Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Young People Will Have To Bring About Fundamental Change: Their Elders Are Only Comfortable With The Status Quo


I hope young people are paying close attention to the Democratic Party presidential nomination race. The Party does not have their interest or needs in mind. It is time for them to fight for their future.

In the beginning, I must admit, I was really excited by the field of candidates seeking the Democratic Party nomination for President. Donald Trump is one of the most unapologetic racist, xenophobic, and sexist individuals ever elected to be President of the United States.

When the race started, it was the most diverse group of candidates in the history of the Democratic Party presidential nomination process. With roughly 8 months to go, two white men in their late 70s with sharp ideological and policy differences are the leading candidates fighting for the nomination. Although it is not a surprise, this is not what I had hoped for at the beginning of this process.

On one side is Joe Biden, 77-year old former U.S. Senator and Barack Obama’s vice-president and pal who has sought the presidency on 2 other occasions. He is a moderate who believes in bipartisanship and incremental change.

On the other side is Bernie Sanders, a 78-year old Senator from Vermont who is self-identified Democratic Socialist who has for decades advocated aggressively for fundamental change to our social and economic systems.

The Democratic Party establishment is uniting around Biden for what I describe as ‘Operation WIMP’ (Win Independent Moderate People). The goal is to beat back the under 40 years-old supporters of Sanders and his brand of socialism they admire, take the black vote for granted (where else do we have to go), and win back Trump supporters like the mythical Joe the Plumber and Becky the Soccer, Lacrosse, Crew, Basketball, Baseball, I Packed Your Lunch And Here Is Your Homework, Do All The Cooking and Cleaning Suburban Mom.

The stakes are quite obvious.

To the establishment, if Biden wins the nomination, there will be no more talk about ‘free’ or ‘universal’ stuff, just ONLY the stuff we can afford? What this means then is that a Biden presidency puts back on the table such status quo proposals (and perhaps some bipartisanship support) for things like entitlement reform, the closing of some loopholes in the tax code, limiting pollution through Cap and Trade, and lowering interest rates on student loans.

Off the table, of course will be the kind of fundamental change that progressives and young people want, the kind of change that has attracted them to the Sanders campaign and may give them a reason to not support the Democratic Party in the future if Biden loses the contest in November.

I did a presentation the other day for a group of mostly students of color coming from working- and middle-class families as part of Hillyer College Admissions Day, a group of young people who would benefit from the elimination of student loan debt and universal healthcare.

Unfortunately for them, the Democratic Party establishment thinks helping them will cost the nation too much.

I talked with these students about the importance of citizen engagement and why it is imperative for them to not be spectators, but actors, to create the kind of world they want to live in.

We talked about the expectations of democratic citizenship (things like to be interested in politics, be knowledgeable, and do more than just vote). I asked them about whether they planned to vote in November if they’re eligible and they raised their hands - some of them are registered to vote already (one mentioned going back to MA to vote today).

I reminded them that voting is only a first step and emphasized the importance of linking the things they care about like college affordability and saving the environment with political activism.

I hope I got through to them because the current group of political leaders in both the Democratic and Republican Party are not prioritizing their interest and needs. If the want fundamental change, they will have to work to bring it about.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Opinion: Clock is ticking on expanded voter rights - Connecticut Post

Published

In Georgia, officials are purging 100,000 voters from the voter rolls. In Florida, the modern equivalent of a poll tax is being thrust upon formerly incarcerated residents. And in Texas, in a willful policy effort to drive down Election Day turnout, 750 polling places have been shuttered since 2012.

Across the nation, voting rights are indeed under attack. But here at home, this legislative session, Connecticut has the opportunity to send a message to America by expanding participation in democracy - and for those who need it most.

We can do it by passing automatic voter registration - known as AVR. It's a critical reform as the 2020 election approaches, and it needs to be one of the first issues the Legislature takes up this session. Here's why.

Last year on the final day of legislative business, just as the Senate was set to join the House in passing AVR, political maneuvering hampered common-sense policymaking.

Even though AVR has passed with bipartisan support in 19 different states (including Massachusetts and New Jersey), the bill was ultimately shelved.

But now that we're in 2020, the stakes have never been higher and the urgency to pass AVR couldn't be more real.

First, it’s critical because AVR helps simplify and streamline our elections. Elections in the past have been plagued by long lines. In 2018, for instance, residents waited up to seven hours to vote in some cases. This year, with President Trump on the ballot, we could see record turnout — and exceptionally long lines as result.

But AVR represents a common-sense solution, because rather than registering eligible residents through an inefficient and costly paper-based system, AVR registers voters automatically when they interact with state agencies, like the DMV.

In cases where they’re already providing data about themselves that demonstrates their eligibility to vote — name, address, citizenship status and more — residents can accomplish their business with that agency as well as register to vote. It’s a step towards government efficiency.

That also means more people will be registered in advance of Election Day, with fewer using paper methods to register same day at polling sites. Staff is able to focus more on running elections smoothly—and less on cumbersome paperwork.

All of it culminates in shorter lines at the polls, which could be critical, particularly in 2020.
Equally important, at a time when foreign powers are actively seeking to meddle in campaigns, election integrity has never been more critical. Since AVR captures voters’ most updated information, that means voter data is updated nearly in real time, minimizing human error, eliminating outdated information or duplicative registrations, and ensuring that the rolls are reliable and accurate.

If we’re going to fight back against election meddling, that has to start with ensuring that our voters rolls are clean and up to date. AVR delivers just that.

What’s more, AVR saves taxpayer dollars in the process. One study showed that moving from a paper to electronic system has saved cities and states across the country over $3.50 per registration in labor costs. By eliminating costly paper-based methods and moving towards a modern, electronic system, AVR can deliver meaningful costs savings that can be put towards our schools, our roads and more.

But perhaps most importantly, it expands democratic rights, registering voters from communities of color, younger residents and countless others who would otherwise be less likely to register to vote. One study by the Center for American Progress showed that AVR would register hundreds of thousands of new voters in Connecticut in the first year alone.

Policymakers and agency staff will need time to implement AVR in advance of November. Consequently, the Legislature must make it one of the first priorities the legislature passes this session. The clock is indeed ticking to make these benefits come to fruition by November.

As other states attempt to undercut voting rights, it’s not just the efficiency of our elections or our government that are at stake. So too are our values as a state.

And as voting rights continue to be rolled back nationwide, we need to pass AVR now to send a message loud and clear — Connecticut stands up for democratic rights.

Cheri Quickmire is executive director of Common Cause in Connecticut and Bilal Dabir Sekou an associate professor of political science at the University of Hartford and member of Common Cause.

DUE Justice Coalition Rally - Bilal Sekou