Displaced NJ Voters Can Vote Anywhere in NJ or By Fax or By Email

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie issued a directive today to allow people displaced by Hurricane Sandy to vote at any polling place in the state through the use of a provisional ballot. This will allow them to vote for President and Vice-President, United States Senator and any statewide question. Votes for various local offices will be counted if this is a vote for which the voter is otherwise eligible to vote. (That is, if you vote in a different legislative district than the one in which you live, your vote for the state legislator will not be counted.)

On Tuesday, polls will be open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. in New Jersey. You can also vote today and tomorrow (Sunday and Monday) at  your county clerk’s office. Text 877877 or log onto www.elections.nj.gov to find your specific location.

The Governor also declared that displaced persons can vote by fax or email as if they were “oversea voters.”

Details follow the jump.

Any voter who has been displaced from their primary residence because of Hurricane Sandy is hereby designated as an “overseas voter” for purposes of the Overseas Residents Absentee Voting Law, N.J.S.A. 19:59-1, et seq., consistent with the following procedures:

A. These displaced voters may submit a mail-in ballot application to the County Clerk of the county in which they live.  These voters may submit that application by email or fax.  The contact information for the applicable Clerk is available at the applicable county’s website or at the New Jersey Division of Elections website, www.elections.nj.gov.  Further information is available by calling the following  toll-free number: 1-877-NJVOTER (1-877-658-6837).

B. Upon receipt of the application, the County Clerk shall determine if the applicant is a qualified voter.  If so, the County Clerk shall electronically send the ballot and
the waiver of secrecy form to the voter by the method chosen by the voter (email/fax).

C. The County Clerk shall accept such electronic applications through 5 p.m. on November 6, 2012.

D. The voter must transmit the signed waiver of secrecy along with the voted ballot by fax or email for receipt by the applicable county board of election no later than November 6, 2012 at 8 p.m. 2. The statutory deadline for the receipt of mail-in ballots will be extended to November 19, 2012 for any ballot postmarked on
or before November 5, 2012.

Jewish Political Party Values

Which political party mirrors your understanding of the priorities of Jewish values when it comes to responding to the needs of the poor?

At the outset let me make this perfectly clear I do not vote party; I vote for the individual. So it matters not which party reflects my values only the candidates. I recognize that the candidate running under his or her political party’s banner will most likely hoist and support the party line. But that is not always the case. There are exceptions when there are exceptional people whether they are running for national, state, county, or city office, all the way down to your local committeeman.

Getting back to the question, “How do we as Jews address the needs of poor Jewish families?” There are probably as many answers to that question as there are people reading this article. Searching through the Jewish responsa, which contain the wisdom of our great teachers, reveals that Maimonides says that lifting the burden off the shoulders of the poor is best done through job training. Other sages say it is by providing food and shelter.
[Read more…]

Some Pennsylvanians Need Not Wait To Nov. To Vote For President

Philadelphia area Russian citizens vote in Russian Presidential Election at Klein JCC, Saturday, March 3

Russian citizens residing within the Philadelphia area will cast their ballots in the Russian presidential election through a special voting center set up in Room 218 at the Klein JCC, located at 10100 Jamison Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia, on Saturday, March 3, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Candidates in this presidential election are:

  • Vladimir Putin (United Russia),
  • Gennady Zyuganov (Communist),
  • Sergey Mironov (A Just Russia aka Social Democrat),
  • Vladimir Zhirinovsky (Liberal Democrat), and
  • Mikhail Prokhorov (Independent).

The special election center is being established through the Russian consulate in New York City. Voters in Russia will go to the polls on March 4.

They demanded ID when I came to vote

My decades-long experiences as a voter in Philadelphia were mostly satisfactory, but my luck ran out on Nov. 8.

When I entered my center city polling place, poll workers improperly demanded that I produce identification. The 2011 general election occasioned my third or fourth visit to this site. A registered voter is required to produce identification once after s/he moves to their new address.

