Redistricting Reform May Be Stalled in PA: Let’s Get it Moving

Despite a majority of PA House members cosponsoring or supporting a bill for an independent state and redistricting amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution in the PA General Assembly, the effort to pass a state constitutional amendment is being stalled by one person – Representative Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler County).

On April 11, 2018, Rep. Metcalfe, chair of the House State Government Committee called for a voting meeting of all committee members that was scheduled and held with no notice as to what the meeting was about.  On April 12, he held a half-hour meeting where he gutted and substituted language to HB 722 to eliminate the proposed non-partisan, independent redistricting commission with language that would entrench control of redistricting with the party in majority control of the PA General Assembly.  Essentially this amended bill gives the party in control 2/3 of the votes on redistricting to the party in power. Fair Districts PA described what happened:

“So rather than an independent commission, or rather than the five-person commission currently in place, which has two from each party and the fifth chosen by the state Supreme Court, [Metcalfe’s] amendment would allow the majority leaders of both houses to select a person, which would give two from each party, and then both houses would vote for a third person from that house. Which in effect would give the majority party four members of a six-person commission composed entirely of Legislators.

What we’ve seen is the incredible unaccountable government that results from that kind of gerrymandering, and this was a demonstration. So – at 10:30 this morning, the members of this committee were given a bill which they then voted on and passed by 11:00. They had not read the bill, they had not discussed the bill, they had not invited the prime sponsors of the original bill to explain their bill or to answer questions. There was no debate. There was no transparency. There was just this blatant attempt to bypass the public interest in an independent commission.”

However, the PA Senate has done a bit better.  The Senate State Government Committee has passed an amended version of SB 22 that creates a semi-independent redistricting commission. The original bill only allowed the two controlling parties in the General Assembly to strike up to six names from the pool of commission applicants before the Department of State Secretary selects at random those qualified to serve on the independent redistricting commission.

The selection process in the amended bill allows the majority and minority leaders to select their party representatives (4 for each party) and the Governor would then select the remaining three members who have been registered as either third party or independent voters.  The final list would then be subject to approval by a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly. Once approved, this Commission would then create a map by majority vote with at least one person from each of the three pools voting for the selected plan. If this commission is not able to reach a majority decision, they would then create three maps open for public comment with a final selection vote among these three maps made by a 2/3 vote of the General Assembly.

SB 22 is expected to pass the full Senate this coming week; it will then be sent to the House for consideration.

BUT…

If it is referred back to House State Government Committee, then the effort to reform redistricting in PA is essentially dead for several years since Daryl Metcalfe will not allow a vote on any form of independent redistricting within his committee.

And we only have four weeks left to meet the constitutionally mandated process deadline to amend the PA Constitution in time for the next round of redistricting after the 2020 Census.

SO…

 

Fair-Districts-Equal-Fair-Elections courtesy FairDistrictsPA

Fair Districts = Fair Elections. Graphics courtesy of Fair Districts PA

 

Here’s what YOU can do!

 

  1. Ask your state Senator to vote for SB 22 as amended. You can find your PA Senator’s phone contact information here; and
  2. Lobby PA Speaker of the House Mike Turzai (R- Allegheny County) to not assign a single redistricting bill to the State Government Committee.  That includes both SB 22 and HB 2402. HB 2402 is the reincarnated rewrite of the original HB 722 that Metcalfe gutted in April. Alternative House committees could be either the House Local Government Committee OR the House Rules Committee; and
  3. Ask your state representative to support and vote for both HB 2402 (in my opinion the better bill since it makes the redistricting commission entirely independent) and SB 22 if it passes the Senate without further amendment. You can find your state representative’s phone contact information here

Here’s a press release from the Centre County chapter of Fair Districts PA explaining in more detail what has happened and what we expect to happen throughout June:

Press Release-Redistricting Reform from CC FairDistrictsPA 5-30-2018

Fair Districts PA also has an online letter-writing campaign that you can use. However, it’s best if you also make the phone calls as suggested in the above to do list.

Trust in our elections will improve if we have fair redistricting.  Do your part! Make the phone calls and write your letters asap.  Let’s get this done!

 

 

PA Supreme Court Overturns Congressional Map

picture of the US Capital

View of the US Capital

 

This morning, the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court overturned Pennsylvania’s Congressional District map as being unconstitutional and ordered that a new plan for the 18 Congressional districts in the state is to be redrawn.  Five of the seven Supreme Court Justices ruled that the maps were unconstitutional.  And four of the seven Justices ordered that the maps be redrawn in the next few weeks.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly has until February 9 – 18 days from now to redraw the lines. Governor Tom Wolf has until February 15 to sign off on this plan.  If the legislature fails to meet its deadline and/or Governor Wolf fails to sign off on the plan submitted to him, the PA Supreme Court will create their own map based on information received by the lower, Commonwealth Court.

