Social Security Works: Petition to grant Washington, DC Statehood.

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Tell Congress:

“The 710,000 residents of Washington, DC are being treated as second-class citizens without congressional representation. It’s long past time to fix this undemocratic injustice by making DC a state.”

Robert,

Our democracy is based on a simple idea: every voter―rich or poor―has an equal say. That’s why we need to stand together and demand that Washington, DC—home to more than 700,000 people—becomes a state. Only then, will people living in our nation’s capital begin to be treated equally.

Corporate elites actively work to suppress the voices of the people so that they can control the levers of power themselves. DC residents’ disenfranchisement is part of that scheme.

In order to most effectively fight to protect and expand Social Security, we need to enlist the voices of all people throughout our country. Once DC is a state, their voices will be on a level playing field with the rest of the country.

Join Social Security Works and our allies and sign the petition calling on elected officials and community leaders to support DC statehood.

DC statehood is finally getting the national attention it deserves. In September, the House Oversight Committee held the first hearing on the issue in more than a generation, and Democratic federal officials have come out to overwhelmingly support DC Statehood.

DC only won the right to vote for President of the United States in 1961. And that only happened because people in Washington, and their allies throughout the country, stood up and said, “Enough is enough!”

Together, we can do it again and end the disenfranchisement of over 700,000 people.

Add your name! Let’s build a national coalition to fight, once again, for the people who live in Washington, DC and end voter disenfranchisement, which is a racist affront to our democracy and our country’s struggles for civil and human rights.

Washington, DC residents deserve a voice in Congress and control over their own local laws.

Thank you,

Michael Phelan
Social Security Works

Over a million Florida ex-convicts can begin registering to vote [joining the mighty New England States of Vermont and Maine!]

US state voted in November to restore voting rights to most ex-convicts who have served all terms of their sentence.

Former felon Desmond Meade and president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition arrives with family members at the Supervisor of Elections office in Orlando, Florida to register to vote [John Raoux/AP Photo]
Former felon Desmond Meade and president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition arrives with family members at the Supervisor of Elections office in Orlando, Florida to register to vote [John Raoux/AP Photo]

The voting rights of many Florida ex-convicts were restored on Tuesday, and some are celebrating by registering on the first day they become eligible.

“I want to cry,” said Yraida Guanipa, a 57-year-old former convict who now heads the YG Institute NGO, which helps people with criminal histories reintegrate into society.

Speaking AFP news agency, Guanipa had just left the office of the Miami-Dade County Elections Department, where she registered to vote early in the morning after nine years of struggling to regain the right.

Florida’s new law could add as many as 1.4 million people to the battleground state’s voter rolls. In November, voters approved Amendment 4, which restored the right to vote to ex-convicts who have served all terms of their sentence, and did not commit sex crimes or murder.

The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition is trying to mobilise people to register online or at the election supervisors’ offices. The organisation’s president Desmond Meade says he doesn’t anticipate any legal challenges.

“The road back to responsible citizenship has been one of my life’s greatest challenges,” Meade said in a statement.

“The struggle to achieve access to democracy for myself and more than a million fellow Floridians has been long,” he added.

Former felon Yolanda Wilcox, left, fills out a voter registration form at the Supervisor of Elections in Orlando, Florida [John Raoux/AP Photo]

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida says former felons don’t need to present proof that they completed their sentence; they can simply fill out the existing application, signing under oath that their voting rights have been restored.

Ten percent of the adult population in Florida, including one in five African Americans, could not vote prior to the lifting of the restriction, which dated back 150 years and disproportionally affected black and Hispanic communities.

“I didn’t feel like a full citizen, I felt like a second-class citizen,” Daniel Torna, a financial analyst who also went to register in Miami, told AFP.

“I pay taxes, I’m active in the community, I work, I go to school, I do everything other people do, I just couldn’t vote,” said Torna, who completed his sentence in 2010 for a drug-linked crime.

[in the Mighty One-Syllable State, felons can vote while incarcerated!]

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Maine: the most progressive State in the Union!

Why the repeal of a racist 19th-century Florida law is important

On November 6, Florida voters chose to allow some one million ex-felons to vote. This is historic.

