Florida Senate Committee Takes Up Voting Rights Bill

SPB 7068 – which cleared a procedural hurdle on March 10 and is expected to come back before the Committee later this month – addresses a number of issues, including the use of certain drop-off locations for the submission of absentee ballots. Last year, Secretary of State Ken Detzner issued a directive against the use of some drop-off sites, such as tax collector offices and county library branches, despite their use in Pinellas County since 2008.

Wisconsin Democracy Advocates Push Back Against Voter Suppression and Big Money in Politics

Today, under the banner of the Coalition to Protect Wisconsin Elections, a group of seventeen grassroots nonprofit organizations including People For the American Way gathered in the Wisconsin Senate Parlor to protest a batch of anti-democracy voting rights and campaign finance bills slated for Senate consideration tomorrow. The event included voters with their mouths taped shut to symbolize their voices being silenced by the proposed legislation as well as speakers from a range of progressive organizations, including PFAW regional political coordinator Scott Foval.

Speakers expressed opposition to a legislative package that will restrict access to a free and fair vote, allow unfettered spending on so-called political “issue ads,” and reduce transparency on reporting political activity in Wisconsin, including:

•  Senate Bill 324, restricting early voting hours and banning the option of weekend voting like “souls to the polls” drives organized by faith communities.

•  Senate Bill 267, making it more difficult for people to register to vote early.

•  Senate Bill 655, repealing current law to allow lobbyists to contribute directly to legislators starting April 15 of election years, even while the legislature is in session; lowering the bar for disclosing political contributions; and allowing unlimited Internet political activity without disclosure to the Government Accountability Board.

•  Assembly Bill 202, requiring poll observers to be allowed as close as three feet to poll workers, despite numerous complaints of harassing and intimidating behavior in recent elections.

Also under consideration, but not yet added to the official Senate calendar, is Senate Bill 654, which would rewrite the rules for disclosing political “issue ads” ahead of an election.  And currently seeking sponsors but not yet introduced is a bill that would eliminate same-day voter registration.

These bills could do serious damage to our democracy. In 2012, hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites cast their ballots early. Several municipal clerks, who are responsible for administering elections, offered extended hours for voting to allow working people to participate in their democracy by casting their votes after work or on weekends.

In addition, the proposed new disclosure requirements would allow nearly unlimited, undisclosed political ad spending, both in broadcast and on the Internet, as well as increased allowances for solicitation activity for political bundling by political action committees and political conduits.

But “We, the People” are fighting back. Check out the video of today’s event below:


PFAW Calls On Wisconsin Legislature to Give Voters a Choice On Big Money in Politics

MADISON – Yesterday Wisconsin State Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) introduced SJR 68, a resolution that would place an advisory referendum on the November 2014 ballot calling for a federal constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision. It is a companion resolution to AJR 50, introduced last year by State Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) in the Wisconsin Assembly. People For the American Way regional political coordinator Scott Foval released the following statement:

“The people of Wisconsin deserve a chance to weigh in on the corrupting influence of corporate spending in our democracy. Wisconsinites have made it clear that money in politics is an issue they care deeply about. To date, 27 local resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United have passed in counties and municipalities across Wisconsin. Thirteen more will be on local referendums in April. Just as Representative Taylor has led on this issue in the Assembly, Senator Hansen recognizes that the unbridled spending the Citizens United decision unleashed is harmful to our democracy.

“While the Republican Assembly leadership continues to block progress on AJR 50, we hope the Republican State Senate leadership will put the people first and pass SJR 68 – allowing voters to decide whether a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United is the best way to push back on corporate control of our political process. PFAW continues to stand on the side of the people and will work with our allies in Wisconsin to push for a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics.”


PFAW Applauds Effort to Repeal Same-Sex Marriage Ban in Wisconsin

MADISON – In response to today’s introduction of a resolution to repeal Wisconsin’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples, People For the American Way regional political coordinator Scott Foval released the following statement:

“PFAW applauds State Sen. Tim Carpenter and Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa for fighting to repeal a ban that's preventing thousands of Wisconsin families from accessing the legal protections they need to take care of each other.