The state is then expected to publish the new districts by February 19 and, if necessary, readjust the election petitioning process to ensure that the May 15, 2018, primary takes place as scheduled.

This decision is based on Pennsylvania’s Constitution.  In its order, the state Supreme Court used words directly from our state constitution describing why creating districts based on partisan association is unconstitutional.

I located the order from the Supreme Court.  The case is known as League of Women Voters et al. v The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania et al.  Here’s the statement that says the current map is unconstitutional.

First, the Court finds as a matter of law that the Congressional Redistricting Act
of 2011 clearly, plainly and palpably violates the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and, on that sole basis, we hereby strike it as unconstitutional.
Accordingly, its further use in elections for Pennsylvania seats in the United States
House of Representatives, commencing with the upcoming May 15, 2018 primary, is
hereby enjoined.

And using text from the state Constitution, the Court mandates that the new map be redrawn to the following specifications:

Fourth, to comply with this Order, any congressional districting plan shall consist
of: congressional districts composed of compact and contiguous territory; as nearly
equal in population as practicable; and which do not divide any county, city,
incorporated town, borough, township, or ward, except where necessary to ensure
equality of population.

If the PA Senate GOP appeal to the US Supreme Court to stay this decision is turned down, all 18 districts will be redrawn. This includes the highly gerrymandered PA’s 7th Congressional District (aka “Goofy Kicking Donald Duck”) in the southeast and the 12th Congressional District (aka “The Hammer”) in the southwest.

Here’s what the current Congressional District map looks like with 13 Republicans and 5 Democratic US House Representatives.  There are many possibilities as to what the new, non-partisan districts might look like.  Stephen Wolf has presented one possible non-partisan alternative that could result in as many as 11 or as few as 6 Democratic Congressional seats.  The revised map will almost certainly differ from this initial idea designed by a single, non-elected person. But it does show that it is possible to create a non-partisan district map.

 

Pennsylvania_Comparison_2018 potential non-partisan districts

Current Gerrymandered and Hypothetical Nonpartisan Pennsylvania Congressional Districts. Attribution: Stephen Wolf https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/1/22/1733876/-Huge-Court-strikes-down-Pennsylvania-s-GOP-congressional-gerrymander-and-orders-a-new-map-for-2018

Thank you to the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania for taking the lead in this case.

 

Picture of people holding signs about why they want a recount of the Presidential and US Senate races in the 2016 elections in Pennsylvania

Rally: We Want a Recount in PA

This morning, citizens from throughout Pennsylvania came to the Capital Complex in Harrisburg to say that we want to ensure that the ballots cast in the most recent election were accurately counted.  Chants of “Count Every Vote” rang out throughout the Rotunda with people holding signs like

  • STAND UP 4 DEMOCRACY! Hand Recount NOW!!!
  • Count All Votes
  • We need a Paper Trail
  • Military Families Have Earned Transparent Democracy #RecountPA
  • PA’s voting machines are outlawed in some states!
  • Hand Recount NOW
  • SHOW CODE
  • Restore my Faith. #RecountPA
  • It’s a Recount, not a Rerun
Picture of people holding signs about why they want a recount of the Presidential and US Senate races in the 2016 elections in Pennsylvania

Citizens of PA calling for a recount in Pennsylvania

This rally occurred about an hour after Jill Stein announced that she was had filed suit in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).  She called Pennsylvania’s voting system a “disgrace.” Her federal complaint said, in part,

“Voters are forced to use vulnerable, hackable, antiquated technology banned in other states, then rely on the kindness of machines. There is no paper trail. Voting machines are electoral black sites: no one permits voters or candidates to examine them.”

There were five speakers at the rally.  Carl Romanelli, the 2006 Green Party Candidate for the US Senate spoke first. He discussed Jill Stein’s federal complaint, a need to have a forensic review/audit of the electronic voting machines, and a manual recount of the paper ballots in the few counties that have a paper trail.

Pat LaMarche,  the 2004 Green Party Vice-Presidential Candidate, spoke next. She blasted the PA Commonwealth Court, saying “Shame on you!” for demanding that the 100 Pennsylvania citizens  (not Stein’s campaign) put up a $1,000,000 bond for the court to hold the hearing on whether or not to recount and audit the votes in Pennsylvania.

