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National Leaders Gather to Fight Voter Deception

http://www.progressivestates.org/dispatch

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Increasing Democracy

by J. Mijin Cha

National Leaders Gather to Fight Voter Deception

As we highlighted in our November dispatch, voter deception reared its ugly head again in the 2006 election:

  • In Arizona, The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund reported seeing three men approach only Latino voters and videotape them as they went into polling places in Tucson. Latino voters in Colorado were told they would be arrested if they attempted to vote. Virginia voters were also told they would be threatened with arrest if they attempted to vote.
  • In Maryland, backers of the Republican candidates for Governor and U.S. Senate in Maryland went so far as to recruit and bus in homeless individuals from as far away as Philadelphia to pass out voter guides with misinformation about the candidates. The individuals were promised $100 and three meals for passing out fliers misnaming the two candidates as Democrats.
  • Republican “robo calls ” that called voters and stated, “Hi, I ’m calling with information about (name of Democratic candidate). Only when callers listened to the entire message, were they informed that it was from the Republican party. Worse, if you didn ’t listen to the entire message, the caller called you again and again, leaving the impression that the Democrats were harassing you.  In New Mexico, at least one call misinforming voters about the location of their polling places was traced back to the local Republican party office.

This Friday, a national gathering of political and civil rights leaders (whose main sponsors are People for the American Way and the NAACP, with Progressive States as on co-sponsor) will gather in Washington, D.C. to address this rising new threat to voting rights. A large focus of the meeting will be passing laws banning these kinds of voter suppression tactics, including Senator Barack Obama's federal Deceptive Practices bill, SB 453, introduced last week, which would:

  • Make it a federal crime to communicate false information about the time or place of voting, the voting eligibility of any voter, or the party affiliation or endorsements of any candidate
  • Allow any person or voter who has been harmed by false statements immediately preceding a federal election to obtain an injunction stopping the deceptive practices
  • Require the U.S. Attorney General to investigate every claim of deceptive practices, and submit a public report on all claims to Congress
  • Require the Attorney General to ensure the immediate release of corrective information in affected communities

State leaders need to step up and pass versions of the federal bill in every state, since, obviously, a lot of rightwing candidates are afraid of what will happen if people they have try to disenfranchise actually get to vote.  For example, Indiana State Senator Jean Breaux has  introduced SB 492 to make voter deception a Class D felony in Indiana and more states need to join the effort.  Let's give them something to really worry about by passing these anti-deception laws in the states.    

To learn more if you can't make it to D.C., listen in to the webcast beginning at 10am on Friday at: http://images.pfaw.org/homepage/votersuppression-live.ram

More Resources

Valuing Families

by Nathan Newman

Report: US Joins Lesotho and Swaziland with Worst Policies for Families

To the embarassment of a country with leaders that bill themselves as supporting "family values," a new report by the Project on Global Working Families finds that US federal policies are some of the least supportive of families in the world. 

  • Take paid family leave, which Americans have no right to take under federal law.  Out of 173 countries studied, 168 guarantee leave for women who give birth to a child; 98 of those countries offer 14 or more weeks of paid leave.   So this leaves the US in the company of Lesotho, Liberia, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland as the only countries which guarantee no paid leave for mothers in the work force. 
  • Or how about breastfeeding in public? 107 countries protect a women's right to breastfeed, with 73 countries guaranteeing that those breaks are paid for working women.  But the U.S. government does not guarantee the right to breastfeed.
  • Or sick days? 145 countries provide paid sick days for short-term illnesses, yet the US does not guarantee sick days, only unpaid leave for serious illness through the Family and Medical Leave Act-- which doesn't even protect workers in firms with less than 50 employees.

The small bit of good news is that the report only focuses on federal policy -- and states have either acted or are moving to make up for the embarassment of anti-family federal policies.  For example, 36 states protect breastfeeding in public and eleven states specifically protect breastfeeding in the workplace.

In 2002, California pioneered the first paid family leave law in the country, offering parents up to six weeks of paid leave for childbirth, adoption or care of a sick family member.   This week, the New Jersey Senate Labor Committee approved a bill, S2249, to offer tweve weeks of up to $502 in weekly family leave benefits to all employees, which could make New Jersey the second state with paid family leave.  Washington legislative leaders with bipartisan support also introduced HB 1658 to guarantee give weeks of paid leave.

As for paid sick days, only the City of San Francisco requires private employers to guarantee paid days off for employees, but lawmakers in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Vermont, Maine, Montana, Michigan and Maryland are pushing paid sick days measures this year.

States aren't quite making up for the pathetic reality of federal policy, but like the minimum wage, they are taking the lead, promoting the idea that the U.S. should actually value families, not just mouth empty "family values" rhetoric.

More Resources

Strengthening Communities

by Adam Thompson

Kids are collateral damage in immigration witch hunt

Well, the feds have done it again.  They've stepped in where states are doing good work and messed things up.  In an effort to prevent illegal immigrants from enrolling in Medicaid, new federal citizenship identification requirements are instead causing US citizens to lose coverage and increasing state Medicaid administrative costs.  Children are the biggest losers.

The rules, which impose burdensome requirements to show proof of citizenship for Medicaid, are part of the right-wing's immigration witch hunt and were designed to prevent "false allegations of citizenship" in Medicaid enrollment.  Even though the Bush Administration reported no abuses of the kind, it went along with the House and Senate and incorporated the rules in the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act.