“Adjoining states like Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa have shown that marriage equality is a basic fairness issue. Wisconsinites also re​cognize that everyone should be treated equally in the eyes of the law.”

The repeal resolution introduced by Sen. Carpenter and Rep. Zamarripa this morning strikes constitutional amendment language, originally enacted in 2006, defining marriage as solely reserved for one man and one woman.  Other states' same-sex marriage bans have recently been struck down by federal courts as violating the United States Constitution.

People For the American Way regional political coordinator Scott Foval is available for interviews with the press.  To arrange an interview, please contact sfoval@pfaw.org / 414-455-7329 or 608-469-7876.


Wisconsin Marriage Equality Lawsuit and the Judicial Vacancy Crisis

In the Western District of Wisconsin, one of the two active federal judgeships has been vacant for five years.

On Women’s Equality Day, Activists Recommit To Stand With Wisconsin Women at Noon Rally

To celebrate the 93rd Anniversary Women’s Equality Day on Monday, People For members joined hundreds of progressive allies on the steps of the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison for the “Stand With Wisconsin Women” Rally.  The event opened with a song from the Solidarity Singalong participants, and featured Wisconsin women, activists, and legislators speaking out against the Wisconsin GOP’s war against women.

VIDEO: http://youtu.be/H2M9ovQY6nM


(Video credit: Scott Foval / PFAW.org)

“Thanks to the ACA, the Affordable Care Act, I will no longer pay co-pays for my birth control.  As a woman I will no longer be charged simply for being a woman, and attempting to control my own reproductive life,” said Kristina Nailen.  “I am still afraid.  I am afraid that after these nine years of accumulating debt just for my bachelors, graduating this year with 83,000 in debt before interest, that I will be able to manage my own health care and make my loan repayments.”

Nailen called on Governor Walker and the Republican-controlled Wisconsin legislature to reverse their decision to cut the BadgerCare program, and immediately restore health care funding and provide access to more than 100,000 Wisconsin women who count on the program for their health care coverage.

The rally also featured a roster of activists, leaders, and legislators calling for equal pay for women,  for paid family leave legislation, and endorsing the return of legislation promoting common sense, true equality, and fairness for all citizens; including working women, low wage workers, same-sex couples, disabled persons, and immigrants.  Following the rally participants entered the Wisconsin capitol building to lobby Governor Walker and members of the Wisconsin legislature, demanding they refocus on creating well-paying jobs, and stop enacting anti-woman measures as distractions from economically-focused legislation.


Wisconsin GOP Lawmaker Argues Income Limits on School Vouchers 'Penalize Married Couples'

Wisconsin state legislators are in the final days of negotiations on a plan that would expand private school vouchers statewide (they are currently only available in Milwaukee and Racine). The current deal on the program would cap voucher enrollment at one percent of a districts students, but Gov. Scott Walker and other lawmakers would like to expand them further. That includes Republican state Sen. Glenn Grothman, who told Jack Craver of The Capital Times today that not allowing wealthy families who can already afford to send their children to private school to participate in the program would “penalize married couples.”

One of the major concerns in recent years about school vouchers is that they often benefit families who already have the money to send their kids to private schools.

At the same time, the Legislature expanded the state-paid voucher program to Racine. And now, data show that nearly half of the students receiving vouchers in that city were already enrolled in private schools before the program was put in place.

But Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, an outspoken advocate for expanding vouchers to all people and all school districts, says he believes there’s a good side to higher-income families participating in the program: It promotes marriage.

“I think the major thing is we cannot allow the voucher program to penalize married couples,” he told me in a brief phone conversation Monday morning. “In Milwaukee, we raised (the limit) to 300 percent of the federal poverty line and we began to get more married couples in the program, and I don’t want to back off on that.”

