the senate Sept 14th-21st **CONGRESS** 2017 the house


Wrap Up 9/21/2017  The Senate stands adjourned to convene for a pro forma session only with no business conducted on Thursday, September 21, at 8:30am. When the Senate adjourns on Thursday, it will next convene at 4:00pm on Monday, September 25, 2017.   On Monday, following leader remarks, the Senate will resume consideration of Executive Calendar #176, William…

Wrap Up 9/18/2017 

Roll Call Votes Motion to invoke cloture on H.R.2810, National Defense Authorization Act, as amended; invoked: 90-7. Passage of H.R.2810, NDAA, as amended; passed: 89-8.   Legislative Business Passed Calendar #37, S.188 – EGO Act.   Adopted S.Res.260 – designating September 2017 as “School Bus Safety Month”.   Adopted S.Res.261 – recognizing the month of… MORE

Wrap Up 9/14/2017 

Roll Call Votes Confirmation of Pamela Hughes Patenaude (HUD); confirmed: 80-17. Motion to invoke cloture on McCain-Reed amendment #1003, as modified (substitute); invoked: 84-9.   Legislative Business Passed Calendar #26, S.129 – National Sea Grant College Program Amendments Act of 2017, with Wicker substitute amendment.   Passed Calendar #202, S.1393 – to streamline the process… MORE

*************************************************************************

House Activity 9/21/2017

Last Floor Action: 
11:04:07 A.M. – The Speaker announced that the House do now adjourn pursuant to section 2(b) of H. Res. 513. The next meeting is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. on September 25, 2017.

11:00:09 A.M.The House convened, starting a new legislative day.11:00:19 A.M.The Speaker designated the Honorable Mark Meadows to act as Speaker pro tempore for today.11:00:42 A.M.Today’s prayer was offered by Rev. Gary Studniewski, St. Peters Catholic Church, Washington, DC.11:02:03 A.M.SPEAKER’S APPROVAL OF THE JOURNAL – Pursuant to section 2(a) of H. Res. 513, the Journal of the last day’s proceedings was approved.11:02:10 A.M.PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE – The Chair led the House in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.11:02:19 A.M.The House received a communication from Hakeem Jeffries, Member of Congress. Pursuant to Rule VIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, Mr. Jeffries notified the House that he had been served with a third party subpoena for documents, issued by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The United States Attorney’s Office has explained that while Mr. Jeffries’ office is not involved in this matter, it may posses documents that could assist the investigation. After consultation with the Office of General Counsel, he had determined that compliance with the subpoena was consistent with the privileges and rights of the House.11:02:30 A.M.The House received a message from the Clerk. Pursuant to the permission granted in Clause 2(h) of Rule II of the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Clerk notified the House that she had received the following message from the Secretary of the Senate on September 19, 2017 at 10:21 a.m.: That the Senate passed S. 188.11:03:43 A.M.The House received a message from the Clerk. Pursuant to the permission granted in Clause 2(h) of Rule II of the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Clerk notified the House that she had received the following message from the Secretary of the Senate on September 20, 2017 at 9:50 a.m.: That the Senate passed H.R. 3110, without amendment.11:04:07 A.M.The Speaker announced that the House do now adjourn pursuant to section 2(b) of H. Res. 513. The next meeting is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. on September 25, 2017.

House Activity 9/18

2:00:18 P.M. The House convened, starting a new legislative day.
2:00:26 P.M. The Speaker designated the Honorable George Holding to act as Speaker pro tempore for today.
2:00:41 P.M. Today’s prayer was offered by Rev. Michael Wilker, Lutheran Church of the Reformation, Washington, D.C.
2:02:20 P.M. SPEAKER’S APPROVAL OF THE JOURNAL – Pursuant to section 2(a) of H. Res. 513, the Journal of the last day’s proceedings was approved.
2:02:25 P.M. PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE – The Chair led the House in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.
2:03:08 P.M. The House received a message from the Clerk. Pursuant to the permission granted in Clause 2(h) of Rule II of the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Clerk notified the House that she had received the following message from the Secretary of the Senate on September 14, 2017 at 3:06 p.m.: That the Senate agreed to S. Res. 254.
2:03:21 P.M. The House received a message from the Clerk. Pursuant to the permission granted in Clause 2(h) of Rule II of the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Clerk notified the House that she had received the following message from the Secretary of the Senate on September 18, 2017 at 10:46 a.m.: That the Senate passed S. 129S. 1393S. 1532, and S. 1536.
2:03:58 P.M. The Speaker announced that the House do now adjourn pursuant to section 2(b) of H. Res. 513. The next meeting is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. on September 21, 2017.

