Call Your State Legislators · Community Activism · Elections · Voting Rights, Fighting Voter Suppression

Learn If Your State Is Passing Laws That Restrict Voting, and Fight Back

This OTYCD entry originally posted in June 2017.

Is your state trying to pass laws that make it harder to vote? Consult the Brennan Center’s info and maps, and if the answer is yes, fight back.

 

Voting restrictions are a scourge on democracy, but as long as they benefit Republicans, Republicans will try to pass them. We feel that if you are eligible to vote, and you want to vote, you should be able to vote, and you should be given many options for doing so to let you choose what works best for your schedule.

 

The Brennan Center for Justice, located at the New York University School of Law, tracks state bills that intend or have the effect of making it harder to vote.

 

First, read the Brennan Center’s Voting Laws Roundup for 2017, and see if your state is mentioned:

https://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/voting-laws-roundup-2017?utm_content=bufferba0df&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

 

Also see the Brennan Center’s interactive map of New Voting Restrictions in America:

https://www.brennancenter.org/new-voting-restrictions-america

 

Once you know what’s going on in your state, call your state-level reps to speak out against laws that restrict voting.

 

Don’t know who your state house rep and state senator are? Plug your address and zip code into this search tool (note–the address is key. If you only give your zip code, you won’t get the two names you most need):

https://whoaremyrepresentatives.org

 

Then click on the names of your state house rep and state senator. Their contact info will come up.

 

Here’s a sample script that you can modify accordingly:

“Dear (State Senator/House Rep Lastname), I ask you to oppose (House/Senate bill ####), which will have the effect of making it harder to cast a vote. Everyone who is eligible to vote, and wants to, should have the opportunity to do so. Bills and laws that make it harder to vote are inherently anti-democratic. Please do not sponsor, co-sponsor, or support bills that stop people from voting. Thank you.”

 

Subscribe to One Thing You Can Do by clicking the button on the upper right of the page. And tell your friends about the blog!

Community Activism · Use Your Power, Recruit Friends · Voting Rights, Fighting Voter Suppression

Learn Which Three States Prevent Felons Who Have Fulfilled Their Sentences from Voting, And Learn How Other States Handle Felons and Voting Rights

Learn which three states prevent felons who have fulfilled their sentences from voting, and learn how other states handle felons and voting rights.

 

Florida made headlines in November 2018 when about 65 percent of voters who turned out supported Amendment 4, which restored voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences.

 

Amendment 4 could re-enfranchise more than one million Florida voters, many of them black. Naturally, the GOP-controlled state legislature is trying to get around the implications of the new law by attempting what amounts to an unconstitutional poll tax. (Fortunately, Andrew Gillum is on the case.)

 

Three other states are as restrictive as Florida once was with its felons. They are:

 

Iowa

 

Kentucky

 

Virginia

 

We at OTYCD are not aware of any Amendment 4-style efforts in those states to change their laws, but if we learn of any, we will post them here and probably give them separate posts as well.

 

 

In 19 states, prisoners, parolees, and people on probation cannot vote, but everyone else can.

Those 19 states are:

 

Alaska

 

New Jersey

 

West Virginia

 

North Carolina

 

South Carolina

 

Georgia

 

Wisconsin

 

Minnesota

 

South Dakota

 

Nebraska

 

Missouri

 

Kansas

 

Arkansas

 

Oklahoma

 

Louisiana

 

Texas

 

New Mexico

 

Idaho

 

Washington

 

Felons who live in these states could benefit from a public awareness campaign that lets them know that if they have completed their sentences, they are eligible to vote.

 

 

Four states bar prisoners and parolees from voting, but allow those on probation to vote. They are:

 

California

 

New York

 

Colorado

 

Connecticut

 

Again, a public awareness-raising campaign would be useful here.

 

 

Fourteen other states, plus the District of Columbia, only stop people in prison from voting. But, again, ex-prisoners, parolees, and folks on probation may not be aware that they’re eligible to vote. This group includes:

 

Rhode Island

 

New Hampshire

 

Massachusetts

 

Pennsylvania

 

Maryland

 

Ohio

 

Michigan

 

Indiana

 

Illinois

 

North Dakota

 

Montana

 

Utah

 

Oregon

 

The District of Columbia

 

Just two states never take away their residents’ right to vote, even if they’re in prison: Vermont and Maine.