The veteran legislator is worried that current negotiations over a further expansion of vouchers to other districts may result in lower income thresholds for voucher recipients and thus reduce the number of two-parent families participating in the program.

Grothman is the same state senator who authored a bill last year to label single parenthood as “a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.”

Wisconsin Republicans Try to Limit Power of Courts Blocking Their Agenda

Last week, we reported on the creative and constitutionally questionable efforts by Iowa Republicans to punish the state supreme court justices who issued the state’s landmark marriage equality ruling.

Now, Wisconsin Republicans are up to something similar, seeking to strip county circuit court judges of the ability to issue preliminary injunctions on laws that may be unconstitutional. The measure, which was introduced last month and had public hearings yesterday, is widely seen as a reaction to judicial injunctions on efforts by state Republicans to impose voter ID requirements and limit collective bargaining rights.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel explains:

With some of their major legislative achievements thwarted by trial courts in the past two years, Wisconsin Republicans have been looking for ways to rein in local judges, particularly in liberal areas such as Dane County.

Since 2011, circuit court judges have blocked all or parts of laws backed by Republicans that required voters to show photo ID at the polls, limited collective bargaining for public employees and expanded the governor's power over administrative rules. Under a measure announced last month, such injunctions would be automatically stayed as soon as they were appealed - meaning laws that were blocked would be put back in effect until a higher court issued a ruling.

The state’s nonpartisan Legislative Council is now warning that the bill is likely unconstitutional.

Incidentally, one of the bill’s sponsors is state Sen. Glenn Grothman, who last year tried to get a state public health agency to list single parenthood listed as “a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.”

Common Sense Gun Solutions Struggle Against Mindless NRA and GOP Opposition

The big gun lobby and its yes men in Congress, it seems, are much more interested in protecting the loose regulations of the gun industry than they are with taking practical steps towards public safety.

PFAW Calls on Republican Governors to Follow Virginia’s Lead, Denounce Election-Rigging

WASHINGTON – People For the American Way today called on the Republican governors of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio to reject plans to rig their states’ electoral vote apportionment. Today, a Virginia state Senate committee resoundingly  rejected a similar plan by a vote of 11-4.

A People For the American Way petition denouncing the election-rigging scheme has gathered over 80,000 signatures.

“The GOP should be trying to earn the respect of voters, not rigging the system against voters’ wishes,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. “The Virginia Senate’s rejection of this plan should be a warning for those proposing it in other states. This is an extremist gambit, and it damages the credibility of those who support it. It is stunning that this scheme has gotten as far as it has. Governors Walker, Corbett and Kasich should take the lead in their states and stop this undemocratic plan before it goes any further.”


PFAWF Releases Reports on Outside Election Spending in 21 States, Organizes ‘Money Out/Voters In’ Events Across the U.S.

Out of State Money Floods Contests in 2012

Washington, DC –  Today People For the American Way Foundation unveiled new state-by-state fact sheets detailing outside spending in U.S. Senate and House races in 21 states.  Each report analyzes the outside spending totals from Super PACs, dark money groups, and out-of-state spenders in the down ballot federal races from the 2012 election cycle.  The fact sheets reveal that, on average, a majority of outside election money in these states came from Super PACs.  And in every case, a vast majority came from organizations registered outside of the state.

The release of the “Outside Spending, Outsized Influence” reports coincide with the weekend marking Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the third anniversary of Citizens United v. FEC  to draw attention to the dual threats of voter suppression and unlimited corporate and special interest money in politics. The reports – a partnership between PFAWF and U.S. PIRG – are part of the Money Out/Voters In campaign.  As part of that campaign, People For the American Way Foundation, its affiliate People For the American Way, and other organizers across the country are hosting “Day of Action” events in more than 76 cities in 33 states this weekend. Members of People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council will be leading Money Out/Voters In events in Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia.