Black Lives Matter activist holds Black Voters Matter wristbands designed for the midterm elections on November 6, 2018 [Lawrence Bryant/Reuters]
Black Lives Matter activist holds Black Voters Matter wristbands designed for the midterm elections on November 6, 2018 [Lawrence Bryant/Reuters]

Amid the highlights of the US midterm election results was the triumph for voting rights in the state of Florida. The nation’s third largest state, which often plays an important role in presidential elections, voted overwhelmingly to approve a constitutional amendment restoring the right to vote for those with a felony conviction.

This is a major step forward in a nation where millions of people are denied a basic right of citizenship, based on laws rooted in a legacy of racism.

Passing with 64 percent of the vote, in excess of the 60 percent supermajority threshold required for passage, Amendment 4 restores voting rights to Floridians who were convicted of felonies, provided they have completed their sentences. The measure excludes people who were convicted of murder or felony sex offences.

The impact of the new law is sweeping, affecting more than one million people in Florida who have been stripped of their voting rights due to a criminal record. For people of colour, the implications of Amendment 4 are even more pronounced, as the measure grants the vote to 20 percent of African American adults in Florida who have been barred from the franchise due to a felony record – and a staggering 40 percent of African American men.

In a state in which eight million voters participated in the 2018 election, the addition of over one million voters has the potential to transform its politics and policies. Florida is the most important US swing state and its vote is crucial in presidential and congressional elections. It has selected the winner of every presidential contest this century and provided the margin of victory to George W Bush in 2000.

In recent years, the state has been under control of the Republicans who have been pushing for regressive pro-gun and anti-environment policies. The more than one million eligible voters who just got added to Florida’s electorate could change all that. Given that Amendment 4 affected predominantly African American men, who tend to vote for the Democratic Party, it is quite possible that in 2020 Florida would see a different outcome at the polls. Analysts have projected Democrats gaining as many as 102,000 more votes as a result of this enfranchisement effort.

OPINION

Justice for all in the land of the free?

David A Love,Vijay Das
by David A Love,Vijay Das

But beyond its possible impact on future polls in Florida, the repeal of Amendment 4 carries a broader and more historic significance for the US as a whole; it is a major victory against voter suppression.

Many would be surprised to know that in the so-called “land of the free”, the right to vote is not automatic for many. In a nation that originally limited voting to white male landowners and regarded enslaved people as three-fifths of a person with no citizenship rights, the right to vote has been granted to marginalised groups only through protest and, in some cases such as the US civil rights movement, bloodshed and martyrdom.

During the Reconstruction era following the American civil war, liberated black people had the right the vote and took advantage of it, electing 2,000 black officials, a governor of a US state, senators and members of Congress – many of them former slaves.

The pathway to political empowerment for black people ended when white men retook control of the Southern states, presided over a rollback of civil rights and denied voting rights to African-Americans by law and through intimidation, and the threat of physical violence and death.

Felony disenfranchisement laws have their origins in the era of American apartheid, the days of racial segregation, as a means of suppressing black aspirations and rendering them invisible.

Florida’s felon disenfranchisement law dates back to 150 years ago when white elites were faced with the prospect of thousands of new black voters rendering white men a minority of the state’s voting electorate.

A lifetime voting ban on people with a felony record muted black political power, with a racialised regime targeting black men and singling them out for punishment with trumped-up charges and crimes designed solely for them. The laws eliminated thousands of black people from civic participation for life and made them unavailable as political competitors.

Across the country, as of 2016, 6.1 million people were unable to vote because of a felony conviction, with Florida accounting for roughly one quarter, according to the Sentencing Project. This includes 1 in every 40 adults, 1 in every 13 African-Americans and 1 in every 56 non-black voters. With the recent changes in Florida, of the 34 states that impose voting restrictions on past criminal convictions, Kentucky and Iowa are the only remaining states imposing lifetime disenfranchisement.

Although the changes to the Florida law are a positive and decisive step in furthering democracy, the US is still experiencing a voting rights crisis. For all of the ample evidence of foreign intervention in US elections, American officials are effectively denying the rights of their fellow citizens, working in earnest to rig elections and block people of colour, students, the elderly and others at the ballot box through restrictive voter ID laws.