House Activity 9/14

9:00:59 A.M. The House convened, starting a new legislative day.
9:01:04 A.M. Today’s prayer was offered by the House Chaplain, Rev. Patrick J. Conroy.
9:02:04 A.M. The Speaker announced approval of the Journal. Pursuant to clause 1, rule I, the Journal stands approved.
9:02:06 A.M. PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE – The Chair designated Mr. Krishnamoorthi to lead the Members in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.
9:02:15 A.M. ONE MINUTE SPEECHES – The House proceeded with one minute speeches which by direction of the Chair, would be limited to 5 per side of the aisle.
9:16:14 A.M. H.R. 3697 Considered under the provisions of rule H. Res. 513H.R. 3697 — “To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act with respect to aliens associated with criminal gangs, and for other purposes.”
9:16:19 A.M. H.R. 3697 Rule provides for consideration of H.R. 3697 with 1 hour of general debate. Previous question shall be considered as ordered without intervening motions except motion to recommit with or without instructions. Measure will be considered read. Bill is closed to amendments.
9:17:10 A.M. H.R. 3697 DEBATE – The House proceeded with one hour of debate on H.R. 3697.
10:18:31 A.M. H.R. 3697 The previous question was ordered pursuant to the rule.
10:18:45 A.M. H.R. 3697 Mr. Beyer moved to recommit with instructions to the Committee on the Judiciary.
10:18:56 A.M. H.R. 3697 Floor summary: DEBATE – The House proceeded with 10 minutes of debate on the Beyer motion to recommit with instructions. The instructions contained in the motion seek to require the bill to be reported back to the House with an amendment to add at the end of the bill a section pertaining to Protecting Innocent Religious Workers from Deportation.
10:26:50 A.M. H.R. 3697 The previous question on the motion to recommit with instructions was ordered without objection.
10:51:49 A.M. H.R. 3697 On motion to recommit with instructions Failed by the Yeas and Nays: 184 – 220 (Roll no. 516).
11:00:27 A.M. H.R. 3697 On passage Passed by the Yeas and Nays: 233 – 175 (Roll no. 517).
11:00:29 A.M. H.R. 3697 Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection.
11:00:30 A.M. H.R. 3354 Considered as unfinished business. H.R. 3354 — “Making appropriations for the Department of the Interior, environment, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2018, and for other purposes.”
11:01:32 A.M. H.R. 3354 The House resolved into Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union for further consideration.
11:07:12 A.M. H.R. 3354 On agreeing to the Palmer amendment; Agreed to by recorded vote: 214 – 194 (Roll no. 518).
11:10:27 A.M. H.R. 3354 On agreeing to the Gohmert amendment; Failed by recorded vote: 186 – 223 (Roll no. 519).
11:15:01 A.M. H.R. 3354 On agreeing to the Norton amendment; Failed by recorded vote: 186 – 222 (Roll no. 520).
11:18:24 A.M. H.R. 3354 On agreeing to the Ellison amendment; Failed by recorded vote: 183 – 226 (Roll no. 521).
11:21:40 A.M. H.R. 3354 On agreeing to the Ellison amendment; Failed by recorded vote: 163 – 245 (Roll no. 522).
11:25:06 A.M. H.R. 3354 On agreeing to the Ellison amendment; Failed by recorded vote: 186 – 221 (Roll no. 523).