“Last year’s elections were far and away the most expensive in history,” said People For the American Way Foundation Executive Vice President Marge Baker.  “A major reason was the influx of outside, special interest spending in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision. When big money floods our elections, it dwarfs the ability of individual Americans to have their voices heard. Just as important, when politicians push laws to suppress the vote, we turn back the clock on decades on progress to expand and improve our democracy. We need to pursue the full range of remedies to address the problem of too much money in politics, including amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United, and we need to stand up against the growing threat of voter suppression.  This weekend we are joining with allies across the country to call for a democracy that gets Money Out and Voters In.”

The states featured in the reports are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin.

For links to each report, please visit: http://www.pfaw.org/issues/outside-spending-outsized-influence-big-and-s...

For more information about the Money Out/Voters In campaign or the Days of Action, please visit: http://www.moneyout-votersin.org


GOP Electoral College Power Play Tests Our Democracy

The GOP proposal to game the Electoral College in key blue states represents a massive escalation in the GOP war against electoral democracy.

Reince Priebus, Ron Johnson to Headline Dinner Hosted by Birther Alabama GOP Chair

Sen. Rand Paul isn’t the only prominent Republican hanging out with birthers these days. Next month, RNC chairman Reince Preibus and Wisconson Sen. Ron Johnson will travel to Alabama to headline a dinner hosted by state GOP chairman Bill Armistead. Armistead raised eyebrows last year when he publicly recommended “Dreams From My Real Father,” a “documentary” that promotes the alternate birther theory that President Obama somehow inherited a Marxist worldview from his “real father” Frank Marshall Davis. Somewhat unbelievably, Armistead stated that he had “verified that it is factual, all of it.”

Interestingly, Priebus and Johnson will be stepping into the middle of a fight over whether Armistead will keep his job. (He faces a challenger backed by his longtime rival, state House Speaker Mike Hubbard.) Charles Dean at the Birmingham News reports that Priebus might be attending as a political favored to Armistead:

Some saw Tuesday's late announcement by Armistead that Priebus had accepted the invitation to attend the dinner as a sign that maybe Armistead had convinced the GOP national party chairman to support him.

Late last week Armistead announced that he was supporting Priebus for a second term as Republican Party Chairman. So far Priebus is unopposed for a second term but rumors have persisted for months that a challenger might step up.

UPDATE: The RNC tells the Birmingham News that Priebus is not taking sides in the party chairmanship race.

LaBarbera: Tammy Baldwin 'Hardly a Role Model,' Lacks 'Healthy, Wholesome Behaviors'

Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality was indignant about the “shocking” election of Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin to the U.S. Senate, making her the first openly gay Senator. He told Jim Schneider of VCY America on Crosstalk that Baldwin is “hardly a role model for young women,” whom he says should uphold “healthy, wholesome behaviors, not lesbianism.”

LaBarbera: All of the sudden I wake up to the news and look on the TV and see that Tammy Baldwin, a radical homosexual and pro-abortion feminist, everything’s on the left in her policies, is now elected Senator in Wisconsin. It was quite shocking.

Schneider: The Human Rights Campaign, they call themselves ‘the largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality,’ they celebrated this, they attribute part of this, to ensure her victory they said ‘they raised and contributed well over $500,000 for her campaign’ and they said Tammy Baldwin is ‘a role model for LGBT youth and young women across the country.’

LaBarbera: Human Rights Campaign should be called the Human Wrongs Campaign; it’s a homosexual pressure group and we would expect them to be celebrating Tammy Baldwin’s victory. But she’s hardly a role model for young women, we want women to embrace marriage and healthy, wholesome behaviors, not lesbianism. Her policies are to the far-left, she’s pro-abortion, in so many ways she represents what’s wrong with the left and now she’s going to be in the Senate for six years.

Recounting the other defeats gay equality opponents suffered in the election, LaBarbera warned that more Americans are embracing the “complete blasphemy” of same-sex marriage and that we are “seeing a civilization’s moral decline” with the rise of the “side of sin, of evil, the pro-homosexual side.”