 

Getting as many people out to vote–both in 2019 election and the 2020 election–is crucial. Please know your rights and help others know their rights.

 

See the ACLU’s Felony Disenfranchisement Laws map:

https://www.aclu.org/issues/voting-rights/voter-restoration/felony-disenfranchisement-laws-map

 

See our past post about the ACLU, which includes links to its main page and a donation page:

https://onethingyoucando.com/2018/12/08/support-the-american-civil-liberties-union-aclu/

 

Subscribe to One Thing You Can Do by clicking the blue button on the upper right or checking the About & Subscribe page. And tell your friends about the blog!

 

See the OTYCD 2019 To-Do List, which stresses helping register people to vote:

https://onethingyoucando.com/your-2019-to-do-list/

 

Support Andrew Gillum’s org, Bring It Home Florida, which helps Floridians register to vote:

https://onethingyoucando.com/2019/03/31/help-andrew-gillum-register-floridians-to-vote-in-time-for-the-2020-presidential-race/

 

See an April 2018 piece from the New York Times on states’ laws regarding felons and voting rights:

 

Common-sense Gun Laws · Community Activism · Elections · Stand Up for Civilization · Stand Up for Norms

Help Vote Out the Florida Legislators Who Refused to Open Debate on an Assault Weapons Ban in Their State

Help vote out the Florida legislators who voted against opening debate on a bill that would have banned assault weapons in their state.

 

Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School is located in Parkland, Florida. The Valentine’s Day 2018 massacre killed 17 and injured at least 14.

 

The first relevant bill to come up in the Florida legislature following the MSD shooting was HB 219, an assault weapons ban sponsored by Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, a Democrat from Orlando, site of the Pulse nightclub attack in 2017, which killed 50. The killers in both the MSD attack and the Orlando incident used semi-automatic weapons, which are often called “assault weapons”.

 

The vote, conducted on February 20, 2018, was about moving the bill from the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee to the House floor, so the full legislative body could begin debate.

 

The vote split along party lines: 36 Democrats voted yes, and 71 Republicans voted no. (Ten others did not vote, and three seats in the Florida house are currently empty.)

 

Some students from MSD were present in the chamber for the vote.

 

They already knew that federal-level representatives were not the only thing standing in the way of saner gun laws, but this was cold, hard proof of the fact.

 

The day after the vote, MSD shooting survivor and senior David Hogg (@davidhogg111) tweeted, “Hope you guys enjoyed being Politicians! “, and included a screenshot showing the name of each Florida house member and how they voted on whether to move HB 219 ahead.

 

If you live in Florida, please check this list and see how your state House rep voted. Call them or email them to thank them if they voted yes or scorn them if they voted no. If you don’t live in Florida, watch for campaigns by Sister District, Flippable, and Postcards to Voters (Tony the Democrat’s effort) that target Florida House candidates.

 

Every single member of Florida’s House will be up for re-election in November. Identify those who need to be voted out, and do what you can to make that happen.

 

 

Subscribe to One Thing You Can Do by clicking the button on the upper right of the page. And tell your friends about the blog!

 

 

See the full roll call for how the Florida House voted on the question of moving HB 219 forward on February 20, 2018:

http://www.tampabay.com/florida-politics/buzz/2018/02/21/how-they-voted-the-roll-call-on-assault-weapons-ban/

 

 

Here’s another story on the same topic, but with contact info for each of the 71 Florida House reps who voted no:

https://www.local10.com/news/parkland-school-shooting/here-is-the-list-of-the-71-who-voted-against-bringing-hb-219-to-florida-house-floor

 

 

And here’s a New York Times piece on how righteously pissed-off MSD students are pressuring the hell out of Florida Republicans. It includes a photo of MSD students watching the February 20, 2018 vote:

 

A note: We at OTYCD intend to nurture and encourage the movement sparked by the Margory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting by devoting one post at least every other week to gun safety-related issues.

 

The reason that the NRA has a death grip on Congress, and in particular, GOP Congressfolk, is that NRA members get off their asses and call if there’s a whisper of a muttering of a hint that a law might pass that could impose even the slightest imposition on ownership of guns in America.

 

That’s what the politicians are afraid of. It’s not just that some of them get metric buttloads of money for their campaigns from the NRA. Those who embrace the NRA’s outlook pounce on their phones and berate their representatives the instant they think their beloved guns are under threat.