Next up was MaryBeth Kuznick, President of VotePA. VotePA is a statewide citizen’s organization that believes in fair and open elections in Pennsylvania.  This group is leading “the fight against unverifiable paperless electronic voting and dangerous internet voting in Pennsylvania.”  She talked about her experiences as a recount monitor in the Ohio presidential recount in 2004.  She also spoke of the electronic voting machines that have either been outlawed or required to have a voter-verifiable paper trail in other states, including Ohio and California.  These very same machines, now over a decade old, are still used in most counties in Pennsylvania, BUT without any paper trail at all.

I was the next speaker.  Representing Concerned Voters of Centre County, my county’s local version of VotePA, I talked about my experiences with both the electronic voting machines (commonly called a DRE) in 2006 and my experiences with this year’s election.

  • In 2006, I personally witnessed a gentleman attempting to vote on our DRE machines.  Every time he tried to punch the voting square for the Republican candidate for Governor, the screen said he was voting for the Democratic candidate.  After multiple attempts to get the machine to register his vote correctly, he complained to the Judge of Elections. She told him to go back and try again because his “fingernails were too long” and he wasn’t punching the screen correctly.  I followed him out of the polling place and told him that even though I didn’t vote for his candidate, I believed that he had an absolute right to have his vote recorded correctly.  The two of us went to the Board of Elections the next day and filed a complaint.  Two years later, after voting in a new set of County Commissioners, this incident along with others resulted in the new Board ordering our DRE’s to be replaced by scannable paper ballots.
  • This year, over concerns about whether our ballots across the state were accurately counted, Concerned Voters of Centre County joined in with many other counties throughout Pennsylvania calling for a citizen-initiated precinct level recount.  Over 100 citizens in 32 Centre County precincts (over 1/3 of the county’s precincts) successfully filed our affidavits on Monday, November 28.  Unfortunately, due to how the county solicitor defined “day,” our petitions were thrown out; we were told that they were not “timely.”  The vote count was certified even after we raised what the Board of Elections considered a legitimate complaint; in at least one precinct, a provisional ballot was counted even though the voter who put the provisional ballot through the scanner had not been verified as a registered voter.

Finally, Dr. Candice Hoke spoke.  She is a lawyer, cyber-security professor, and Director of the Center for Election Integrity at Cleveland State University. Hoke talked about the legal (Constitutional)  and security issues surrounding the election process in Pennsylvania. As an elections lawyer, she discussed the Constitutional mandate for a complete, open, and fair election process that doesn’t stop once you cast your ballot; it only ends once you can ensure that the vote is accurate. Then putting on her election cyber-security hat, she talked about what can and has gone wrong with the electronic “ballot boxes” we’ve been using across the country and the serious problems we have with the unverifiable DRE voting system we have in Pennsylvania.  Her bottom line was that with the lack of a statewide voter-verified paper trail, aging electronic voting and scanning machines, and the inability/refusal to do a forensic audit of the machines and voting, the results of this election are in doubt.

Here’s her full speech.

The arguments for a recount/audit are being made in the public arena and in the courts.

For the integrity of our voting system AND for the health of our democracy.  We now wait to see what happens next.

Centre County Citizens Attempt a Recount of the November 2016 Election

Over the Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend, citizens from around Centre County, PA joined together to call for a full manual recount of the Presidential and US Senate races within their individual voting precincts.

In Pennsylvania, there are three ways that a recount of the votes can be held.  The first type occurs when the top two candidates total vote count is within a half percent of each other.  This was not the case in either the presidential race or the US Senate race.

The second way allows either a candidate or registered voters to file a recount petition with the courts.  On Monday, November 28,  Jill Stein—Green Party Candidate for President—filed a petition in Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court to hold a full statewide recount.  The hearing before the Court is scheduled for 10 am, Monday, December 5.  According to PennLive.com,  Stein’s petition and her lawyer, Lawrence Otter, contend that

“[A] recount is needed because of what he called a “discontinuity” between pre-election public opinion polls and the actual outcome. Otter also cited problems with the state electronic voting system and the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.

The third way allows for a citizen-initiated recount call.  This is what about 100 citizens from throughout Centre County did on Monday, November 29, 2016. Believing that the state elections law allows citizens five business days to petition the County Elections Office to recount their precincts ballots, people from 32 of the 91 precincts in the county filed notarized affidavits asking for a manual recount.  The law requires that a minimum of three individuals per precinct file their affidavits within five “days” of the initial completion of the counting of the ballots.

Here’s the list of the 32 precincts that were officially accepted:

  1. #1 Bellefonte North
  2. #3 Bellefonte South
  3. #5 Bellefonte West
  4. #16 State College North
  5. #17 State College North East
  6. #20 State College South 2
  7. #21 State College South East
  8. #23 State College SC 2
  9. #32 State College West 2
  10. #35 Unionville Borough
  11. #37 Benner South
  12. #41 College North
  13. #42 College South
  14. #43 College East
  15. #47 Ferguson North 1
  16. #48 Ferguson North 2
  17. #49 Ferguson Northeast 1
  18. #50 Ferguson Northeast 2
  19. #51 Ferguson East
  20. #52 Ferguson West
  21. #55 Halfmoon
  22. #57 Harris West
  23. #59 Huston
  24. #64 Patton North 1
  25. #65 Patton North 2
  26. #66 Patton South 1
  27. #67 Patton South 2
  28. #68 Patton South 3
  29. #88 Ferguson North 3
  30. #89 Ferguson West Central
  31. #90 Halfmoon East Central
  32. #91 Ferguson North Central

Emily Reddy of WPSU Radio came to the Centre County Elections Office on Monday while the petitions were being filed.  Here is her story.

Then on Tuesday, November 30, the Centre County Board of Elections held their certification hearing. Mary Vollero and I spoke at the hearing on behalf of the voters and for both Concerned Voters of Centre County and Vote PA.  These two organizations are the local and statewide voter-integrity advocacy groups.

There were two sessions held on Tuesday by the Board. The first one lasted a little over a half an hour.  Mary spoke first, and I spoke second.  My initial comments during the first session were not videotaped.  But the Centre Daily Times did quote part of my remarks:

“We have a country right now that is up in arms, and we are fighting with each other,” Tosti-Vasey said. “We need to make sure that people respect the elections as they occurred and doing a recount will help in making sure that here in Pennsylvania we understand what happened.”

The Board of Elections agreed that if the petitioners filed their affidavits in a timely fashion, then they had no choice but to halt the certification of the votes and hold a recount. Timely filing, according to the law is within five days after the end of the count.  The decision hinged on what the word “day” in the election law means.  The petitioners had understood from their lawyer that “day” meant business days.  The board’s attorney said it meant consecutive, calendar days.

The count was finalized on November 17.  If you use calendar days, the last day to file was on November 22. Using the petitioners’ definition of “day,” the final day to file was on Monday, November 28 since there were 4 weekend days and the two-day Thanksgiving holiday days intervening.

Listen to what was said.

So when the board realized there were differing legal opinions on the meaning of “day,” they recessed for two hours to have a further discussion with their solicitor.  When they came back, we got the bad news.

Their solicitor recommended that they use the calendar day definition and certify the election. Which they unanimously did.

After they had voted to certify the election, I questioned the count in my particular precinct. I noted that a provisional ballot was counted without the board verifying that this ballot was received from a registered voter.  The Board said I had a legitimate complaint and suggested that I take the issue to the county’s Court of Common Pleas.

After the meeting had ended, we were asked what we would do.  Mary and I said we need to weigh our options. So…

Stay tuned!

Watch “Michael Moore in Trumpland”!

This video cost $4.99 through either Amazon or iTunes but should be well worth the 70 minutes of showtime.

And remember to vote and vote wisely on Tuesday, November 8, 2016.

 

Central Oregon Coast NOW

trumplandIf you’re still on the sidelines when it comes to this election, or if you’re feeling conflicted about voting for Hillary, or if you love Michael Moore’s films and are a strong Hillary supporter, then I strongly encourage you to take an hour and 10 minutes right now and check out “Michael Moore in Trumpland”. No one else has made the unique and persuasive arguments Michael Moore is making in “Michael Moore in TrumpLand” — and  you’ll want to hear what Moore has to say and share it with your friends and family. If you’re in need of a “pick-me-up” today, this is the movie for you.

You can get it on iTunes here.Or you can get it at Amazon by clicking here.Both of them, are letting people buy it and OWN it (not just “rent” it) for under five bucks.

So if you’re feeling fed up by this election and…

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Republicans Must #DumpTrump: Trump’s Lewd Language & Sexual Assault Braggadocio

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, here’s something you can do.

Yesterday, the Washington Post released a 2005 video of Donald Trump. In this video and news article, Trump, using lewd language where he essentially brags about sexually assaulting women.


Video Courtesy of the Washington Post (Trigger Warning: Crude, lewd language)

A few hours after the video was released, Trump released a classic non-apology in a statement, saying “I apologize if anyone was offended.” What he said was that he was sorry for others being offended by his language and behavior condoning sexual assault.  Not that he was personally sorry for his offensive behavior.

A few hours after that, he released a short video again “apologizing” saying“I said it. I was wrong and I apologize.”  I put apologizing in quotes because he then immediately segued into blaming the Clinton’s for abuse of women saying that they both abused women but he only used bad language.


Video Courtesy of USA TV.

His “apology,” stated:

“I’ve said some foolish things. But there’s a difference between the words and actions of other people. Bill Clinton has actually abused women and Hillary [no last name mentioned as he consistently does with men] has bullied, attacked, shamed, and intimidated his victim”

Trump saying he hasn’t abused women???!!! His words in the 2005 video speak otherwise:

“I did try and f— her. She was married.”

“I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married”

“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”

Grab them by the p—y. You can do anything.”

All of these statements meet the definition of sexual assault as defined by the FBI:

Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.

In 2013, I wrote a blog about the climate of indifference related to sexual assault on college campuses.  This is no different. Trump’s indifference towards women and his misogynistic and possibly criminal behavior is unacceptable and disgusting.  As Bridgette Stumpf, co-executive director of Network for Victim Recovery of D.C. told the Washington Post:

“That’s nothing less than someone talking about committing sexual violence — the kissing, the grabbing. He’s talking about women as if they’re objects, as if they don’t have a right to consent to the way someone touches them. This is how sexual violence becomes accepted in our culture.”

So what can you do?  If you are a survivor of a sexual assault or abuse OR personally know someone who has been assaulted or abused, please take a moment to sign the UltraViolet.org letter to Republican leaders, candidates, and elected officials.

Only your first name will be used to protect your privacy.  This letter calls upon…

 “ALL Republican leaders, candidates, and elected officials to take a stand against sexual assault and abuse–and take a stand against your own nominee for President. You must not only denounce Trump’s words, but clearly and unequivocally denounce his candidacy and do all in your power to make sure that this sexual predator never sets foot in the White House. And we urge you to support strong policies that will end the epidemic of sexual assault in this country and support survivors of abuse.”

This has to stop.  No “Assaulter in Chief!” Please sign this letter now!

Photographic Blog of Faith’s Support of Bernie Sanders

People from around the world have started to support Bernie Sanders as President of the United States. So after getting to know the people that back him, this is what I’ve learned.

Blog by Faith Brady at Why the World Is Berning — Faith’s True Tales

Elections Have Been Certified: I Won!

IT’S OFFICIAL!

Today I received a letter from the Centre County PA Elections Office. This letter was sent to all newly elected and re-elected officials that ran for public office in the 2015 Municipal and County elections.

Here’s the letter:

scan of the official Centre County Office of Elections certification letter

Election Certification Letter

Attached to the letter was a black and white xerox copy of the “Certificate of Election” that will officially be presented to me on Monday evening, January 4, 2016.  At this re-organizational meeting of Council, I will be Continue Reading

The 2014 quest to get single women to the polls

This article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times at  http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/politicsnow/la-pn-democrat-quest-to-turn-out-single-women-20140716-story.html on July 17, 2014. It was written by Maeve Reston.  She is a political reporter at the paper. She’s been covering presidential election since 2004, first in Pittsburgh PA, then Austin TX, and now in Los Angeles.  She can be reached through Twitter at @MaeveReston.

If you’d like to learn more about unmarried-women voters, you can check out the research that was conducted by the Voter Participation Center and Lake Research Partners.

Please read this great article. Review the research. And help get-out-the-vote. You can help by talking to your unmarried female friends and family  members and helping them to register to vote. And the remind them to vote on November 4, 2014.

 

Central Oregon Coast NOW

la-pn-g-democrats-quest-turn-women-20140716-20140716

By MAEVE RESTON
July 17, 2014

It has been nearly a month since the Supreme Court handed down its Hobby Lobby decision, yet the issue has remained at the top of the political news now for weeks — a key facet in the battle for control of the U.S. Senate.

To explain that, look no further than the research by the Voter Participation Center into the voting trends for single women in midterm elections. Though single women make up a growing share of the electorate — nearly 4.2 million became eligible to cast ballots since 2008 — they turn out in far lower numbers in midterm elections than presidential contests.


The battle for female voters in Montana
Related video: Facing attacks in the Montana Senate race on his record on abortion, Republican Steve Daines aired his own female-focused ad touting his support for the Violence Against Women Act.

The dropoff…

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