The idea of homosexual marriage is a complete blasphemy and you would think that with most Christians the vast majority would get it and not affirm such positions, but sadly I think our society is de-Christianizing, it is becoming more secular, a recent study showed that a shocking number of Americans are unchurched. You see in such an environment, basically you are seeing a civilization’s moral decline, the secular forces, the sin movement which is homosexual rights, has more momentum. Unless we see revival in this country, we’re going to see more of this where the side of sin, of evil, the pro-homosexual side, has more energy than the side of good, which is the defense of marriage.

LaBarbera also attacked UPS for ending its financing of the Boy Scouts because the organization conflicts from the company’s anti-discrimination policy, and said that “I think most Americans agree that we don’t want homosexual men out camping in tents in forest with young boys, I certainly wouldn’t want a homosexual man, an open homosexual, with my young son.”

Look who the real discriminators are, it’s UPS, they are saying if you adhere to a certain policy, which happens to be the Boy Scouts’ moral creed, their morally straight policy which precludes homosexual Scout Masters, and I think most Americans agree that we don’t want homosexual men out camping in tents in forest with young boys, I certainly wouldn’t want a homosexual man, an open homosexual, with my young son. Yet that is called discrimination and they lose the funding while the Human Rights Campaign, which has multimillions of dollars, this hugely funded homosexual group, will continue to get UPS’s funding.

Romney Campaign Trains Poll Watchers With False Information

With all the fact checkers focused on campaign speeches and debates, Mitt Romney’s campaign is turning to a new outlet for their lies: poll watcher trainings. In Wisconsin the Romney campaign has been training poll watchers with false information about voter’s rights, according to a ThinkProgress article today. In truth, Wisconsin law makes it easy for eligible voters to cast a ballot, and it's critically important that we don't let the Romney campaign scare any voters away from the polls.

In one egregious example, the training materials indicate that voter IDs must have photos, which is not the case in Wisconsin. ThinkProgress points out other disturbing claims the training materials make, including:

CLAIM: On page 16, entitled “The ONLY Acceptable Forms of ‘Proof of Residency”, the third bullet point says “Any other identification card issued by an employer in the normal course of business and bearing a photo of the cardholder, but not including a business card.” The sixth bullet point also said any college ID card “must include a photo.”

FACT: Wisconsin’s new voter ID law, which would have required these photos in order to vote, was struck down by Wisconsin state judges. It is not in effect for the November 2012 election.

CLAIM: Any “person [who] has been convicted of treason, a felony, or bribery” isn’t eligible to vote. (Page 10)

FACT: [In Wisconsin] Once a person who has been convicted of a felony completes his or her sentence, including probation and fines, that person is eligible to vote.

CLAIM: “If a handicapped voter is unable to come into the polls to vote, an assistant can deliver the ballot to the voter if the CEI verifies the elector’s proof of residency.” (Page 19)

FACT: Under Wisconsin law, the CEI (Chief Election Inspector) does not have to verify proof of residency so long as the voter is registered.

This is not a case of a single training gone awry. These trainings have been held across the state for the past two weeks. This is an instance of Mitt Romney’s campaign repeatedly spreading lies to poll watchers.

In recent months our affiliate People For the American Way Foundation has written about many attempts from the Right at voter suppression – from limiting early voting opportunities to proposing or passing voter ID legislation, purportedly to combat the virtually nonexistent issue of voter fraud.

Romney's efforts to disenfranchise those least likely to support him in Wisconsin is no surprise. Instead, it is just another component of a systemic nationwide effort to deny Americans the right to vote. The Romney campaign knows exactly what it is doing by spreading blatant falsehoods in its training materials – lies likely to cause serious damage to voting rights on Election Day.

Despite the lies of the Romney campaign, voting is easy and accessible. Let's make sure we turn out the vote and make our voices heard in this critical election.


The Right to Vote Under Attack, 2012 Update

Here we detail, as of October 6, 2012, except where otherwise noted, the latest efforts across the country to suppress the vote, as well as some encouraging successes in expanding the franchise.
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