 

So, yes, it’s on us to shout back.

 

We have to adopt the tactics of those who support the NRA.

 

We have to call our representatives often to make it damn clear that the status quo is unacceptable, and we want common-sense gun safety laws.

 

OTYCD will start out with one weekday post every two weeks, at minimum, that has to do with improving gun safety and pushing back against the NRA.

 

We do this in honor of the Parkland victims, and all victims of mass shootings in America, and everyone who has been fighting to change our laws on firearms all along.

 

If Trump finally bows to the will of Congress and imposes the sanctions against Russia for messing with the 2016 election, we will switch to devoting one post per week to these issues.

 

Honor the victims of the Parkland shooting, and all other shootings, by stepping up and calling your reps about common-sense gun safety laws, and by supporting politicians who have low grades from the NRA, and voting out those who do the NRA’s bidding.

 

#NeverAgain. For the love of all that is right and good, Never Again.

 

 

Call Your State Legislators · Elections · Ethics · Stand Up for Norms · Use Your Power, Recruit Friends

Ask Your State Legislators to Pass a Bill Requiring Presidential Candidates to Release Their Tax Returns Or Else

This OTYCD entry originally posted in April 2017.

Have a look at this bill that Massachusetts State Senator Michael Barrett proposed that would require all presidential and vice presidential candidates to release five years’ worth of tax returns, and ask your own state legislators to pass a similar bill. 

When the feds are asleep at the wheel, we citizens have to turn to state and local government to step in and steer as best they can. Trump promised to release his tax returns when he was a presidential candidate, but has consistently refused to honor his pledge. Enter Massachusetts state senator Mike Barrett, who’s doing his best to make sure no one else can pull the same move without consequences.

In January he proposed Bill S.365, titled An Act Restoring Financial Transparency in Presidential Elections. If passed, it would require all presidential and vice presidential candidates to release five years’ worth of tax returns if they want to appear on the state’s ballot. Candidates who fail to comply lose the right to appear on the ballot; they could only compete as a write-in.

Brendan Berger, who handles communications for Barrett, says the state senator consulted constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe, on the bill, and reports that Tribe believes it will pass muster.

Could your state pass something similar?

First, check and make sure your state legislators aren’t already on the case. A handful of states, all heavily Democratic, are pursuing similar measures.

If your state legislators aren’t mulling a bill like this one yet, call or email them and ask them to consider it.

To find your state legislators, plug your address and zip code into this web site:

https://whoaremyrepresentatives.org

Once you have the two names you need, go to the web site for your state legislature and find the contact information for your state senator and state house rep.

Contacting your state house rep and state senator is different from contacting your federal-level reps. Calls and emails are equally effective, and you’re far more likely to get through to the actual elected official. It might be best to start with your state senator, seeing as Barrett is a state senator.

Sample email: Dear State Senator (Lastname), I am (Firstname Lastname), and I live in (town, zip code). I am emailing to ask if you would consider introducing a bill that would require all presidential and vice presidential candidates to release five years’ worth of tax returns in order to appear on our state’s ballot. Having a law like this in place would prevent future candidates from refusing to release their returns, as Trump has. I have (attached/included a link) to a Massachusetts bill now under consideration that is designed to address this issue. Thanks for considering my request. Sincerely, (Firstname Lastname).

 

Read the text of Massachusetts State Senator Mike Barrett’s bill:

https://malegislature.gov/Bills/190/S365/Senate/Bill/Text

 

Read Barrett’s statement about his bill, S.365, which explains it in plainer language:

http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Mass–law-can-compel-presidential-candidates-to-release-their-tax-returns—So-let-s-do-it—The-Barrett-Report–December–2016-.html?soid=1110058483636&aid=dXsAzV6_NRA

 

Read stories from Massachusetts newspapers on Barrett’s bill:

https://www.boston.com/news/politics/2016/12/15/this-massachusetts-bill-could-block-donald-trump-from-the-ballot-in-2020

http://lexington.wickedlocal.com/news/20161214/senator-mike-barret-d-lexington-wants-presidential-candidates-tax-returns-to-run-for-office-in-massachusetts

 

This Politico article contains references to efforts in Illinois and New Mexico to pass state bills that are similar to that of Barrett’s (scroll down a good bit):

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/state-legislators-trump-trolling-234919

 

Special thanks to Brendan Berger for answering OTYCD‘s questions about Mike Barrett’s bill via DM on Twitter. Please follow him: @brendanberger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Action Alerts · Community Activism · Public Education · Vote with your Dollars

UPDATED: Pay the Meal Debts of Students at Your Local K-12 School and Ask Your State Legislature to Pass an Anti-Lunch-Shaming Bill

Call a local K-12 school in your area and ask if you can pay off the school lunch debt of a student or two. Also, find out if your state has an anti-lunch-shaming bill and if it doesn’t, ask your legislature to pass one.

