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All-Mail Voting Is One Winner of Colorado's Primary

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All-Mail Voting Is One Winner of Colorado's Primary

As pundits attempt to digest what Colorado's primary on Tuesday night means for incumbents and insurgents alike, there is one thing everyone can agree on: voting by mail saved counties much-needed money while boosting turnout.

New York: One Signature Away from Ending Prison-Based Gerrymandering

Legislation to end the practice of prison-based gerrymandering in New York, included within the 2011 state budget, passed both the Senate and Assembly last week. Once Gov. Patterson approves the budget package, the bill will go into effect in time for next year's redistricting efforts.

Arizona Governor Calls Special Session to Promote Anti-Union Ballot Measure

Arizona continues to focus on catering to its rightwing ideological zealots rather than addressing its devastating revenue and economic crisis. The most recent example is Arizona Governor Jan Brewer calling the legislature into special session to revise Proposition 108, a controversial ballot measure that was ruled unconstitutional in its original form by the State Supreme Court last week.

As Deportations Soar to Historic Levels Nationwide, Federal Immigration Officials Are Quietly Halting Deportations of Students

Amid a tightening circle of immigration enforcement by the federal government, officials are quietly halting deportations of some student activists organizing in favor of the federal DREAM Act.

All-Mail Voting Is One Winner of Colorado's Primary

Clean and Fair Elections * Cristina Francisco-McGuire

As pundits attempt to digest what Colorado's primary on Tuesday night means for incumbents and insurgents alike, there is one thing everyone can agree on: voting by mail saved counties much-needed money while boosting turnout.

Of Colorado's 64 counties, 46 conducted their primaries entirely by mail. Not only did the number of votes cast this year surpass 2008's turnout by more than 100,000, counties have also been able to cut costs dramatically under the new system. According to Jack Arrowsmith, Douglas County Clerk and Recorder, the county anticipated saving taxpayers roughly $200,000, about half the cost of their usual elections. It's no wonder – the cost-per-voter in Douglas County for a mail ballot-only election is about $6 per voter, while the cost-per-voter at a polling place election is about $43 per voter using 2008 election costs. El Paso County experienced similar savings, managing to keep nearly $180,000 in their coffers. Generally, counties can save up to two-thirds of their traditional election-related costs by converting to all-mail elections.

Like Colorado, Hawaii also experienced increased voter turnout and lower costs during their recent all-mail special election in May.

Oregon has been conducting all of their elections entirely by mail since 1999, while 38 of 39 counties in Washington have already implemented all-mail voting.

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New York: One Signature Away from Ending Prison-Based Gerrymandering

Clean and Fair Elections * Cristina Francisco-McGuire

Legislation to end the practice of prison-based gerrymandering in New York, included within the 2011 state budget, passed both the Senate and Assembly last week. Once Gov. Patterson approves the budget package, the bill will go into effect in time for next year's redistricting efforts.

Seven of the current State Senate districts only meet minimum population requirements because of the prisoners they claim as residents, and 40% of an Oneida County legislative district is incarcerated – residents of those districts enjoy an unfair shift in representation as a result of their padded legislative districts. However, the bill will correct this distortion by accessing the home addresses of prisoners from the Department of Corrections' database and adding them to the population counts for the appropriate areas. Thirteen rural New York counties already have a similar adjustment policy in place.

As the Prison Policy Initiative details, two million prisoners nationwide are being counted in the wrong place, significantly distorting both political representation and planning decisions made based on demographic data. Ironically, this means that "communities that bear the most direct costs of crime are therefore the communities that are the biggest victims of prison-based gerrymandering."

New York is now the third state, after Maryland and Delaware, to take action to address this problem and pass legislation that counts incarcerated persons in their home districts.

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Arizona Governor Calls Special Session to Promote Anti-Union Ballot Measure

Wage Standards and Workplace Freedom * Tim Judson

Arizona continues to focus on catering to its rightwing ideological zealots rather than addressing its devastating revenue and economic crisis. The most recent example is Arizona Governor Jan Brewer calling the legislature into special session to revise Proposition 108, a controversial ballot measure that was ruled unconstitutional in its original form by the State Supreme Court last week.