I reminded them that lawmakers in Harrisburg were currently haggling over a proposal to require identification during each election, which means that they had no legal authority to demand this.

More after the jump.

They told me that the judge of elections directed them to demand ID. They said that the judge can do this while the legislature is determining what to do in the future. I declined and they asked me to recite my address, which I did.

I informed them that I was going to phone the elections board. One poll worker responded that they would tell me what a great job they were doing.

This was at least the third time that I voted at this polling place since my polling place was relocated a few years ago.

A similar experience occurred last May. When I entered the polling place, a worker yelled at me to produce identification. At that time, I was not aware that identification was an issue, so I produced ID.

Both these experiences were bizarre and disturbing. I have to wonder where the city commission finds these people. Whatever the merits of the proposed legislation, it is still not the law. In addition, I probably would have produced ID had they asked me for it as a courtesy. However, they had no right to make demands, even to have me recite my address.

I complained to anyone who I thought was responsible or had an interest in my concern – the Pennsylvania Department of State, state Rep. Babette Josephs and newly-elected City Commissioner Stephanie Singer, a Democrat who does not assume office until January. I reluctantly contacted the city commission office still run by departing Commissioner Marge Tartaglione.

A City Commission lawyer hooked me up with my Democratic committeeman, who immediately apologized and promised that this kind of conduct would not be repeated. He explained there was a miscommunication and described other unusual circumstances that contributed to this episode.

While his explanation begged more questions, I deeply appreciated his responsiveness.

I confess to not following the city commission election closely. I was aware that the commission under Tartaglione was heavily politicized. My attempts to learn more about the election process or research voter turnout and past election results were undermined by the agency’s website, if you can call it that. The website is essentially a blank slate that is utterly useless.

A few weeks after the election, I learned that my experience was nothing unusual after reading an Inquirer interview with Singer and Al Schmidt, the incoming commission members who will replace, respectively, Tartaglione and Joseph Duda. Schmidt is a Republican.

In excerpts, Schmidt said, “The common denominators during the campaign really focused on transparency, making sure the office provides information to people when they need it…that it’s more efficient and more accountable to taxpayers and people who depend on it for service…They’re not transparent in how they spend taxpayer dollars…but more importantly, the information that people need to become engaged in the civic life of the city.”

Singer: “Part of it is simply making certain information is easily, publicly available, through the usual formats and also on a website. Budget detail and election results and things like that. And part of it is changing the culture of the office…making clear that we’re here to serve the public – the voters, the candidates, and the parties. And that our job is to make it easier for people…to be engaged.”

Schmidt: “The training of election board workers has been really very poor, and I think it shows in a lot of ways. I know it hurts our minority party and other minority parties…They’ve never seen a poll-watcher certificate before and they kick people out…It causes a lot of havoc on election day.”

Schmidt and Singer talk like serious people intent on serving the public to the best of their abilities. Under ideal circumstances, there would be nothing special about them. The Schmidt-Singer team should be the standard, not the exception.

Agreement Among States to Elect President by National Popular Vote

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the entire United States. The bill ensures that every vote, in every state, will matter in every presidential election.

The bill has been enacted by the District of Columbiaand 8 states (VT, MD, WA, IL, NJ, MA, CA, HI) shown in green on the map. They total 132 electoral votes bringing us almost halfway towards the 270 necessary to activate the National Popular Vote.

Eleven more states (shown in purple) have passed NPV bills in at least one chamber of their legislature. For example, recently the Republican-controlled New York Senate passed NPV in a 47-13 vote. Republicans supported the bill 21-11 while Democrats supported it 26-2. Across the country, NPV has been endorsed by 2,124 state legislators.

The shortcomings of the current system stem from the winner-take-all rule (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in each state).

The winner-take-all rule has permitted a candidate to win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide in 4 of our 56 elections – 1 in 14 times. A shift of 60,000 votes in Ohio in 2004 would have elected Kerry despite Bush’s nationwide lead of 3,000,000.