ID Rules Cause Enrollment Declines and Increase State Medicaid Costs
A new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that enrollment of US citizens in Medicaid has dropped significantly in 6 states that were surveyed since the new rules went into effect last July.  Wisconsin saw 14,000 people lose or be denied Medicaid and, in Virginia, 12,000 children have lost their Medicaid coverage.  Iowa saw its largest decline in Medicaid enrollment in 5 years. The enrollment declines are not due to economic factors or employment status of families because enrollment in food stamps, which is more susceptible to such conditions, have increased, according to the report.

States contacted by the Center repeatedly said that the enrollment declines are coming from citizens, not from illegal immigrants, and that the proof of identity requirements often pose the greater barrier. 69% of enrollment declines in Wisconsin weren't because applicants couldn't show proof of citizenship but because they didn't have the necessary proof of identity. These rules may seem simple for most families, but for rural families unable to travel to Medicaid offices and custodial grandparents who do not have birth certificates for their grandchildren, the rules create insurmountable barriers. Furthermore, the enrollment declines are not due to economic factors or employment status of families because enrollment in food stamps, which is more susceptible to such conditions, have increased, according to the report.

Along with declining enrollment, the new rules are increasing state Medicaid costs at a time when the Bush Administration is proposing additional cuts to the program.  Because applicants must show original documents, like birth certificates, efficient enrollment procedures like mail-in applications and on-line enrollment are no longer feasible.  Illinois projects increased costs of $16 million to $19 million in the first year to comply with the requirement.

Rational Approaches to Immigration and Health Care Reform
States with experience and long histories of immigration think this is nonsense.  In stark contrast to the federal policies, llinois and California have learned that we all gain by helping immigrants integrate into society instead of marginalizing them.  As the Stateside Dispatch  detailed last December, Illinois is embracing its immigrant community by aggressively pursuing programs to facilitate their entry into the state through welcome centers and english learning and jobs programs.

Similarly, in a position that has drawn the ire of conservatives within his party, Governor Schwarzenegger wants to include illegal immigrants in his plan for universal access to health care.  In a speech announcing his plan in January, he said:

There is no debate about whether to provide medical care for people who are in California illegally. I know this is controversial but federal law requires us to treat anyone who shows up at an emergency room in need of care. So the decision for my team was do we treat them in emergency rooms at the highest cost available or we do it right and do it efficiently?

In the absence of a fair and rational federal immigration policy, states must once again lead and pick up the pieces where the federal government has failed. 

More Resources

Research Roundup

Immigrant Entrepreneurs, Youth Justice, Elder Care, Energy Efficiency, and Living Wages

From New York to Los Angeles, new immigrant entrepreneurs have emerged as key engines of urban growth, according to the Center for an Urban Future, with first generation immigrants creating a massive number of new businesses in these communities.

Despite all the rhetoric around Americas supporting "lock them up and throw away the key" criminal justice policies, a new poll by the National Council on Crime and Deliquency finds that while most Americans think youth crime is a problem, 7 in 10 think putting them in adult correctional facilities increases future crime and 91% believe that rehabilitation and treatment for youth helps prevent future crimes.

Think the health care costs of taking care of an aging population is costly?  So are the lost wages and drop in the female labor supply of women at midlife, since women are often key Elder Caregivers, as a new report by the Urban Institute details.

Florida is an example of a state falling behind the rest of the country in adapting to new energy challenges, according to a report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, but shifts in policy could cut traditional electricty use by 45 percent by 2023.

While raising the minimum wage if a good thing, most families need more-- and real living wage jobs are not easy to find in Northwestern states, as detailed in new reports by the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations.

National Leaders Gather to Fight Voter Deception

Progressive States Network, Cleaning up Election Day Disasters

People for the American Way, The New Face of Jim Crow: Voter Suppression in America

Federal Deceptive Practices Act, SB 453

Center for Policy Alternatives, Model Voter Protection Act

Indiana SB 492, Voter Deception bill

Report: US Joins Lesotho and Swaziland with Worst Policies for Families

Project on Global Working Families, Work, Family and Equity Index: How Does the US Measure Up?

Progressive States & MomsRising, Providing Paid Family Leave

Progressive States Network, Paid Sick Days Resources

National Partnership for Women, Paid Sick Days for All: An Advocate's Tool Kit

NCSL, 50 State Summary of Breastfeeding Laws

Kids are collateral damage in immigration witch hunt

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities - New Medicaid Citizenship Documentation Requirement is Taking a Toll: States Report Enrollment is Down and Administrative Costs Are Up

Stateside Dispatch - Illinois Policies to Bring Immigrants into Economic Mainstream

National Immigration Law Center - Immigrants and the US Health Care System

Eye on the Right

It seems more could be at stake in the gay marriage debate if states follow the lead of a Michigan appeals courts. It ruled that the state's gay marriage ban prohibited public employers from providing health insurance to employee's domestic partners. Although Alaska took the opposite stance, ruling it unconstitutional to deny partners health insurance, the issue has yet to be addressed in 20 states. Most ironic of all, the same voters who passed the ban also support the partner benefits being denied by the court.

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Masthead

The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Policy Director
Mijin Cha, Policy Specialist
Adam Thompson, Policy Specialist
John Bacino, Communications Associate

Suggestions

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

John Bacino
Editor, Stateside Dispatch

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