Prop 108 is widely understood to be another tactic, like SB 1070, the state's anti-immigrant law, to amplify the reactionary political climate in the state leading up to the November election. Promoted by Brewer and congressional candidate Sydney Hay at the behest of the anti-union Save Our Secret Ballot Coalition (SOS Ballot), the measure sought to affirm the right of individuals to vote by secret ballot both in elections for public office and in union representation decisions. In its August 4 ruling, the court concurred with a lower court ruling on July 1 that the proposed measure violates the state constitution's requirement that amendments put to voter referendum deal with just one subject. On Tuesday, the legislature approved new language proposed by the governor, which now focuses solely on how workers choose union representation.

SOS Ballot and other front groups have been funded by organizations like the Goldwater Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to promote state constitutional amendments that purport to block one of the central provisions of the Employee Free Choice Act, introduced in Congress last year: specifically, the card-check option for certifying workers' choice to form a union. In most states where these measures have been proposed, they have been declared unfit to be placed on the ballot. And even union opponents, including the attorney representing SOS Ballot, acknowledge that EFCA would preempt the state law in private sector labor matters.

However, in addition to its symbolic value, Prop 108 would block efforts to establish card-check for public sector workers. That effect is not merely collateral or ironic – it goes against empirical evidence demonstrating the need for a card-check option for all workers. In-depth studies of employer and union tactics in organizing campaigns show that so-called "secret ballot" elections under the National Labor Relations Act are anything but secret: employers typically use their sway over employees in the workplace so that there are no surprises in the union vote.

Dr. Kate Bronfebrenner of Cornell University has begun publishing results of the most comprehensive survey of union organizing campaigns ever conducted. The study shows that private-sector employers routinely interrogate employees at work in the weeks leading up to union elections: in two-thirds (66%) of private-sector organizing drives, workers are forced to attend one-on-one meetings with their supervisors on at least a weekly basis; in 63% of organizing drives, supervisors use such meetings to interrogate workers about their union preference, and in most cases (54%) supervisors threaten employees into opposing the union.

In contrast, in states with public sector labor relations laws (which often include a card-check certification option), employees are only subjected to supervisor one-on-one meetings in 26% of organizing drives (compared to 77% in the private sector) – almost never (2%) on a weekly basis – and interrogation and intimidation in such meetings are far less common (20% and 15%). Furthermore, the evidence suggests that fears of coercion by unions under card-check are unfounded: a four-state survey of over 1,300 public sector card-check cases found only five allegations of union misconduct or coercion and only one confirmed case.

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As Deportations Soar to Historic Levels Nationwide, Federal Immigration Officials Are Quietly Halting Deportations of Students

Integrating Immigrants into Our Communities * Suman Raghunathan

Amid a tightening circle of immigration enforcement by the federal government, officials are quietly halting deportations of some student activists organizing in favor of the federal DREAM Act.

In a rare glimpse of internal immigration policy priorities, the Obama Administration and Department of Homeland Security officials acknowledged over the weekend they have avoided pursuing deportation orders against many undocumented students across the nation who have not committed crimes – an immigration term called 'deferred action'. The acknowledgment comes as the number of deportations continues to reach unprecedented levels under the Obama Administration – nearly 390,000 immigrants were deported in 2009, roughly 20,000 more than in the final year of the Bush administration.

Many undocumented youth have been at the forefront of increasingly public actions calling for comprehensive immigration reform as well as the federal DREAM Act, a bill that would grant eventual legal status to undocumented high school graduates who meet a series of requirements, including being longtime US residents, entering the country before the age of 16, and enrolling in community college, a university, or the armed forces.

Deportation Data Released: These statistics come in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, where the Department of Homeland Security released data this week on the roughly 47,000 immigrants deported over the past 18 months through a controversial federal immigration enforcement program, Secure Communities. Similar to 287(g) agreements and Arizona's now temporarily suspended SB 1070, the program seeks to empower state and local law enforcement authorities to enforce federal immigration laws - an approach that PSN has detailed as ineffective, expensive, and one that erodes community trust in the police.

More specifically, Secure Communities seeks to establish agreements with state and local law enforcement authorities and departments to cross-reference all who are booked on suspicion of committing a crime through immigration databases in a search for undocumented residents. If it becomes clear through such a search that an individual apprehended by the police lacks valid immigration status, they are then transferred to federal immigration officials and often swiftly deported. Immigrant rights advocates have raised numerous concerns about due process violations of immigrants apprehended through the program. The effort, increasingly a focus of the Department of Homeland Security's immigration enforcement priorities, has been touted by officials as a targeted effort to focus on undocumented immigrants who commit violent crimes and single them out for deportation. Secure Communities is also rapidly expanding: the program now operates in 494 jurisdictions in 27 states - a major expansion compared to only 14 jurisdictions just 18 months ago. Federal immigration officials plan on extending the program to every law enforcement jurisdiction nationwide by 2013.