Another shortcoming of the winner-take-all rule is that presidential candidates have no reason to pay attention to the concerns of voters in states where they are comfortably ahead or hopelessly behind. In 2008, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their campaign visits and ad money in the November general election campaign in just six closely divided “battleground” states — with 98% going to 15 states. This makes two thirds of the states mere spectators. (The maps on the left show a similar situation during the final five weeks of the 2004 Bush-Kerry election. Each purple hand represents a visit from a presidential or vice-presidential candidate and each dollar sign represents $1,000,000 spent on TV advertising.)

The winner-take-all rule treats voters supporting the candidate who comes in second place in a particular state as if they supported the candidate that they voted against.

Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution gives the states exclusive control over the manner of awarding their electoral votes:

“Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors….”

The winner-take-all rule is not in the Constitution. It was used by only three states in our nation’s first election in 1789. The current method of electing the President was established by state laws, and that these state laws may be changed at any time.

Under the National Popular Vote bill, all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC). The bill would take effect only when enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes – that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538).

The bill preserves the Electoral College, while assuring that every vote is equal and that every vote will matter in every state in every presidential election.

The bill has been endorsed by New York Times, Sacramento Bee, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Los Angeles Times, Common Cause, FairVote, LWVUS, and NAACP.

As seen in this state polls are extremely favorable. Supports ranges from a “low” of 67% in Arizona to a high of 83% in Tennessee. On this map, shades of blue represent the highest support and 50/50 support would be represented in purple.

The movement for the National Popular Vote is bipartisan: The national advisory board includes former Senators Jake Garn (R-UT), Birch Bayh (D-IN), and David Durenberger (R-MN) as well as former congressmen John Anderson (R-IL, I), John Buchanan (R-AL), Tom Campbell (R-CA), and Tom Downey (D-NY). Former Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN) and Governors Bob Edgar (R-IL) and Chet Culver (D-IA) are champions.

This Spring, Pennsylvania House Bill 1270 was introduced by Rep. Tom C. Creighton (R-Lancaster County) and Senate Bill 1116 was introduced by Senators Alloway, Argall, Boscola, Erickson, Fontana, Leach, Mensch, Solobay, Vance and Waugh. These bills have not yet be acted upon action by the State Government Committees.

Additional information is available in the book Every Vote Equal: A State-Based Plan for Electing the President by National Popular Vote.

Pennsylvania poll results follow the jump.

To support National Popular Vote efforts, donate money, contact your state legislator and get involved.
Pennsylvanians Strongly Support Popular Vote for President

Two out of three Pennsylvanians believe the President should be the candidate who “gets the most votes in all 50 states”, according to a recent poll conducted by noted Political Science Professor Dr. Terry Madonna.

The strong showing came in Madonna’s March Omnibus Poll involving a telephone survey of more than 800 Pennsylvania residents and voters. Among those interviewed, seven in ten agreed “it would be unjust to have a President who did not receive the most popular votes.”

The survey findings were released by the National Popular Vote Project even as state House and Senate sponsors are garnering additional support for enabling legislation on the matter.

Madonna said polling showed bipartisan public support for the project. “A clear majority of Republicans and Democrats favor popular voting in place of the Electoral College’s current method for choosing the President,” Madonna said. “The fundamental reasons the Founding Fathers created the Electoral College system no longer exist, and the voters of Pennsylvania understand that.”

The prime sponsor of the legislation in the House, Republican state Rep. Tom Creighton of Lancaster County, is quick to point out that his legislation (HB 1270) does not seek to supplant the Electoral College, but rather seeks to direct the electors as provided in the U.S. Constitution.

The Constitution, Creighton notes, spells out in Article II, Section 1, that only the state legislatures may set rules on electors and that, in fact, the term “Electoral College” does not appear in the Constitution.

“Right now, most states allow electors to abide by a ‘winner take all’ approach which casts all of a state’s electoral college votes for the candidate who wins that state,” no matter if the candidate wins by a single vote or in a landslide. That “winner take all” practice has resulted in four elections where the candidate who received the most popular votes was not seated as President. A half dozen other elections resulted in “near misses.”