11:29:21 A.M. H.R. 3354 On agreeing to the Mitchell amendment; Failed by recorded vote: 166 – 241 (Roll no. 524).
11:32:50 A.M. H.R. 3354 On agreeing to the Huizenga amendment; Agreed to by recorded vote: 211 – 195 (Roll no. 525).
11:36:07 A.M. H.R. 3354 On agreeing to the Jackson Lee amendment; Agreed to by recorded vote: 265 – 143 (Roll no. 526).
11:36:13 A.M. H.R. 3354 The House rose from the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union to report H.R. 3354.
11:36:54 A.M. H.R. 3354 The previous question was ordered pursuant to the rule.
11:37:03 A.M. H.R. 3354 The House adopted the amendments en gross as agreed to by the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union.
11:38:28 A.M. H.R. 3354 Ms. Jackson Lee moved to recommit with instructions to the Committee on Appropriations.
11:38:39 A.M. H.R. 3354 DEBATE – The House proceeded with 10 minutes of debate on the Jackson Lee motion to recommit with instructions. The instructions contained in the motion seek to require the bill to be reported back to the House with an amendment to strike the $2.3 billion in total appropriated for a border wall and for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to purchase detention beds; and to transfer funds to the FEMA Federal Assistance Account to provide addition funds for pre-disaster mitigation services.
11:46:30 A.M. H.R. 3354 The previous question on the motion to recommit with instructions was ordered without objection.
11:53:37 A.M. H.R. 3354 On motion to recommit with instructions Failed by recorded vote: 186 – 223 (Roll no. 527).
12:00:23 P.M. H.R. 3354 On passage Passed by the Yeas and Nays: 211 – 198 (Roll no. 528).
12:00:25 P.M. H.R. 3354 Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection.
12:00:37 P.M. H.R. 3284 Considered as unfinished business. H.R. 3284 — “To amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to establish a Joint Counterterrorism Awareness Workshop Series, and for other purposes.”
12:06:32 P.M. H.R. 3284 On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 required): 398 – 4 (Roll no. 529).
12:06:33 P.M. H.R. 3284 Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection.
12:06:56 P.M. Mr. Brady (TX) filed a report from the Committee on Ways and Means on H. Res. 479.
12:06:57 P.M. MOMENT OF SILENCE – The House observed a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia.
12:09:23 P.M. Mr. Allen asked unanimous consent That when the House adjourns on Thursday, September 14, 2017, it adjourn to meet at 2 p.m. on Monday, September 18, 2017 and that the order of the House of January 3, 2017, regarding morning-hour debate not apply on that day. Agreed to without objection.
12:09:51 P.M. ONE MINUTE SPEECHES – The House proceeded with further one minute speeches.
12:31:02 P.M. SPECIAL ORDER SPEECHES – The House has concluded all anticipated legislative business and has proceeded to Special Order speeches.
1:34:12 P.M. Mr. Gohmert moved that the House do now adjourn.
1:34:21 P.M. On motion to adjourn Agreed to by voice vote.
1:34:22 P.M. The House adjourned pursuant to a previous special order. The next meeting is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on September 18, 2017.

