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:
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.
Milwaukee has a paid sick leave referendum
on the ballot for November that would allow employees to take leave for
medical treatment, preventive care, or diagnosis for themselves, as
well as to care for a close family member who is sick or who needs
diagnosis or preventive care. Additionally, employees would be allowed
to use the time to deal with domestic violence or sexual assault (for
example, using accrued time to flee to safety.) Employees at firms
with 10 workers or less could accumulate up to 40 hours, whereas larger
companies would have to provide up to 72 hours of paid sick leave.
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.
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:
Last Thursday, the California Assembly approved a bill
guaranteeing all workers in the state a minimum number of paid sick
days each year, becoming the second legislative chamber in the country
to do so following approval in the Connecticut Senate. Washington, D.C. and San Francisco have enacted paid sick days reform into law locally.
Voter suppression is growing rapidly in America today.Over half of states now have voter ID requirements more stringent than that required for first time voters in federal elections.Several states are clamping down on voter registration drives or are considering proof of citizenship requirements.
Showing the frustration over abusive lending practices by even many right-leaning legislators, the Ohio legislature has taken a huge step to protect its citizens against predatory lenders by passing HB 545.
The bill slashes the payday-lending interest rate from a sky-high 391
annual percentage rate to 28 percent. In real terms, instead of having
to pay $15 interest for every $100 loaned, borrowers will now pay no
more than $1.08 per $100 borrowed. The bill also limits borrowers to
four loans per year, requires that loan terms be at least 31 days
(instead of the current average of 14 days), and bans internet payday
lending. HB 545 is now before Governor Strickland, who is expected to
sign the bill into law.
The Iowa Senate on Tuesday approved SF 2416,
a bill to sharply increase fines on employers violating Iowa state wage
laws, crack down on the practice of misclassifying employees as
"independent contractors" to evade those laws, and protect workers
reporting violations from retaliation.