you've given us, especially when it comes to which states you'd be willing to work in.

Take a look at the available positions here, click through to read the descriptions, and get started with an application using the "Apply now" link.

Thanks for your interest,


Jeremy Bird
National Field Director
Obama for America