 

Advertisements

How can they deny climate science after Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria?


We must hold fossil fuel corporations and climate-denying politicians accountable right now!

Take Action!

Give genourously today to hold the line on climate change-fueled extreme weather and to support all of Greenpeace’s work.

Take action

The whole country looks on as survivors in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, Dominica, and the U.S. Virgin Islands piece their lives back together after this month’s extreme weather events. At a time of great anxiety, we can find solace in communities coming together — friends and strangers helping one another repair their homes and remove debris, sharing generators and food, collecting and distributing funds and supplies to those who need them. I’m so proud that Greenpeace’s supporters have been a part of that — your generosity is staggering.

Greenpeace supporters also know that we can’t count on those who fueled these problems to correct them. The people hit hardest by these extreme weather events are focused on restoring their homes and livelihoods — so they’ll need to rely on the rest of us to hold the right people accountable.

Can I count on you to make an urgent gift to help us do just that and support all our work to protect the environment?

As we do all we can to support families and communities that are rebuilding, we must take on the additional work of demanding that fossil fuel corporations and climate science-denying politicians pay for the disasters made worse by undermining climate action. With their obscene profit margins and campaign war chests, it is unconscionable that they would refuse to protect our people and our planet from rising seas and stronger storms. We must force the issue.

Donate right now to stand together, hold the line against the corporations and climate change deniers who got us into this devastating situation, and support all our important campaigns. Let’s do all we can, and stretch as far as we can, to stand up for victims of extreme weather until they have the strength to rejoin us.

Yours in solidarity,

Annie Leonard
Executive Director, Greenpeace USA

P.S. While communities rebuild we must hold fossil fuel corporations and climate science-denying politicians accountable for stronger Hurricanes. Give generously right now to support all of Greenpeace’s important work!

on this day … 9/24 1957 – U.S. President Eisenhower sent federal troops to Little Rock, AR, to enforce school integration. 


1789 – The U.S. Congress passed the First Judiciary Act. The act provided for an Attorney General and a lower federal courts.

1869 – Thousands of businessmen were financially ruined after a panic on Wall Street. The panic was caused by an attempt to corner the gold market by Jay Gould and James Fisk.

1915 – “The Lamb,” Douglas Fairbanks first film, was shown at the Knickerbocker Theater in New York City, NY.

1929 – The first all-instrument flight took place in New York when Lt. James H. Doolittle guided a Consolidated NY2 Biplane over Mitchell Field.

1933 – “Roses and Drums” was heard on WABC in New York City. It was the first dramatic presentation for radio.

1934 – Babe Ruth played his last game as a New York Yankee player.

1938 – Don Budge became the first tennis player to win all four of the major titles when he won the U.S. Tennis Open. He had already won the Australian Open, the French Open and the British Open.

1955 – U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower suffered a heart attack while on vacation in Denver, CO.

1957 – The Brooklyn Dodgers played their last game at Ebbets Field.

1957 – U.S. President Eisenhower sent federal troops to Little Rock, AR, to enforce school integration.

1960 – The first nuclear powered aircraft carrier was launched. The USS Enterprise set out from Newport News, VA.

1961 – “The Bullwinkle Show” premiered in prime time on NBC-TV. The show was originally on ABC in the afternoon as “Rocky and His Friends.”

1963 – The U.S. Senate ratified a treaty that limited nuclear testing. The treaty was between the U.S., Britain, and the Soviet Union.

1968 – “60 Minutes” premiered on CBS-TV.

1968 – “The Mod Squad” premiered on ABC-TV.

1977 – “The Love Boat” debuted on ABC-TV. The theme song was sung by Jack Jones and was written by Paul Williams and Charles Fox.

1995 – Three decades of Israeli occupation of West Bank cities ended with the signing of a pact by Israel and the PLO.

1996 – The United States, represented by President Clinton, and the world’s other major nuclear powers signed a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to end all testing and development of nuclear weapons.

1998 – The U.S. Federal Reserve released into circulation $2 billion in new harder-to-counterfeit $20 bills.

2001 – U.S. President George W. Bush froze the assets of 27 suspected terrorists and terrorist groups.

2003 – Anthony Hopkins received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Voting Rights Roundup, sponsored by ACLU People Power: ACLU plans new push for voting rights after Trump sparks a fundraising surge


The Daily Kos Elections Voting Rights Roundup is written by Stephen Wolf and edited by David Nir.

LEADING OFF

• American Civil Liberties Union: The American Civil Liberties Union is perhaps best known for its storied efforts at litigation to protect the rights of Americans to free speech and other guarantees in the Constitution, no matter how popular those crucial rights may be. However, Donald Trump’s victory has helped the ACLU to quadruple its membership and raise a staggering $83 million online since last year’s election compared to a more typical $3 million to $5 million. The advocacy group is now looking to flex its newfound muscles by expanding the scope of its fight to advance voting rights.

With recalcitrant Republicans firmly in control of Congress, the ACLU plans on launching a new effort in October called “Let People Vote” that will take a 50-state approach toward preserving and expanding the right to vote at the state level. Not only will they still back litigation against repressive voting laws, but they plan on funding and organizing for reforms tailor-made for each state. Those measures include establishing independent redistricting commissions, restoring voting rights for citizens with past felony convictions, repealing voter ID laws, and allowing voters to register and cast a ballot on the same day.