Yet the data revealed via the FOIA request shows the program is in reality a broad immigration dragnet, and one that overwhelmingly sweeps up undocumented immigrants who have committed no crime at all: 79% of those already deported through the program committed no crime or committed only minor offenses such as unpaid tickets or driving with a broken taillight. 28% of those deported through the program had no criminal record at all and were not convicted of any crime, yet were still deported. In addition, jurisdictions that have entered into Secure Communities agreements find it difficult to rescind their participation: San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey noted he is attempting to withdraw his jurisdiction from their agreement, and has not yet been able to do so.

Federal DREAM Act Gaining Support: In the midst of this troubling data on deportations, it appears immigration officials are increasingly recognizing that students seeking college education should not be targets. As federal immigration reform (including the bipartisan DREAM Act) has lagged, DREAM Act lead sponsor Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL and the second-highest ranking Senate Democrat) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) called for a moratorium on deporting students. The Obama Administration and the Department of Homeland Security declined to impose such a moratorium even as they continued to call for passage of the DREAM Act. In the meantime, it appears the Department of Homeland Security is granting 'stays' of students' deportations on a case-by-case basis – yet are generally avoiding deporting student activists.

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Research Roundup

Health Care Reports on Community Health Centers, State Implementation and Critiques of Conservative Repeal Proposals

  • Urban Institute's Health Policy Centerhas begun to introduce a series of short brief responding to some of the most frequently asked questions about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. The 16 briefs will be released in subject-related groups over the next few weeks. The first ten, covering the status of state legal challenges, effects on particular types of consumers, effects on health care providers and the impact of reform on the states are available now.
  • 50 Ways to Implement Health Reform: State Challenges and Federal Assistance This Alliance for Health Reform briefing provides an overview of how the states and the federal government are working together to implement various provisions of the new law. It examines the key challenges facing states and looks at both near-term provisions, such as high-risk pools, as well as other provisions farther down the road, such as setting up exchanges and instituting changes to Medicaid eligibility.

The Severity of the Economic Crisis-- and How Much Worse It Could Have Been

  • Without federal intervention, unemployment would be near 16% - This economic snapshot by the Economic Policy Institute graphically illustrates findings from a recent report, How the Great Recession Was Brought to an End, that without fiscal and financial interventions by the federal government, that rather than unemployment leveling off in 2009, it would have continued to grow to 16%.
  • State and Local Government Employment are Down Since the Start of the Recession - New July Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows a loss of 102,000 state and local jobs over the last three months, according to this data alert from the Nelson Rockefeller Institute. This means employment for state government employment and local government employment are now both below their pre-recession levels, the only time in the nine recessions from 1953 forward in which state government employment has fallen below its pre-recession level.
Sanction Epidemic in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program - Sanctions against recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients are very common and are imposed erroneously or for extremely minor violations in many cases, according to this Legal Momentum report. The result is reduced benefits that cause real hardship, including maternal or child hunger, eviction or homelessness, and lack of medical care.

Birthright Lunacy: Separating Fact from Fiction in the 14th Amendment Debate - With rightwing federal and state leaders raising the prospect of denying citizenship to many immigrant children born in this country on the basis of a twisted history of the 14th Amendment, this memo from the Center for American Progress details how legislative history shows that Congress intended to give citizenship upon birth to all children, including the children of immigrants, while the Supreme Court has repeatly upheld that interpretation. The report also debunks many of the myths that eliminating birthright citizenship would halt illegal immigration or that parents regularly use "anchor babies" to gain citizenship.

Gun Rights Advocates Outgun Opposition Contributions - This National Institute on Money in State Politics report finds that gun rights advocates contributed $2.3 million to state-level politics from 2003 through 2008, vastly dwarfing the $74,546 contributed by gun control advocates. Two-thirds of all contributions from gun rights advocates went to Republican candidates and committees, while ninety-five percent of gun control advocates' $74,546 contributions went to Democratic candidates and committees.

The New Orleans Index at Five - Seven scholar essays in this Brookings Institution report detail key post-Katrina problems and find that, five years following Hurricane Katrina—a tragedy compounded and made more complex by the Great Recession and the Gulf oil spill—new evidence shows that greater New Orleans is emerging as a healthier, more resilient region. However, the reports show much work lies ahead as well.