The right-wing US Supreme Court has gutted the enforcement mechanism of the Voting Rights Act, allowing states and localities to deny racial minority groups’ access to democracy with reckless abandon. Between 2014 and 2016 alone, states purged nearly 16 million voters from their voter rolls. The nation’s high court also allowed the unlimited role of money in politics – legalised corruption – with its decision in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission.

Gerrymandering of electoral districts has amplified the voice of the majority, entrenched the powerful and sidelined the interests of marginalised groups.

Despite these many challenges, the restoration of voting rights to the formerly incarcerated in the Sunshine State is cause for celebration, as those who have served their time and paid their debt to society should have the opportunity to participate as productive members of society.

Voting Rights Activists Weigh Historic Vote to Re-Enfranchise 1.4M Floridians

Voters in Florida are preparing to vote on Amendment 4, a measure that would restore voting rights to 1.4 million people with nonviolent felonies who have fully completed their sentences. One in five African Americans in Florida and 10 percent of the state’s adult population are ineligible to vote because of a criminal record. Across the United States, more than 6.1 million people with felony convictions are not eligible to vote. Florida is one of just four states that bar ex-felons from voting for life. Amy Goodman speaks with Desmond Meade, the president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, who’s leading the fight to re-enfranchise people with felony convictions in Florida. He himself is an ex-offender who was previously homeless. He is still disenfranchised. Amy and Desmond also speak with Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida.

US midterm polls: Minorities in Georgia face ‘voter suppression

Civil rights groups say 340,000 voters in Georgia are ‘wrongfully purged’ – most of them minorities.

US midterms: How widespread is voter suppression?

Voting advocacy organisations in several US states have sounded the alarm on what they call voter suppression.

Voters marked their ballots at the Santa Monica Jeep polling station [File: Mike Nelson/EPA]
Voters marked their ballots at the Santa Monica Jeep polling station [File: Mike Nelson/EPA]

With less than a week until midterm elections, civil rights groups and voting advocacy organisations in several US states have sounded the alarm on what they call voter suppression.

Although allegations of voter suppression are often made during elections, the claims are now more widespread than normal.

During the upcoming midterm elections, voters will decide 39 state and territorial governorships, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in Senate, among others.

Since 2010, at least 24 US states have introduced new measures that place tight restrictions on voting protocol. Most of those states are controlled by Republicans.

In the last eight years, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, 13 states introduced or tightened restrictive voter ID laws, 11 have laws making it harder for citizens to register, seven cut back on early voting opportunities and three moved to make it more difficult to return voting rights to people with criminal convictions.

In most cases, the measures disproportionately affected voters of colour, who are generally considered more likely to vote Democrat than Republican.

Republican supporters of tightening voter restrictions claim that the measures are necessary to prevent voter fraud, but Democrats and other critics point to evidence that suggests voter fraud is rare in the US.

Al Jazeera examines some of the fears voting rights groups have as Americans head to the polls:

Voter applications stalled, rolls purged: Georgia

In the southern state of Georgia, civil rights groups and advocates have issued a slew of voter suppression accusations.

The accusations are at the centre of the governor’s race, and voting rights advocates tell Al Jazeera that there are concerns over the election’s integrity.

Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, is currently running for governor against Stacey Abrams, who hopes to become the nation’s first female African American governor.

As secretary of state, however, Kemp’s office is also in charge of processing voter applications. According to an Associated Press report, his office is stalling 53,000 voter applications, nearly 70 percent of which belong to African Americans.

A voting official hands back an early voter his ID in Valdosta, Georgia [Lawrence Bryant/Reuters]

On Tuesday, Abrams lashed out at Kemp on The View, a daytime talk show. “We know he has disproportionately purged voters of colour, stopped voters of colour, arrested voters of colour,” she said.

“Regardless of his intent, the result is that racial bias has been injected into our system, and that undermines confidence.”

The Brennan Center for Justice says the number of voters “purged” skyrocketed under Kemp, reaching an estimated 1.5 million between the 2012 and 2016 elections. That total is nearly twice the number purged between 2008 and 2012, the group said in a report.

“It doesn’t require a science fiction mind to see how this plays out,” Nse Ufot, executive director of the New Georgia Project, told Al Jazeera.