Only about one in four persons surveyed believe that electing a President by the national popular vote will favor one party over another. And of those who believe that, there is a clear split over which party would be favored.

Support was strong for the popular vote across the state although the most vigorous support was noted in Northwestern Pennsylvania, where 72% supported the concept. Philadelphia and suburban counties came next with 69% supporting a National Popular Vote. 63% supported the concept in both Southwestern(including Pittsburgh) and Northeastern Pennsylvania. A clear majority (58%) supported the idea in Central Pennsylvania.

The Madonna survey included the questions on the presidential election at the request of the National Popular Vote Project, a non-partisan, non-profit organization promoting the issue nationwide. Interviews were conducted with 807 residents, of whom 659 were registered voters, using a random digit telephone number selection system that allowed for the inclusion of cell phone users, in addition to regular landline respondents. The sample error was plus or minus 3.4%.

Results in the survey were similar to those reported in a 2008 automated survey of more than 1,000 Pennsylvania voters conducted by Public Policy Polling. In that poll about 70% favored the election of the President by the national popular vote.

Get Ready to Vote Today

Everyone is talking about the 2012 election, but where I live and in many places across America the next election is not in a year, but today.

So-called “off-year elections” determine who will be making decisions in your township, county or state. Turnout is usually low, and that makes your vote all the more important and decisive.

If you need any more motivation to get out and vote, please check out this video about our election process. It is from the makers of The Story of Stuff so you know its good. It speak to reclaiming the basic fairness in our democratic system.

Beyond This Election: Tears to Water the Wellsprings of New Life

Rabbi Arthur Waskow— Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Adlai Stevenson once said on losing the Presidency, “It hurts too much to laugh, but I am too old to cry.”

I am sad to have lost such gutsy, wise, and independent-minded  Members of Congress as Russ Feingold (WI) and Joe Sestak (PA).

I mourn the growing numbers of Americans, Afghans, and Pakistanis who are dying and being maimed in wars that no one can win and that no one in our new government will stop – wars that are pouring down the drain not only blood — but the resources that could meet deep civilian needs in America.

I  am grief-stricken that under our new government, millions of Americans will continue to suffer without jobs or homes.

I am grief-stricken that the suffering from global scorching and from our addiction to fossil fuels – the suffering of Gulf fisher-folk and West Virginia miners, drought-stricken Russians and Darfurians, flooded Pakistanis — will worsen and will spread — and no one in our new government will act to resolve the climate crisis.

I am grief-stricken that fear and frustration will drive millions of Americans into rage at scapegoats – Muslims, Hispanics, gay people.

I am horrified that the super-rich will get still richer while the poor sink into an abyss of despair, and that the billions of secret dollars from great corporations that poisoned this election will grow still more to bury our democracy.

For all these, tears aplenty.

But tears can water the wellsprings of new life, new energy, new hope. “Hope” not as an empty slogan but as a stubborn determination to renew our country and our planet. To act.

More after the jump.

Those who are deeply rooted in the Spirit know that from slavery in Egypt we rise to Sinai, from reading the death of Moses we turn to reading the creation of the world, from the Crucifixion to the Resurrection, from Muhammad’s flight out of Mecca to the transformation of all Arabia and well beyond.

In this moment of mourning, how can we plan to move toward action deeply rooted in the Spirit and in the ways we have created to celebrate the Spirit?

Jobs Not Wars
Who/What Is Pharaoh Today?
A Spirit-Rooted  Campaign for Grass-roots Reempowerment

According to the Biblical story of the Exodus, Sinai, and the Wilderness, Pharaoh turned workers into slaves, immigrants into pariahs, and tormented the earth until it rebelled in ecological disasters – the Plagues. He used his domestic police – overseers — to harass and punish dissidents and workers, and his horse-chariot army to subjugate an empire.  

Yet —  or therefore — inspired by YHWH, the Breathing-Spirit of the World – a band of runaway slaves created a whole new form of community.

Today, what institutions are behaving like Pharaoh, and how do we create new communities that celebrate the intertwining of many different human cultures with each other and the Earth?  What could be the role of a transformed and transformative Judaism in that process,
alongside other religious and spiritual communities?

The Shalom Center proposes a two-level action effort aimed at renewing the deep meaning of Passover (April 18-26);  the Holy Week from Palm Sunday to Easter (April 17-24); and the Quran’s retelling of the stories of Exodus and liberation.

One level: “Jobs, Not Wars.” Demanding that the resources now poured into the Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan wars and attacks, along with other wasteful and destructive military spending, be redirected to meeting the mounting needs for jobs and social repair in American society.

The second level, “the issue behind the issue”: Naming the institutions responsible for our decline as a nation and a prosperous society. “Who are the Pharaohs/ Caesars of today?”  Naming (with evidence) as Pharaoh/Caesar such major holders of top-down, unaccountable, and destructive power as the Military-Corporate Complex, Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Banking,  and their governmental allies,  that have imposed massive disemployment, the climate crisis,  and a hugely swollen military budget on our society.

Crucial to this effort will be the development of materials – factual reports on corporate power, alternative budgets, model sermons, prayer and celebration forms, art, music, dance —  that can be used by religious and spiritual communities and congregations during the spring.  If you are interested in helping create these, please write me and explain what you have in mind.

Though Islam this year does not have a festival during the spring that would parallel Passover and Holy Week, the rich references to the Exodus and to the origins of Christianity in the Quran, plus the experience of Islam’s own  birth in  resistance to the power elite of Mecca and its deep commitment to social justice,  offer a parallel path for such education.

We will also pursue the possibility of multireligious public action growing out of this educational process, to challenge corporate domination and  demand the necessary transfer of money and creative energy from military uses to meeting urgent civilian needs.

By working together, the campaign will also shape new kinds of community connecting our present forms of community,  just as Ancient Israel, Rabbinic Judaism, Christianity, and Islam built new kinds of communities in response to the oppressive top-down powers of their day.

If, as I have said, our new government will be even more unwilling than the old one to face these challenges, what is the use of renewing the ancient meanings of our religious and spiritual traditions?

History will not end in 2012, or 2020, and history is not made by governments alone.  Now we sow seeds. Watered with our tears, they will sprout.
They will bear fruit.  

Election Night Poll of Jewish Voters

— Jessica Rosenblum

  • 71% of Pennsylvania Jews voted for Joe Sestak.
  • Nationally, 66% of American Jews voted for the Democratic candidate for Congress in their district.

The first-ever election night poll of American Jewish voters finds the community bucking national trends and overwhelmingly supporting Democratic candidates and President Obama, as well as a bold US-led push for Middle East peace.

Despite millions of dollars worth of partisan and neo-conservative attempts to turn Israel into a wedge issue this election cycle, the attacks failed to change the way American Jews voted. The poll finds that American Jews, like the rest of the electorate, cast their votes with the economy and other bread and butter issues in mind.

More after the jump.
Nationally, only 7 percent of American Jews identified Israel as decisive in how they vote, ranking it eighth behind the economy (62 percent), healthcare (31 percent) and the deficit (18 percent), among other issues. In Pennsylvania, only 8 percent of Jews consider Israel one of their top two priorities in deciding how to vote. Comparatively, 14 percent of Jews in Illinois’ Ninth Congressional District, which includes a larger Orthodox population than average, consider Israel one of their top two priorities.

The polls, conducted by Gerstein | Agne Strategic Communications, surveyed 1000 Jewish voters across the country, as well as 600 Jewish voters in Pennsylvania on the evening of November 2nd. A separate poll, conducted before the election from October 20-24, surveyed 400 voters in Illinois’ Ninth Congressional District. The polls were sponsored by J Street, the political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans.

“American Jewish voters remain strongly supportive of efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict peacefully and diplomatically.  Despite efforts by some outside groups and candidates to use Israel to drive a partisan wedge in the Jewish community, our community remains overwhelmingly supportive of President Obama and of the direction of his policy in the Middle East,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, founder and President of J Street.  “Right-wing appeals to Jewish voters on Israel failed in the past, have failed this year, and will continue to fail to move voters in the future.”
In a particularly difficult electoral climate for incumbents, 66 percent of American Jews voted for the Democratic candidate for Congress in their district.

In Pennsylvania, where Senate candidate Joe Sestak faced a barrage of Israel-related attacks from groups like the Emergency Committee for Israel and the Republican Jewish Coalition, 71 percent of Jewish voters supported Sestak. Despite heavy investment by ECI and the RJC, the overwhelming majority of Pennsylvania’s Jews – 86 percent – had not heard about the right-wing attacks (70 percent) or said they made no difference even if they were aware (16 percent).

In Illinois’ Ninth Congressional District, where Republican challenger Joel Pollak made Israel-related attacks a centerpiece of his campaign, Rep. Jan Schakowsky handily won reelection. A poll conducted before the election showed Schakowsky leading her opponent 65-23 among the district’s Jewish voters. Pollak’s attacks not only failed to resonate among Jewish voters, but actually backfired on him, with 35 percent of Jews who heard the criticism more likely to vote for Schakowsky.

Despite attacks centered on President Obama’s Israel policies, 60 percent of Jews across the country say they approve the way the President is handling his job and 53 percent say that they approve the way he is handling the Arab-Israeli conflict.
83 percent of American Jews support an active US role in resolving the Arab-Israel conflict, consistent with previous polls on this subject. Support remains very strong when voters are asked if they would still support active US leadership if it meant “publicly stating its disagreements with” (71 percent support) or “exerting pressure” on (65 percent support) the Israelis and Arabs to resolve the conflict.

Gerstein | Agne Strategic Communications designed the questionnaires for these surveys. The survey of 400 Jewish registered voters in Illinois’ Ninth Congressional District was conducted October 18-24, 2010, and has a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percent.  No phone calls were made during the Jewish Sabbath. The survey of 600 Jews who voted in the 2010 Pennsylvania general election was conducted on November 2, 2010, and has a margin of error of +/- 4 percent. Both of these surveys were conducted by telephone, calling a random sample of registered voters with Jewish names and people who self-identify as Jewish in consumer data that has been appended to the voter file.  Respondents were re-screened at the beginning of the survey when they were first asked for their religion and then, if they did not identify themselves as Jewish by religion, they were asked again if they considered themselves Jewish.
The national survey of 1,000 Jewish voters was conducted on November 2, 2010 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent. Gerstein | Agne contracted the research company Mountain West Research Center to administer the survey by email invitation to its web-based panel which is regularly updated and consists of a sample of nearly 900,000 Americans. This panel was supplemented by a randomly selected representative sample of registered voters with Jewish names and with people who self-identify as Jewish in consumer data that has been appended to the voter file. Respondents were re-screened at the beginning of the survey to ensure that they were Jewish and that they had voted in the November 2, 2010 election.

Gerstein | Agne is a Washington-based strategic research firm that conducts public opinion research for non-profit organizations, charities, civic institutions, candidates for elected office, and Fortune 500 companies. Jim Gerstein has conducted extensive public opinion research with American Jews and was involved in the Clinton Administration’s outreach to the Jewish community. He has also conducted public opinion research in Israel, and was a senior member of the American team that oversaw the polling, focus groups, and paid media efforts for Ehud Barak’s 1999 campaign for Prime Minister.

Redistricting Florida Redux

Dan Loeb

Yesterday, Florida voters overwhelming approved two Constitutional amendments proposed by Fair District Florida to change the rules for redistricting on the state and federal level. Last April, I wrote in opposition to these “reforms”.

While I am deeply concerned about the problems with the current system, I believe that the  amendments do not achieve the goal of creating balance, competitive Congressional districts . I fear that passing well-intentioned but poorly-designed referendums will delay any serious attempts at meaningful redistricting reform.