 

 

Please email us leads on good research at research@progressivestates.org

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StepsForward

SC: South Carolina Takes Stimulus Money

ME: Federal Appeals Court Upholds Maine Law Restricting Prescription Information

US: President Obama signs $26 billion jobs bill to aid state payrolls


Steps Back

States test whether public pension benefits given can be taken away

State Republicans bringing Arizona-style immigration law to Florida

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Full Resources from this Dispatch

All-Mail Voting Is One Winner of Colorado's Primary

Progressive States Network - All-Mail Voting Increases Turnout and Saves Money in Hawaii Special Election
Progressive States Network - Mail-in and Early Voting
Douglas County, Colorado, County Clerk & Recorder announcement - 2010 Primary Election is Mail Ballot-Only
Vote By Mail Project
Common Cause - Vote by Mail Elections
FairVote - Vote by Mail

New York: One Signature Away from Ending Prison-Based Gerrymandering

Prison Policy Initiative - New York to correct miscount of incarcerated people
NYCLU - NYCLU Applauds State Legislature for Ending Prison-Based Gerrymandering
Progressive States Network - Where to Count Prisoners?
Progressive States Network - Delaware Becomes 2nd State to End Prison-Based Gerrymandering

Arizona Governor Calls Special Session to Promote Anti-Union Ballot Measure

Progressive States Network - Arizona and the Nation: A Failing State Versus Positive Approaches to Immigrant Integration
Progressive States Network - State Laws Allowing Majority Sign-up for Unions Show why Employee Free Choice Act is Fair Option for Workers
Dr. Kate Bronfenbrenner for Economic Policy Institute - No Holds Barred: The Intensification of Employer Opposition to OrganizingUniversities of Illinois, Rutgers, Cornell and Oregon - Majority Authorizations and Union Organizing in the Public Sector: A Four-State Perspective
American Rights At Work - The Anti-Union Network ; Majority Sign-up Q&A ; Half a Million and Counting ; Free and Fair? How Labor Law Fails U.S. Democratic Election Standards
AFL-CIO - The Employee Free Choice Act: Will it Lead to Coercion of Workers by Unions? ; Expanding Workers' Collective Bargaining Rights: Majority Sign-up/Card Check for Public Sector Workers ; Don't Be Fooled: 'SOS Ballot' Another Corporate Front Group ; The Campaign Against Workers
Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) - Dropping the Ax: Illegal Firings During Union Election Campaigns, 1951-2007 ; The Benefits of Unionization
Human Rights Watch - Unfair Advantage: Workers' Freedom of Association in the United States under International Human Rights Standards
Center for American Progress Action Fund - How Not to Join a Union: Labor Law Gives Workers a Raw Deal
SEIU - Yet Another Corporate Front Group: "Save Our Secret Ballots"
Wisconsin State Senate Resolution 7 in support for federal Employee Free Choice Act

As Deportations Soar to Historic Levels Nationwide, Federal Immigration Officials Are Quietly Halting Deportations of Students

Uncover the Truth.org - Rights Groups Release Documents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agency FOIA Lawsuit, Reveal Federal Government Has Been Dishonest with State and Local Police About its Secure Communities Program
The New York Times - Fingerprint Sharing Led to Deportation of 47,000
Progressive States Network - Anti-Immigrant Laws Increase Crime and Hamper Community Policing Efforts
Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement - Secure Communities : Activated Jurisdictions
Progressive States Network - Secret Deportation Quotas, Program Failures, and High Budget Costs from Local Enforcement Revealed in Recent Reports

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The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Executive Director
Nora Ranney, Legislative Director
Marisol Thomer, Outreach Director
Fabiola Carrion, Broadband and Green Jobs Policy Specialist
Cristina Francisco-McGuire, Election Reform Policy Specialist
Tim Judson, Workers' Rights Policy Specialist
Suman Raghunathan, Immigration Policy Specialist
Altaf Rahamatulla, Tax and Budget Policy Specialist
Mike Maiorini, Online Technology Manager
Charles Monaco, Press and New MediaSpecialist
Ben Secord, Outreach Associate

Please shoot us an email at dispatch@progressivestates.org if you have feedback, tips, suggestions, criticisms,or nominations for any of our sidebar features.

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