Ex-felons barred from voting: Florida, Kentucky, Iowa

In nearly every US state, convicted felons are not allowed to vote while in prison. Many also have restrictions on individuals on parole.

2016 Election: America’s prison voters

Voting rights groups estimate that this affects about six million people and disproportionately affects people of colour.

Three states – Florida, Kentucky and Iowa – take the restrictions a step further by barring all citizens with a felony conviction from voting for life, unless the right is restored under a certain set of rules. Virginia also has similar rules, but the governor has promised to restore rights on a rolling basis, according to the Brennan Center.

In Florida, an estimated 1.5 million people who were convicted of felonies will not be able to vote unless they receive a pardon from the state’s governor.

Of that total, it is estimated that roughly one-third are African Americans, leading advocacy groups to lodge allegations that the measure is racist.

The current system was introduced by Governor Rick Scott, who won two gubernatorial races by slim margins and is now running for Senate.

In February, a federal judge ruled that the process by which voting rights are restored violates the US Constitution. An appeals court is not considering the case.

Meanwhile, Florida residents will have the chance to decide on the issue on November 6.

Among several measures on the ballot is an amendment that, if passed, would automatically restore voting rights for felons, except murderers and sex offenders, once they complete their sentence.

The most recent opinion polls show support for the measure, according to the Sun Sentinel newspaper. The paper notes, however, that a ballot measure requires approval from 60 percent of those who vote on the amendment.

With less than a week until Election Day, the Florida gubernatorial race has boiled down to a neck-and-neck face-off between Democrat Andrew Gillum, who could be Florida’s first black governor, and Republican Ron DeSantis.

Gillum supports the ballot measure on voting rights, while DeSantis opposes it.

Limiting Native American votes: North Dakota

In October, state officials introduced a new measure they say was designed to prevent voter fraud in North Dakota.

The new requirement stipulated that voters must have a valid residential address, which presented a problem for thousands of Native Americans living on reservations. Many Native Americans in North Dakota use post office boxes as their official address on the identification cards.

In the lead-up to Election Day, many Native American North Dakotans have scrambled to have their addresses changed on their identification cards in order to be eligible to vote.

In 2012, Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp won a narrow upset victory after drawing strong support from North Dakota’s Native American population.

Given that Heitkamp won by less than 3,000 votes and Native Americans are generally far more likely to vote Democrat, the new measure could have an impact on the upcoming midterm results in the state.

Heitkamp, who is running for election, is trailing her Republican challenger, Kevin Cramer.

Brenda Miller speaks to a voter while canvassing voters in Porcupine, North Dakota before the 2018 midterm elections on the Standing Rock Reservation [Dan Koeck/Reuters]

On Thursday, a judge denied an emergency request that would have prevented the address requirement from applying to this year’s midterm election.

The judge conceded that “the litany of problems identified in this new lawsuit were clearly predictable and certain to occur,” but he added that issuing a temporary restraining order was “unwarranted given the importance of avoiding further confusion and chaos on the eve of an election.”

Polling site moved or closed: Kansas

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Kansas recently objected to the decision of the Ford County Clerk to move Dodge City’s polling site out of the city, which is home to about 13,000 people.

According to the rights group, the new station is located about a half a mile outside the city limits and not accessible by pavement. There is also no public transportation to the location.

On Thursday, a federal judge ruled that the city does not have to open an additional polling station before the midterm elections.

“For the court to insert itself into this process on the eve of the election – by ordering the reopening of the Civic Center either as the only polling location or a second polling location – likely would create more voter confusion than it might cure,” Judge Daniel Crabtree ruled.

“The relief plaintiffs seek is not in the public’s interest.”

According to the ACLU, Kansas has lost more than 100 polling places over the past few years. This comes voter registration numbers grow. The rights group noted that there have been several other complaints of voter suppression in the state, including in Wyandotte County, where one polling site in a neighbourhood with a large Hispanic population, is located in the same building as a police station.

Kansas is ranked among the worst states for voter rights, according to a number of studies. The state requires a valid government-issued photo id in order to vote.

The law was championed by Kris Kobach, Kansas’s current secretary of state, and now a candidate in the gubernatorial race. His race against Democrat Laura Kelly is tight, with polls showing the pair in a dead heat.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS