Indivisible Meeting: Focus on Elections

Indivisible: Narberth and Beyond, Indivisible Lower Merion and Indivisible Conshy Invite you to a Meeting: Focus on Elections

Special Guest:  PA State Senator Art Haywood

Please join us and bring friends. Our democracy is in peril and we must persist, resist, learn and change things with the elections in 2017, 2018 and beyond. We need each and every one of you.

Meeting Agenda Highlights:

  1. Importance of 2017 elections and what you can do

    1. Julie Kollar, Director of the Montgomery County Democratic committee

  2. 2018 Midterm Elections outlook

    1. State Senator Art Haywood: Turn PA Blue

    2. Jenn O’Mara: Candidate for PA House District 165

  3. Voter Registration Training with DCCC

  4. Concrete Ways to Volunteer and Help

  5. Indivisible groups collaboration

    1. Organization & communication

    2. How we can be most effective

    3. Questions & discussion

 Please donate a few dollars when you arrive for the Union Firehouse Association to thank them for letting us use the space.

Really looking forward to seeing you and your inviting people so we can continue to grow!
RSVP at the following link:  

https://actionnetwork.org/events/indivisible-groups-meeting-conshy-narberth-lower-merion

Street parking on Montgomery, in back on Bentley. Side streets are Tregaron Rd and Bangor Rd or can go to Pembroke. Link to map is below.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Union+Fire+Association/@40.0056025,-75.2419993,18z/data=!4m5!3m

Please arrive by 1:10pm so the meeting can start promptly

Jewish Vote Not Enough for Democrats

Representative-Elect Lee Zeldin (R NY-1)

Representative-Elect Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1).

Republicans took control of the Senate and tightened their control over the House of Representatives on election day despite that Democrats still maintained the support of a large majority of the Jewish community.

65% of Jewish voters voted for the Democratic candidate for Congress, while 33% voted for the Republican and 2% voted for a third-party or independent candidate. In all, Jews represented 3% of the electorate even though they only represent 2% of the general population.

With the defeat of Minority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) in the Republican primary last June, it appeared that no Jewish Republicans would be on Capital Hill by now. However, Lee Zeldin was elected to succeed Democratic congressman Tim Bishop and represent New York’s 1st congressional district (Eastern Long Island) as the one Jewish Republican in the 114th U.S. Congress.

New Poll Shows Why Jews Supported Democrats In 2012

A Century of Jewish Voting in America

— by David Streeter

The new polling data released by the Workmen’s Circle provides the clearest proof yet as to why the sweeping majority of American Jews voted to reelect President Barack Obama in 2012.

On the key domestic issues that decided the election, American Jews are firmly aligned with the Democratic Party. According to the survey, clear majorities of the Jewish community stand with President Obama and the Democratic Party when it comes to:

  • Spending on social safety net programs;
  • Helping the poor;
  • Preventing drastic cuts to Medicare;
  • Responding to climate change;
  • Protecting a woman’s right to choose;
  • Supporting marriage equality;
  • Reforming America’s immigration system; and
  • Many other pressing domestic issues.

More after the jump.
The Workmen’s Circle summarized their findings:

  • American Jews consistently favor increasing spending on social welfare and regulating big business, in the midst of an election focused on budget deficits and taxation.
  • By a two-to-one ratio, Jewish voters see government regulation of business as necessary to protect the public interest, rather than ‘usually doing more harm than good’ (55% vs. 28%).
  • Asked to choose between the contrasting positions of fewer government services with reduced spending vs. many more services with increased spending, Jews in the survey opted for the latter (43% vs. 37%).
  • By more than a two-to-one ratio, Jewish voters prefer decreasing defense spending to increasing defense spending (53% vs. 26%).
  • By a 43% to 31% margin, more American Jews agreed with the view that, ‘Poor people have hard lives because government benefits don’t go far enough to help them live decently,’ than with the position that ‘Poor people today have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return.’
  • By almost a two-to-one ratio, respondents expressed the belief that Medicare can be preserved without cutting benefits (50% vs. 28%).
  • Commitment to economic justice issues is so widespread in the American Jewish population that it extends even to the highest income Jews. Those earning over $250,000 express liberal views on economic justice as frequently as those earning far less. Jews earning $250,000 or more were as likely as lower-earning Jews to vote for Obama and other Democrats….
  • Accompanying the liberal and progressive stances on economic justice issues were a variety of positions of similar political coloration on issues like climate change, abortion, immigration and same-sex marriage.

The poll’s summary is available here, and the full poll results are available here as a pdf.  

The Harm of Prison Gerrymandering


— by Drew Kukorowski

Here at Prison Policy Initiative we’re always trying to think of better ways to explain the problem of prison gerrymandering to folks who may not have heard about it before. Prison gerrymandering is the practice of counting incarcerated people as residents of the prisons that detain them, and then using those numbers when election districts are redrawn in order to comply with the Supreme Court’s one person-one vote requirement.

When I first heard about this “miscount,” I wasn’t sure exactly who was harmed by it. Normally, we think that living next door to a prison is undesirable; in this situation, though, living next door to the prison is highly beneficial. That’s because the votes of people who live next door to a prison carry more weight than the votes of people who live in non-prison districts. I’m from North Carolina, and there’s a great example of this problem back home that helped me understand the harm caused by prison gerrymandering.

More after the jump.
There’s only one federal prison in North Carolina. But it’s a big one – FCI Butner just north of Durham in Granville County. In 2010, the Census counted about 4,500 people as residents of the Butner prison complex. But none of those incarcerated people can vote, and the vast majority don’t come from North Carolina, much less from Granville County (e.g., Bernie Madoff). Nonetheless, the Census counts them as residents of Granville County, and the county used those numbers to balance their county commissioner and school board districts during the last round of redistricting.

In the example I found, the people who live near the federal prison in Granville County get twice as much political influence as people who don’t. The Granville County commissioner and school board district – District 3 – with the big federal prison complex is about 50% incarcerated (52.5% to be exact). This is a huge benefit to the actual residents of District 3, but harms the residents of every other district in the county. That’s because the commissioner and school board member from the prison district only have to serve about 4,000 actual constituents. In all the other districts in the county, though, the commissioners and school board members each serve about 8,500 constituents. This means that you have less access to your elected representatives if you don’t live in the prison district. Or to put it another way, every 47 residents of the prison district have as much political power as 100 residents in other districts.

Smaller but still important is the effect of prison gerrymandering on state representative and senatorial districts. Newly drawn NC House District 2 is about 6.7% incarcerated if you take into account the federal and state prisons in Butner (there’s a state prison across the street from the federal prison that has about 1,000 inmates). And the new NC Senate District 20 is about 3% incarcerated. Again, the residents of those districts have more access to their state representatives because those representatives don’t have as many real constituents to serve as the representatives from districts without prisons.

While Granville County didn’t address its prison gerrymandering problem this time around, maybe it will in 2020. After all, there are more than 200 counties and cities around the country with prisons that decided not to use the prison populations when redrawing their district lines. To be fair, Granville County is required to submit its redistricting changes to the U.S. Department of Justice under the Voting Rights Act, and it was concerned that removing its prison population might raise a red flag with the U.S. Department of Justice. But of the 200 counties and cities that avoided prison gerrymandering, about 90 were required to have their plans approved by the U.S. Department of Justice, and all received that approval. Or maybe the North Carolina General Assembly will pass legislation – like Maryland and New York, have – mandating that state and local governments draw election districts based on their real populations. Maybe if Mr. Madoff runs for that school board seat then Granville County will realize that it’s absurd to count prisoners as local residents.

A level playing field for independent candidates

— by Bruce Ticker

Pity the poor independent voter whose attitude toward the two major parties is simple:

A pox on both your houses.

That long-standing phrase could be taken literally given GOP control of the U.S. House of Representatives and Democratic control of the U.S. Senate.

Many independents voted for Republicans last November to send a message: If those in charge mess up, we will vote them out. At this rate, Republicans will be vulnerable to voter wrath in November 2012. The budget plan that effectively scraps Medicare is already a campaign issue that should terrify Republicans.

As television host Rachel Maddow correctly points out, Republican candidates pledged to focus on supplying jobs to the millions of Americans who are out of work. GOP House members insist that all their legislative initiatives since early January are tied to new jobs.

It is a stretch that their Jan. 19 repeal of the Affordable Care Act has anything to do with job creation. Or their new proposals on Tuesday, Feb. 8, to add restrictions on funding for abortions and eliminate federal financing for women’s health care clinics that provide abortions. Republican House members engaged in internal party squabbles over funding reductions.

An end to gridlock? Republicans can barely agree on a bad course of action, much less any course.

American voters will always be upset with this country’s direction so long as Democrats and Republicans are fighting one another. Why must we tolerate this?

More importantly, why must voters be forced to choose between candidates from the two major parties? Each Democrat voted out of Congress was replaced by a Republican. Did the dissidents specifically want Republicans in charge? Would voters consider electing a credible independent with a viable chance of winning?

Let’s suppose that in your Congressional District an independent candidate with a sensible platform entered the race against the Democratic incumbent and the Republican challenger. Voters are disappointed, justly or not, with the Democratic incumbent and are not enthused with the Republican. What would they do?

Under the present system, they might fear they will throw their vote away for the independent because most of their neighbors will vote Democrat or Republican. Or, the independent might draw votes from the lesser of the two partisan evils. Also, the party candidates no doubt are better financed and operate more efficient political organizations.

Suppose a system is created in which no one candidate draws votes away from another candidate. Instead, citizens can vote for their candidates and then list their next preferences. If no candidate wins a majority of votes, then a person’s vote can be transferred to a next-preference candidate with a larger share of the votes.

The Center for Voting and Democracy describes further how the system, called Instant Runoff Voting, operates:

“IRV allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference. Voters have the option to rank as many or as few as they wish, but can vote without fear that ranking less favored candidates will harm the chances of their most preferred candidates.

“First choices are then tabulated, and if a candidate receives a majority of first choices, he or she is elected. If nobody has a clear majority of votes on the first count, a series of runoffs are simulated, using each voter’s preferences indicated on the ballot. The weakest candidates are successively eliminated and their voters’ ballots are redistributed to next choices until a candidate earns a majority of votes.”

IRV has prompted criticisms, but at the very least it takes us in the right direction away from what we now have.

More after the jump.
An educated guess: If IRV was in place last November nationwide, the new crop of House members would have likely consisted of a healthy mix of independents and Republicans, along with incumbent Democrats who survived re-election because voters ranked them as their next preference. Maybe neither party would have the majority.

The infusion of a large number of independents in Congress would be the best move for America. The democratic process would be enlivened. Independents would inherently act on the basis of policy and the needs of their constituents. They will not be beholden to either major political party to any appreciable degree, even though they would form alliances with either party depending on the issue at hand.

A system allowing for expansion of candidates would also render conflicts over redistricting somewhat irrelevant. Every 10 years, each major party maneuvers to benefit their chances of winning the most congressional seats. What difference would redistricting make if a level playing field was created for independents?

There are good people with fine intentions in both parties, but they will always factor in the wider political needs of their parties. They need their parties for financial and organizational support in future elections, and they will consider how there votes will affect the political fortunes of other party members.

As it stands, it is nearly impossible to comprehend why the Republican Party exists now except to perpetuate their place in government. They back policies that are harmful to the poor and middle class, and only the greediest among the rich need their help. Democrats make a good-faith effort to serve the public, but they still tailor their positions to shore up re-election chances for the president and for senators and representatives from swing areas.

Democratic leaders would call this moving to the center, others would call it blatant pandering.

Two independents now serving in the Senate usually vote with the Democrats. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-acknowledged socialist, evolved as a highly respected mayor of Burlington, part of the largest metropolitan area in Vermont, and he subsequently served in the House before running for the Senate in 2006.

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman represented Connecticut for three terms before losing the Democratic primary in 2006. He ran as an independent and beat the Democratic nominee in the general election.

The emergence of viable independent candidates is possible in communities with relatively small constituencies such as congressional districts and in small states for Senate and governor posts. It does not seem practical for an independent to get elected president or senator in a large state.

The latter thought may appear to be unrealistic, but it is certainly not impossible. After all, this is America.

We Need Your Help To Slay The Gerrymander

— by Lora Lavin, Representative Government Specialist, League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania

The Jewish Social Policy Action Network, League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, Common Cause Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Jewish Voice need your help to launch to redistricting contest. The contest would set a fair baseline by which politician-drawn maps could be measured.

  • Left unchecked: politicians choose their voters instead of letting voters select their representatives.
  • Gerrymandering is the equivalent of rigging elections to get a predetermined outcome.
  • We believe some good old-fashioned competition can keep politicians honest.

The biggest political power-play of the decade is about to get underway in Pennsylvania.   It is, perhaps, the most  self-serving and least transparent process of state and local government.  It’s called redistricting.  The outcome will determine the shape of representative democracy in Pennsylvania for the next decade.

Redistricting is the process of redrawing congressional, legislative, and local government representatives’ district boundaries so that each district has approximately the same number of people.  The goal is to ensure communities have an equal voice in Congress, state legislatures and city and township councils.  

But the politicians don’t see it that way.  In Pennsylvania and most other states, district lines are drawn by the very lawmakers whose political careers will be affected by the changes.  For them, redistricting is an opportunity to consolidate political power and ensure their reelection prospects.  For example, Philadelphia’s 172nd House District was transformed during the previous redistricting in order to guarantee the reelection of a powerful legislator.  It was only after a political scandal that he was eventually defeated last year.

Modern technology makes this kind of extreme gerrymandering possible.  Using expensive and sophisticated software, politicians can select their voters block by block and even house by house.  The tools they use are “proprietary” meaning access is limited to those with the ability to pay lots of money.  But now, a Philadelphia based software firm, Azavea, in partnership with a political science professor at George Mason University in Virginia, has developed DistrictBuilder. This relatively inexpensive open-source redistricting tool can be used by ordinary citizens to draw district maps and bring elections back into the hands of the people.  

To see how Profs. Michael McDonald (George Mason Univ., Brooking Inst.) and Micah Altman (Harvard, Brookings Inst.) used DistrictBuilder to run Virginia’s redistricting contest, visit the Public Mapping Project website demopublicmapping.org.

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice, in partnership with JSPAN, Common Cause/PA and the PA League of Women Voters want to use DistrictBuilder to sponsor a redistricting competition and demonstrate that a non-partisan, open redistricting process based on objective criteria can produce fair legislative and congressional district maps in Pennsylvania.  The competition would be open to individuals.  The winners would be selected through an objective scoring system based on anti-gerrymandering criteria of compactness, competitiveness, representativeness, equality and integrity.

The three sponsoring organizations can contribute $6,000 toward prizes and incidental competition costs.  But to use the software we need to raise $35,000 before May 1.  Can you help?  To make a tax-deductible contribution click the button or contact [email protected] (Contributions directed to this project will be refunded if we do not meet our fundraising goal.)

For more information or become a co-sponsoring organizations, please contact Dan Loeb [email protected]

More after the jump.
The Philadelphia Jewish Voice is organized pursuant to Pennsylvania’s non-profit corporation law. We have tax exempt status under IRS Code Section 501(c)(3). For more information visit GuideStar.

Contributions are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law. The official registrations and financial information of The Philadelphia Jewish Voice may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling toll-free, within Pennsylvania, 1-800-732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement.

Philadelphia Film Festival

The 19th annual Philadelphia Film Festival will feature 216 screenings of more than 100 domestic and international narrative and documentary films, as well as a multitude of fantastic short films. The Festival will also include exciting VIP receptions and events, a variety of panels with industry professionals and some very special guests. Films will be shown October 14 to 24 utilizing 11 different screens in 6 venues throughout Philadelphia as well as at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute.

Gerrymandering

Above to the right is a clip from the movie Gerrymandering featured

One of politics best-kept secrets, Gerrymandering takes a detailed look at this outdated political loophole, effectively explaining both its origins and the logic behind abolishing this act forever. Every ten years when the results of the census are returned, district lines are redrawn to match the current population trends; Gerrymandering refers to the practice of allowing incumbent politicians to determine where those lines fall, and as one commentator says, “Lines never happen by accident”. Wielding the pen, politicians can make their districts look however they’d like, contain whoever they like, and exclude whoever they don’t. It is a tool that transcends party lines, and is used by both Democrats and Republicans. When done “correctly,” it all but silences the voices of any minority (be they racial, ethnic, political) the incumbents deem threatening. Our democracy is built on a system of checks and balances: if a politician does a good job, his constituents re-elect him, and if he does a poor job, he is replaced. This effective, well-paced documentary by first-time filmmaker Jeff Reichert poses a simple scenario: what happens when the people’s power to speak out against unwanted politicians is revoked? By highlighting California’s 2008 campaign to pass Proposition 11, which changes the policies that allow Gerrymandering to occur, and featuring insight from top analysts, activists and politicians, Gerrymandering explores what happens when a population’s voice is silenced not by oppression, but by loopholes. You may never have heard of Gerrymandering before, but after watching this doc you’re sure to have an opinion on the practice. — Jared Miller

Saving the House: Grassroots to the Rescue

Crossposted from DemConWatch 

Yesterday, chatter started early in the morning with Mike Allen's Playbook that “highly placed Democratic operatives” were convinced the House is gone come November. This was repeated throughout the MSM during the day and evening. The “operatives” were never named.

In a few hours, the GDP numbers for second quarter are due to come out, and they're expected to be devastating. This on top of bad housing and consumables numbers earlier this week. So much for “recovery summer.” Bad for the home team.

If the House is gone, what will the GOP do once John Boehner is Majority Leader? Will they try to fix the economy? Nope. Will they extend Tier 5 benefits? No. Will they actually try to make government smaller, as the teabag candidates are promising? Not a chance. What they'll do is to launch all sorts of investigations to punish Democrats, find new tax programs to soak the middle class while giving dollars on top of more dollars to the rich, and will work to stop anything of worth that the Senate or Administration might attempt to do. Finally, they'll endeavor to do anything they can to eviscerate even more of the Constitution than the Bushies had time to get to. 

Ugly.

Therefore, this is the time to get up and organize. Yes you. The people who don't knock doors and make phone calls – we need you.  Make it a point to call one person a day: or just 7 a week. Friends, family members, neighbors, your kids' friends' parents – tell them how important it is to not let the House go down. (And to vote for the correct Senate candidate, too.) You think that so little an effort won't matter, but it will. It's grassroots, and it will make a difference. Remind them that this economy is the FAULT of the Republicans, and doing the same thing and expecting the same result is the definition of both stupidity and insanity. Convince them to make that one phone call a day.

If we don't do this, not only will we lose the House, but we'll deserve to lose the House.

Before joining DCW in the spring of 2008, I used to send a morning email to about 600 people, which was passed to more people than that. I had started that in 2000. A lot of you reading this have been reading me for a decade. Over that time, I've asked you to contribute to various charities, to get out and vote, to get your kids registered, to join with local organizations and work to get people elected. Some pleas were heeded, and some fell flat. But if I can't get you to make a few phone calls, and you stay home on election day along with everyone else, then the teabaggers win.

I know you're discouraged. I know you're disappointed. Angry. Recently impoverished. Scared.

Get up, get out, and do it anyway.

Need a phone list, a local contact, a script, more information? Drop an email to the demconwatch email address in the left side bar. Put in your phone number if you want me to call you.

This is the little blonde girl saying: please, PLEASE, help me save my world. The stakes are too high to stay silent. And yes, we can.

Together we certainly can.