This latest news follows on the heels of the ACLU’s announcement in August that it is putting at least $5 million toward a 2018 ballot initiative campaign to restore the voting rights of those with past felony convictions in Florida. If this measure makes it onto the ballot and passes (the yes side would need to take at least 60 percent of the vote to prevail), it could have a major impact, since Florida’s lifetime ban means it disenfranchises more of its citizens than any other state. These planned reform efforts won’t just target states where largely Republican legislators have actively tried to suppress voters, but also Democratic-run states where legislators simply aren’t doing nearly enough to expand access to the franchise.

Ballot measures can be particularly costly to fund for nonpartisan advocacy groups with more limited budgets and donor bases than political parties have access to. However, by avoiding some of the polarization that comes along with partisan election contests, campaign spending on ballot initiatives can be particularly potent for persuading voters. The ACLU taking a more active role in advocating for ballot measures and reform legislation to end partisan gerrymandering and increase access to the ballot could go a long way toward making it easier for Americans to vote and have their vote count equally.

A message from ACLU People Power:

Local and state legislators continue to target our voting rights as Trump and his sham voter fraud commission undermine confidence in our elections. They’re terrified of empowering the American people to stop their reactionary, anti-freedom agenda. On October 1st, People Power—the ACLU’s grassroots mobilization program—will launch a campaign focused on organizing communities to protect and expand our fundamental right to vote. Sign up today and attend a voting rights launch event in your community.

Voter Suppression

• Colorado: Back in late June, Trump’s voter suppression commission, led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, ominously asked every state to send it detailed voter registration statistics on every voter. Several states saw a spike in voters voluntarily canceling their registrations, purportedly over privacy concerns. Colorado in particular saw a surge in cancellation requests, and a new report by Corey Hutchins at the Colorado Independent puts that sharp uptick in context to support the conclusion that Kobach’s request likely was responsible.

Hutchins reports that over 6,600 Coloradans cancelled their registrationover the last three months, while only just over 500 re-registered since Kobach’s request was met with a wave of resistance by state officials from both parties. The vast bulk of those cancellations came about immediately after Kobach’s request made national headlines, and Hutchins’ graphs illustrate how it was simply unparalleled compared to previous and subsequent months, when only a few hundred voters may have unregistered.

Of those who unregistered, 46 percent were Democrats and just 15 percent were Republicans, meaning Kobach’s commission is already having some of its desired effect. Many of those who unregistered likely would not have voted anyway, and 6,600 voters represent just a fraction of one percent of the total registered voter pool. But just because the numbers are modest doesn’t excuse the Kobach commission’s behavior, since no American should have to fear for their privacy to exercise their legal right to vote.

• FloridaNext Tuesday, Florida voters in the 40th State Senate District in Miami-Dade County will go to the polls in a heavily contested special election to replace a Republican senator who resigned following a tirade of racial slurs against his fellow lawmakers earlier in 2017. However, this part of Florida was particularly battered by the recent Hurricane Irma. Many voters will understandably be less likely to participate while they continue to recover from the storm’s devastation.

Florida Politics’ Peter Schorsch recently reported that Richmond Heights, a heavily black and consequently Democratic-leaning neighborhood in the 40th District, still suffers from major power outages that could significantly hamper turnout, which could spell trouble for Democratic candidate Annette Taddeo on Tuesday. Accordingly, Florida Democrats and nonpartisan voting rights groups had called on Republican Gov. Rick Scott to delay the special election a few weeks to give residents more time to recover from the hurricane, but the governor has refused.

Scott’s move appears to have put partisan politics ahead of protecting the right to vote without major impediments for many voters. This district backed Hillary Clinton by 58-40 last year, but has historically been much more open toward supporting GOP candidates further down the ballot. Consequently, deterring even a modest number of Democratic-leaning voters from voting on Election Day could make all the difference in this hard-fought race.

• U.S. Territories: The 1986 Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act guides federal law on how American citizens can vote absentee in federal elections when living outside of the 50 states and D.C., but one particular provision has come under fire. Citizens who move from the 50 states (or D.C.) to another country are guaranteed the right to vote absentee for federal races in their prior state, but it applies differently in the five U.S. territories. Those who move to the Northern Mariana Islands retain this right, but not those who move to American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands, depriving them of a vote for president and a voting member of Congress.

