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Michigan

Vote Suppression Watch

Now that the party nominating conventions have passed and the presidential race has reached its final leg, voter suppression efforts are shifting into high gear around the country. As each campaign assembles an army of lawyers to protect their interests leading to and on election day, state and local partisans are engaging in a wide variety of tactics to prevent their opponents' supporters from casting a ballot. Once again these underhanded tactics, which we've highlighted before, are predominantly coming from right wing operatives, and the targets are overwhelmingly groups that tend to vote for progressive candidates. Since the beginning of this month the following voters suppression campaigns have been reported:

Reports Find Election Administration in Swing States Not Significantly Improved

Common Cause and The Century Foundation have released the new version of their joint biennial report on election administration in 10 swing states and the findings are not very encouraging: while voters' desire to participate is growing, states have only made fitful progress improving the voting process, and in many instances things have moved backward since the last federal election in 2006.  Examining the most recent election experiences of Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Colorado, New Mexico, and Virginia the report details serious problems in every major aspect of the voting process, along with a handful of bright spots where individual states are moving important reforms.

Helping Poor and Working Families Build Financial Assets

By one estimate, the federal government spent over $367 billion in 2005 aloneon subsidizing Americans' retirement savings and tax breaks to build upother assets like buying a home.  Unfortunately, those subsidies gooverwhelmingly to those Americans who already have high-incomes; almostnone of it goes to the poorest Americans who need the most helpbuilding the financial assets that can lead to long-term economicopportunities and security.

States Still Leading Feds on Minimum Wage

With food and gas prices rising rapidly, low-wage workers can at least welcome an increase in the federal minium wage to $6.55 per hour scheduled to go into effect on July 24th.  Even better, a number of states will also be increasing their minimum wage rates even higher than the federal rate:

Eliminating Health Disparities, Achieving Equity

In 2000, the World Health Organization ranked the US health care system 37th in the world despite spending more than any other country.  In 2007, according to the US Census Bureau, the US ranked 42nd in life expectancy. If you are a person of color, a low-wage worker, non-English speaking, or live in a low-income community, the picture is much worse.  For instance, the life expectancy for African-Americans is 73.3 years, five years shorter than it is for whites.  For African-American men, it is 69.8 years, just above averages in Iran and Syria, but below Nicaragua and Morocco.

Michigan Fights to Ensure PEG Channels Are Available to All

The future is very uncertain for public, education and government (PEG) channels.  Theselocal channels have traditionally been carried by cable companies as apublic service to highlight local community and public voices.  Historically, PEG channels have been receivable on both analogand digital service, ensuring that PEG stations were accessible by anyindividual with a television, regardless of income level or cablepackage.  Now that the Digital TV transition is just around the corner, the question is what happens to these channels.  

Mapping and Deploying High-Speed Broadband

Despite claims by the Bush administration that most Americans now have access to affordable broadband, many people might disagree and would probably argue that their Internet access is to slow and to expensive.  Most analysts are nowhere near as optimistic as Bush's "Networked Nation: Broadband in America." These analysts highlight that the U.S. has fallen to 15th in world rankings for broadband connectivity and that Americans pay much higher fees for much slower speeds than most of the industrial nations in the world.  Misguided regulatory policies and substandard infrastructure have helped create a sub-parbroadband network in the United States.  

States Call for Moratorium on Home Foreclosures

Not surprisingly, the Bush Administration's proposal for fixing the subprime lending crisis is an industry-led deal that involves completely voluntary actions to fix the current crisis and will ultimately help only a few of the millions of people who have either lost or are in danger of losing their homes.  With absolute failure at the federal level, it is again up to states to step in.  In two recent editorial pieces, the executive directors of the Progressive States Network and the Drum Major Institute called on New York Governor Spitzer to impose a six-month moratorium on foreclosures to stop the rapidly increasing rate of home loss, a policy all governors should enact. A moratorium would give lenders incentive to restructure loans on fair terms and fight back against the Wall-street backed predatory lenders.

Right Wing Lobbying Strategies in the States

Even as progressives are making major headway in this session on issues ranging from renewable energy to the minimum wage to voting reform, the corporate Right, led by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and its associated "research" front groups, is still out there in the states pushing their model bills and corporate-funded propaganda. 

Gay Adoption Gains, Children Win

This week, an Arkansas bill to ban gay adoption collapsed in the House, after passing the state Senate earlier this month.  In New Hampshire, the state House overwhelmingly passed a bill affirming the right of gay couples to jointly adopt children.  Earlier this month, the Colorado House approved a similar "second-parent adoption" bill in a bipartisan vote.