 

Low-income families sometimes struggle to pay the school lunch bills of their children. Hungry kids have trouble learning, but some poor kids suffer worse than a missed meal. Some have suffered the indignity of having their breakfast or lunch taken from them and thrown in the trash. Sometimes this happens in sight of their classmates.

 

In extreme cases (scroll down for a New York Times article that relays these incidents), students who owe are forced to clean cafeteria tables. The arm of a child in Alabama was stamped with the phrase “I Need Lunch Money.”

 

Being poor isn’t good or bad; it just is. No child should be made to feel shame over not having as much money as their fellow students, or made to suffer socially because their parents fell behind in their school meal payments or simply forgot.

 

One way you can fight back is to call a K-12 school near you and ask if you can pay the bills of students whose families are in arrears. Odds are there’s at least one school in your city or town that has unpaid school meal bills. A 2016 report by the School Nutrition  Association states that roughly 75 percent of responding districts had at least some student meal debt by the end of the school year.

 

This is an admittedly imperfect solution, as it lets the government off the hook for funding a service that minor children should be able to expect, but it does help where help is needed.

 

You can also ask your state legislators if your state has an anti-lunch-shaming bill on the books, and if they don’t, you can ask them to pass one.

 

First, find your state legislators by plugging your zip code into this web tool:

https://whoaremyrepresentatives.org/

 

Then look up their biographies on your state legislature’s web site and see if either your state senator or state house rep or both sit on any education-related committees. If they do, it is extra-important for you to pursue this matter.

 

Ask your state reps to pass a bill like the Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights Act, which New Mexico’s governor signed into law in April. It appears to be the first bill of its kind passed by an American state. It outlaws any techniques that have the effect of shaming students, and it asks schools to work with parents to satisfy meal debt or get them on a federal school meal assistance program.

 

Subscribe to One Thing You Can Do by clicking the button on the upper right of the page. And tell your friends about the blog!

 

GOOD UPDATE: A Seattleite by the name of Jeff Lew has made it his mission to combat lunch debt and school practices that shame children whose parents have trouble paying for meals.

 

His GoFundMe is a clearinghouse for schools in need, and it lets you start a campaign on behalf of a school near you:

https://www.gofundme.com/raise-funds/erase-lunch-debt

 

You can also show support by following him on Twitter:

@biglew8

…and following his dedicated Twitter account for the cause, which is admittedly a work  in progress as of May 28:

@LunchDebt

 

 

Read this 2016 Atlantic piece on unpaid school meal bills:

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/02/unpaid-school-lunch-bills/460509/

 

 

See the particulars of the New Mexico anti-shaming law:

https://www.nmlegis.gov/Legislation/Legislation?Chamber=S&LegType=B&LegNo=374&year=17

 

 

Read this New York Times piece on the New Mexico anti-shaming law:

 

See the School Nutrition Association report that states that three-quarters of districts who filled out the survey had outstanding student debts (scan for the paragraph with the phrase “unpaid student meal debt” in bold):

https://schoolnutrition.org/NewsPublications/PressReleases/SNANationalSurveyRevealsIncreasedEffortsToPromoteStudentConsumptionOfHealthyChoices/

 

 

Read about that incident in Alabama where a kid’s arm was stamped with the phrase ‘I Need Lunch Money’:

http://www.al.com/news/birmingham/index.ssf/2016/06/gardendale_elementary_student.html

 

 

See more proof that school lunch-shaming is, sadly, a thing:

Some Schools Shame Students When Their Parents Can’t Pay For Lunch

http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/children-shamed-so-parents-will-pay-the-school-lunch-bill/

 

 

Read about recent efforts by individual citizens to settle unpaid student meal debt:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/donors-unite-nationwide-to-pay-off-kids-school-lunch-debt/

 

 

Call Your State Legislators · Online Privacy, Net Neutrality

Urge Your State Legislators to Protect Your Privacy on the Internet

This OTYCD entry originally posted in May 2017.

 

Call and email your state legislators and ask them to create laws that will protect your privacy on the Internet.

 

Earlier, we urged you to call your house reps and ask them to vote against H.R. Res 86, which, if passed, would gut consumer privacy protections online. (We’re sure you won’t be surprised to know the bill was entirely sponsored by Republicans.) Well, it passed, and Trump signed it.

 

Now we must turn to our state legislators to protect us from those who would harvest our data and sell it.

 

Some state legislatures are already on the case. Illinois is working on a European-style “right to know” law that would tell customers what information search engines and social media platforms are gathering on them, and who they’re selling it to. Minnesota is mulling a law that would stop Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from selling consumer information without written permission. Massachusetts state senators just introduced a bill similar to Minnesota’s.

 

The first step in asking your state legislators to pass laws protecting your online privacy is knowing who they are.

 

Find your state senator and house rep here, as well as your state attorney general:

https://whoaremyrepresentatives.org/

 

 

Then call or email them and ask them to pass laws that protect consumer privacy online, assuming they aren’t already doing that. If they are, tell them that you support their efforts, and ask what you can do to help make them law.

 

 

Sample script: “Hello, I am <Firstname Lastname from town, zip code>. I am contacting you to ask you to write, support, and pass laws that will protect <state name> consumers’ online privacy. As you know, Trump recently signed a law that allows Internet Service Providers to harvest information about their users’ online movements and sell it to third parties. I would like you and your colleagues to consider bills like those being discussed in Minnesota and Massachusetts, which would not let ISPs sell someone’s data without their written permission. Illinois is also considering a bill that would force search engines and social media platforms to tell consumers what data they’re gathering, and who they’re selling it to. Laws like these would do much to protect our privacy online. Thank you.”

 

 

Subscribe to One Thing You Can Do by clicking the blue button on the upper right or checking the About & Subscribe page. And tell your friends about the blog!

 

 

Read about the states’ reaction to the passage of HR Res 86:

 

 

Read about the efforts in the Illinois and Minnesota state legislatures to protect their residents’ online privacy:

Now that the US federal government doesn’t care about internet privacy, states are stepping in

 

 

Call Your State Legislators · Fighting Bigotry, Racism, Sexism, Homophobia, Transphobia... · Health Care · Read, Educate Yourself, Prepare · Use Your Power, Recruit Friends · Vote with your Dollars

Find Out If Your State Has Abortion Trigger Laws and Make Sure They’re Pro-Choice

This OTYCD entry originally posted in July 2017.

Does your state have abortion trigger laws–laws that instantly go into effect if Roe vs Wade is overturned? Find out, and urge your state legislators to pass pro-choice laws if need be. 

Trump and the Republicans are hell-bent on overturning Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision that ensured that women will have safe, reliable access to abortion on demand. Trump announced his intention to appoint anti-choice SCOTUS judges and, well, just look at the nonsense that so many Republicans have pursued lately on this front.

If Roe vs Wade is overturned, the power to regulate abortion access goes back to the states. It makes eminent sense, then, to see what laws your state has on its books. Many have put so-called ‘trigger laws’ in place–laws that will ban legal abortion instantly should Roe vs Wade disappear.

Is your state one of them?

First, you should learn how accessible abortion services are in your state right now. NARAL Pro-choice America has created an interactive map that will show you (scroll down a bit to find the map).

https://www.prochoiceamerica.org/laws-policy/state-government/

Mouse over your state to see if it offers strongly restricted access (red); restricted access (pinkish); some access (purple-pink); protected access (purple); or strongly protected access (blue).

Once you have learned how things are now, while abortion is legal on the federal level, go to the link below, find your local chapter of NARAL, ask whether your state has anti-choice trigger laws on the books, and ask what you can do to get them overturned.

https://www.prochoiceamerica.org/about/state-affiliates/

 

You can also use a nifty tool created by the Our States web site that shows you at a glance whether your state is considering anti-choice legislation right now. Click the link below and click on ‘Reproductive Justice’:

https://www.ourstates.org/#ourstates

 

Like NARAL Pro-Choice America’s Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/naralprochoiceamerica

 

Follow NARAL Pro-Choice on Twitter:

@NARAL

 

Donate to NARAL Pro-Choice America:

https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/homepage_maindonate/?refcode=mainbutton