The federal government is unfortunately well within its power to deny equal voting rights for the presidency and a full Congress member to citizens who are originally from the territories and still live there. However, an ongoing lawsuit by territorial residents who formerly lived in Illinois argues that the federal government’s disparate treatment of former mainlanders based on which particular territory they move to violates the Constitution. A district court upheld the challenged provision of the law in 2016, but plaintiffs have appealed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In an infuriating move, the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ leadership is arguing that the proper remedy for this disparate treatment isn’t to enfranchise former state residents who move to the other four territories, but to disenfranchise those who move to the Northern Mariana Islands. Neil Weare, who leads the We the People Project that brought this lawsuit and fights for voting rights for every territorial citizen, argues that “no court has ever taken away voting rights to remedy an equal protection violation.”

Every American citizen who is governed by federal law, including those born in the territories themselves, deserves the right to vote for the president and Congress who make those laws. The Trump administration arguing to limit voting rights among Americans who moved to one territory simply because those who moved to the other four territories lack the same protections has it exactly backward.

Redistricting

• North Carolina: North Carolina Republican legislators recently passed new legislative district maps in response to federal court orders to redraw 28 of 170 state Senate and state House districts, which the courts struck down for unconstitutional racial gerrymandering earlier in 2017. The federal district court overseeing this case still gets a final say over whether these new districts no longer impermissibly infringe on black voters’ right to elect their candidates of choice, and the plaintiffs in the case have now filed their response to the legislature’s new maps.

The plaintiffs contend that Republicans have maintained illegal racial gerrymanders in urban counties with large black populations such as Guilford and Cumberland, which are home to the large and diverse cities of Greensboro and Fayetteville, respectively. Intriguingly, the plaintiffs also brought a new complaint that Republicans violated the state constitution because they took the opportunity of the forced redraw to shore up increasingly vulnerable incumbents in certain urban counties, even though those districts didn’t have to be redrawn to eliminate racial gerrymandering.

North Carolina’s constitution bans the redrawing of legislative districts except immediately after the census each decade. The plaintiffs’ argument reasons that only a federal court order to redraw certain districts can override that state legal provision, meaning the GOP didn’t have the constitutional authority to redraw districts that weren’t necessary to eliminate racial gerrymandering.

The plaintiffs have urged the court to step in and draw the lines itself given the North Carolina GOP’s long and persistent history of taking extreme measures to undermine black voting rights and lock Democrats out of power in violation of the U.S. and state constitutions. While court-drawn districts, at least for part of the maps, would be the best outcome for the plaintiffs and voting rights, this long-running saga still has a ways to go until it reaches its conclusion. Any district court ruling will likely be appealed to the Supreme Court, leaving the district lines still unsettled for the 2018 elections.

Primaries

• New York: You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. No, we’re not talking about a sketchy bar on a backwater desert world filled with menacing alien creatures, but the state legislature in Albany, which has given New York its well-deserved reputation as one of the most corrupt states in the union. In addition to laws that prohibit early voting and put up barriers to registration, one way that political machines maintain their grip on power in New York is by tightly controlling the party nominating process.

When a legislative vacancy occurs in New York, the state holds a special election to replace the former member, but tiny committees of local party members usually get to pick their party’s nominee depending on when the vacancy arose. In a recent New York Times article, Shane Goldmacher reports a stunning finding from the good-government group Citizens Union: Roughly 30 percent of all current New York legislators first won their seats in a special election this way, being the handpicked choice of just a few party insiders.

This system has led to rampant quid pro quo in exchange for appointments, nepotism, and a lack of voter input in districts that heavily favor one party, making an appointment last for years or even decades due to the power of incumbency. It doesn’t have to be this way, though, and some legislators have introduced reforms to require special election primaries. However, those very same legislators who benefit from this system have so far thwarted any efforts at reform.

Nevertheless, there are downsides to holding special elections to begin with, since frequently abysmal turnout puts the decision in the hands of relatively few voters and can cause seats to change parties because of it. Many states avoid them entirely by filling vacancies via appointment of someone from the same party as the departing member, which is preferable due to the partisan flaws of low-turnout special elections. But those states may have more than just a tiny local party committee making the decision; for instance, some states allow the parties to submit a list of names to the governor, who gets to pick one of them.

America’s system of mass-participation primaries to determine party nominations is relatively unique among our peer democracies, and it can often lead to parties nominating unqualified extremists like Donald Trump himself. However, America’s ironclad two-party system is also relatively unique, and it’s simply unfair to voters to give them no real choice in deciding who represents them other than to defect to the opposite party, whose policies they steadfastly oppose.

Since the two-party system isn’t going anywhere without far more radical reforms, New York can help fight opportunities for corruption and strengthen democracy by taking more steps to ensure voters get more say over whom their own party nominates.

• Utah: The Beehive State has long had an almost unparalleled way for deciding party nominations, but a bipartisan reform group called Count My Vote wants to change that. Utah formally used party conventions to determine which candidates could make it to the primary, or if there would even be a primary at all. That old system allowed candidates to win the nomination if they attained over 60 percent support at a convention of party activists; otherwise, a primary would only take place between the top two convention finishers. This system shut out regular voters from deciding party nominations in many cases, and allowed party insiders and ideological zealots to have a much greater sway over whom their party nominated.

Utah’s Republican-dominated legislature reached a 2014 compromise with Count My Vote. That new law allowed candidates to decide whether to participate in the convention, where they faced the prospect of not advancing to the primary if they didn’t win the party’s endorsement, or to gather signatures to get on the primary ballot and entirely forego the convention process. The party convention still carries tremendous influence, often giving the endorsed candidate a leg up over primary foes. That’s one reason why the reform group now wants to do away with it entirely in favor of a traditional primary like those used in other states.

With the support of former Republican Gov. Mike Leavitt and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, a Democrat, Count My Vote says it has already secured $1 million in fundraising commitments and now plans on going ahead with a ballot initiative to fully switch to primaries. That funding would go a long way toward securing the necessary petition signatures equal to 10 percent of the votes cast for president in 2016 in 26 of 29 state Senate districts. The proposed initiative would require signatures equivalent to just 1.5 percent of registered voters to make it onto the primary ballot. It would also institute a vote-by-mail runoff among the top two finishers if no candidate tops 35 percent in the primary.

If this initiative passes, it could have the effect of boosting more moderate candidates whose views align with the broader electorate. Indeed, even the 2014 compromise measure achieved that very thing in the recent 3rd Congressional District special election. In that race, ultra-conservative former state Rep. Chris Herrod won the GOP convention over several notable foes. However, the more moderate Provo Mayor John Curtis skipped the convention and easily dispatched Herrod in the primary, even though Curtis had opposed Trump last year in this traditionally Republican state.

Ballot Measures

• Seattle, WA: A new reform effort in the city of Seattle, Washington, recently received initial approval to begin gathering signatures for a 2019 ballot initiative that would switch the state’s largest city to instant-runoff voting for municipal races. Washington state law requires a top-two primary where all candidates run on the same primary ballot and the two candidates with the most votes advance to the general, regardless of party. This provision applies to nonpartisan municipal races as well. Consequently, this proposal would only institute instant-runoff voting for the primary, leaving the top-two general election unchanged.

Over a dozen cities across America use instant-runoff voting for municipal races, with the biggest being San Francisco, California. A few other large cities, including Oakland, California and Minneapolis, Minnesota, use instant-runoff as well. Seattle just recently saw a deeply fragmented primary for its open mayoral election in 2017, with the top candidate earning just 28 percent while the second-place finisher snagged the other general election spot with only 18 percent over the third-place candidate’s 17 percent. Instant-runoff voting could dramatically shake up future races if this initiative makes it onto the ballot and passes.

To advertise in the Voting Rights Roundup, please contact advertise@dailykos.com.

Cartoon: Steve Bannon’s bucket list ~ Daily Kos Recommended


Log in or sign up to post articles and comments on Daily Kos, the nation’s largest progressive community.

Thanks for all you do,
The Daily Kos team

%d bloggers like this: