By DIANE ST. GERMAIN
For the Monitor
Tuesday, September 12, 2017The right to vote in New Hampshire is being challenged. Our right to clean and fair elections is eroding.
The New Hampshire Legislature has fallen in line with the unfounded White House contention that there were illegal voters bused in from Massachusetts casting ballots in New Hampshire in the 2016 presidential election.
Bill Gardner, New Hampshire secretary of state, has embraced this false narrative as an excuse for serving on Donald Trump’s so-called Election Integrity Commission and by supporting New Hampshire voter suppression bills written by out-of-state entities with no understanding of New Hampshire and its residents.
Now, the vice chair of Trump’s commission, Kris Kobach, notorious for his aggressive efforts to disenfranchise Kansas voters, is claiming he has proof of voter fraud in New Hampshire. The data he cites is irrelevant. He is simply resurrecting false claims, playing into Trump’s delusion that he won the popular vote. It’s a feeble attempt to give legitimacy to this commission as it stages its dog and pony show today at St. Anselm College.
If our leaders and legislators were honestly interested in election integrity and defending voting rights, they would support legislation that encourages more people to vote and empowers local election officials to verify an accurate vote count. Not surprisingly, the New Hampshire Legislature and Trump’s commission are going after phantom “illegal” voters rather than achieve their purported goal of election integrity.
As if the Koch brothers’ voter ID law passed in New Hampshire wasn’t bad enough, even more ALEC-inspired voter suppression bills were passed in the last legislative session. Our legislators, so concerned about this perceived voter fraud, supported these regressive bills while steadfastly voting against legislation to protect our voting rights and verify that our votes are counted accurately by profit-producing machines.
We have several honorable New Hampshire legislators whose votes demonstrated an understanding of the need to encourage greater participation in the democratic process and who voted to assure that our vote counts could be verified. Unfortunately, there are not enough of these informed, clear-thinking representatives, so it is up to us, We the People, to assert our rights. We must take action to make sure every person of voting age is able to vote and can be guaranteed their vote matters, and to see that the electoral process is not hijacked by special interests and their legislative friends.
New Hampshire communities recognize the growing assault on our voting rights and election integrity. In the wake of recent court rulings like Citizens United, the proliferation of money in politics has increased substantially, transparency is virtually nonexistent, and the stranglehold of the corporate state on our individual and collective rights has tightened the noose around any sense of democracy. We need to assert our rights at the local level to change our form of government to one that serves and protects people over the profits of corporations and their representatives.
Given the failure of the New Hampshire Legislature to protect our votes and given its advocacy for voter suppression, we have to take action in our communities.
The New Hampshire Community Rights Network provides education about local self-governance and the development of rights-based ordinances that put communities in charge of decision-making, including demanding fair elections that are clean and verifiable.
NHCRN applauds the work of state and national organizations, along with New Hampshire state representatives, in challenging Trump’s commission. While these efforts are ongoing, we must act at the local level to challenge the underlying structures that would have us believe that We the People do not have the right to demand fair elections in our communities.
NHCRN invites all concerned about the commission and voting rights to visit the NHCRN website at nhcommunityrights.org and become partners in demanding fair, clean and verifiable elections by reclaiming local self-governance.
(Diane St. Germain of Center Barnstead is a member of the New Hampshire Community Rights Network board of directors.)
Lots going within the Community Rights Movement across the Granite State and beyond. Stay informed, volunteer to help with any of the events, and please share the newsletter!
BRATTLEBORO — Post Oil Solutions, an organization that promotes sustainability and community building in Vermont, will be hosting a workshop at the Brattleboro Food Co-op on Sept. 10.
The “Community Rights Awareness Workshop” will address what the organization believes to be “systemic barriers” impeding sustainability, according to a news release from the organization.
“We take an in-depth look at how political and legal structures have been set up to protect the interests of an elite wealthy minority, at the expense of the majority of the people living in communities,” the news release said.
The release said the group will also discuss how communities are challenging and overcoming the barriers to sustainability.
The workshop will be presented by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund and led by Michelle Sanborn, of the defense fund and the New Hampshire Community Rights Network.
The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The core issue with electronic vote counting, is can we use it and protect our right to have our votes counted and reported accurately and know that has happened?
The answer clearly is “yes,” but the answer I have continued to get from Jaffrey officials since 2010 is “the secretary of state doesn’t want us to so we won’t.”
As a former teacher, my 4th-graders sometimes used the excuse “so and so told me to do it.” I would ask, “if so and so told you to jump off the school roof, would you do it?”
My students were capable of developing and using independent judgment, a crucial skill in democratic self-governance.
Jaffrey, state officials and the N.H. Senate know that, even with pre-election testing, the AccuVote can: 1) count our votes as fractions; 2) switch them to another candidate; 3) not count them at all.
They know the law requires the moderator to oversee a publicly observable vote count on election night and make sure the count reported to Concord is accurate.
I wish the Jaffrey moderator and selectboard had said to the secretary of state: “It’s our job to make sure the rights of voters and candidates are protected and we believe that is the intent of our state constitution and election laws.”
Since 2010, I have completely lost confidence in Jaffrey and New Hampshire elections and in our officials, who are supposed to be protecting our rights, votes and elections.
I have asked the N.H. Senate, “Does everyone in New Hampshire have to completely lose confidence in our elections before we can begin to change this?” Their silence says, “yes.” The majority, including Sen. Andy Sanborn, showed it won’t stand up to the secretary of state and protect our voting rights.
In Cheshire County, Keene and seven towns use the AccuVote machines. I encourage people to start talking with others about returning to hand counted, local control of our elections. Many people in Jaffrey remember that experience positively and prefer it.
Check out Nancy Tobi’s “Hands-on Elections,” available at your library or through interlibrary loan. I believe it will be less expensive and we will have reason to trust our election results.
The alternative being recommended by experts is a “risk-limited audit” (to ensure a 95 percent chance the election winner is the real one) at additional costs, time and controlled by the same people who have shown such stubborn disrespect for our votes, our voice in the political process.
Around the United States, local government efforts to resist an escalating threat of federal authoritarianism now routinely make the news. Headlines tout county and municipal victories concerning sanctuary cities, protections against government surveillance, minimum wage hikes, worker protections, rent control, bans on fossil fuel infrastructure, and heightened discrimination protections.
Local governments, it appears, are leading a progressive response to the Trump agenda.
It’s a comforting narrative, but there’s a critical twist: local gains are being systematically repressed. Lawsuits and “state preemption,” when states rescind specific or broad powers from local governments, are routinely used to nullify new local laws.
This year, Iowa passed a law prohibiting local governments from impacting conditions of employment, including minimum wages, worker benefits and scheduling practices. Texas was added to the list of states that “preempt” sanctuary city policies. Portland, Oregon’s ban on fossil fuel infrastructure was struck down by the courts. Ohio communities were stopped from even votingon numerous local fracking bans. Seattle was taken to court for trying to tax the rich. Local school districts have been taken over by conservative state governments. And on August 28, the State of Missouri’s nullification of a hard-fought St. Louis minimum wage increase goes into effect.
“It’s a slap in the face to me,” Wanda Rogers, a McDonald’s employee and organizer with Show Me 15 in St. Louis told The Progressive. “They shouldn’t be able to come in and do it to us like that. We fought hard for this. This is something we deserve. And we need it bad.”
The Missouri preemption will lower St. Louis’s minimum wage from $10.00 to $7.70. And the city is not alone. The National League of Cities reports that as of February, local governments in twenty-four states are preempted from raising the minimum wage, and the number has grown since.
Responses to preemption have varied. In Birmingham, workers filed a federal civil rights lawsuit claiming Alabama’s 2016 minimum wage preemption disproportionately impacted black voters and residents.
A similar argument was used against Michigan's infamous “emergency manager” law—best known for its takeover of Detroit and Flint. At one point, 52 percent of the state’s black population lived in municipalities taken over by a state-appointed emergency manager or under some form of state oversight, compared to only 2 percent of white residents.
Both lawsuits claim that the disproportionate disenfranchisement of local black voters violates the Voting Rights Act. However, core arguments have been tossed out. In the Michigan case, the the court has been crystal clear that the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee to a “republican form of government” does not extend to municipalities. A central legal argument made against Michigan’s emergency manager law—that suspending local democracy is unconstitutional—was clearly struck down by the court. The only argument still alive is whether it matters that the law’s application has been racist.
This fight for democratic determination is intensifying in many states including Missouri, Ohio, Texas, Arkansas, Iowa, Florida, Michigan, to name a few. Now, as state and federal funds for municipalities dry up, public scrutiny is turning toward the deep-rooted legal doctrines that facilitate preemption and stop municipalities from filling the void.
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), a non-profit law firm that has worked with over 200 municipal governments, is partnering with state-based networks to advance state constitutional amendments in six states that would redefine state law as a “floor.” The amendments also propose elevating municipal laws above corporations’ legal privileges, which are routinely used to strike down local laws. According to Thomas Linzey of CELDF, “this would mean that community law making which expands civil and environmental rights for people and nature could not be overridden by corporations or state governments.” Similarly, Andrew Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee, Florida and leader of Defend Local Solutions—a broad anti-preemption coalition in Florida—said in an interview that he thought state law should also be defined as a “floor.” Gillum is running for Florida governor.
Defining state law as a floor seems measured and straightforward. But it actually represents a revolutionary departure from an established legal doctrine called “Dillon’s Rule,” which treats municipalities as “creatures of the state.”
It also punctures a false dichotomy that has so far dissuaded many progressives from full-heartedly engaging in fights for local democratic self-determination: the centralism vs libertarianism debate.
When people hear “local control,” they often hear “libertarianism.” While this fear is justified, defining state law as a “floor” blows up the theoretical centralism vs libertarianism dichotomy. By proposing a reform in the middle, the concept of a floor allows municipal governments to increase state protections, while maintaining the status quo that prohibits them from undercutting protections.
Another misconception comes from inaccurate understandings of “Home Rule,” a protection for municipalities that allows them to act without the express permission of their state. Many states passed Home Rule state constitutional amendments in the early and mid parts of the twentieth century. Some people think Home Rule is an adequate protection for municipalities—but even with it, governments can still unilaterally preempt Home Rule powers.
Although the progressive-era Home Rule movement may have been significant in its time, the reform has clearly been gamed by interests hoping to quash local governments. Those who promote Home Rule usually fail to mention that it has done nothing to protect cities in Michigan, Ohio, and other states experiencing severe state preemption. Ohio and Michigan are “Home Rule states,” yet both have some of the harshest anti-municipal state preemption laws (and emergency management laws) on the books. Just ask anyone who lives in Flint.
Conservatives are aware that Home Rule has become largely toothless. Which is why the pro-preemption, Koch brother-backed American Legislative Exchange Council, has launched an American City County Exchange, to defend this status quo. In a recent white paper of theirs, they correctly state that: “Although Home Rule is presented as an alternative to the Dillon Rule, the two are not mutually exclusive.…Regardless which rule is in place, local government is subject to the state.”
Progressives have now begun to make state preemption a top priority. Jim Hightower recently wrote that progressives should, “take hold of this issue [and] passionately challenge the preemption thugs.”
But it is important that they understand this issue as a systematic one, not solved simply by winning power at the state,federal or local level. Legal doctrines must change, and progressives will have to kill some of their darlings: New York, Washington and Oregon—often thought of as very progressive states—all have harsh preemption rules on the books.
These conversations sound cerebral and wonky, but they have material impacts on millions of American lives. When the St. Louis minimum wage ordinance is officially nullified on Monday, Rogers will bear the brunt, she said. “It’s going to be a real bad struggle for me all over again.”
Simon Davis-Cohen is editor of the Ear to the Ground newsletter, an exclusive “civic intelligence” service that mines local newspapers and state legislatures from across the country.
Post Oil Solutions is hosting We the People 2.0 – The Second American Revolution as part of their grassroots organizing. Vermont residents face industrial wind projects, oil and gas pipelines, and water contamination from harmful corporate projects, and are learning about Community Rights to protect themselves.
We the People 2.0 shares stories from communities across the country that are organizing against environmental threats. They are confronting our structure of law, which elevates the rights of corporations over the rights of people, communities, and nature, and creating the communities they envision.
Following the screening, Michelle Sanborn of CELDF will facilitate a Q & A session. And in September, attendees and other community members are invited to attend the Community Rights Awareness Workshop. See event flyer and details below.
Tuesday, August 22nd, 6:00 p.m.
Brooks Memorial Library
224 Main St.
Brattleboro, VT 05301
For more information, contact Tim Stevenson of Post Oil Solutions at email@example.com.
Industrial hydro releases methyl mercury poisoning fish and the people who live off the fish. It also releases methane into the atmosphere which is many times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2. Northern Pass is about property rights.
To the editor:
The right to vote in New Hampshire is being challenged.
Our right to clean and fair elections is eroding. The state Legislature has fallen in line with the unfounded White House contention that there were illegal voters bused in from Massachusetts casting ballots in New Hampshire in the 2016 presidential election.
N.H. Secretary of State Bill Gardner has even fallen for this false narrative as an excuse for serving on Trump’s so-called Election Integrity Commission and by supporting New Hampshire voter suppression bills written by out-of-state entities with no understanding of New Hampshire and its residents.
If our leaders and legislators were honestly interested in election integrity and defending voting rights, they would support legislation that encourages more people to vote and empowers local election officials to verify an accurate vote count.
Not surprisingly, the N.H. Legislature and Trump’s commission are going after phantom “illegal” voters rather than achieving their purported goal of election integrity.
As if the Koch Brothers’ Voter ID law passed in New Hampshire wasn’t bad enough, even more ALEC-inspired voter suppression bills were passed in the last legislative session. Our legislators, so concerned about this perceived voter fraud, supported these regressive bills, while steadfastly voting against legislation to protect our voting rights and verify that our votes are counted accurately by profit-producing machines.
We have several honorable New Hampshire legislators whose votes demonstrated an understanding of the need to encourage greater participation in the democratic process and who voted to assure that our vote-counts could be verified. Unfortunately, there are not enough of these informed, clear-thinking representatives, so it is up to us, We the People, to assert our rights and to take action to make sure every person of voting age is able to vote and can be guaranteed their vote matters, and to see that the electoral process is not hijacked by special interests and their legislative friends.
New Hampshire communities recognize the growing assault on our voting rights and election integrity. In the wake of recent court rulings like Citizens United, the proliferation of money in politics has increased substantially, transparency is virtually nonexistent, and the stranglehold of the corporate state on our individual and collective rights has tightened the noose around any sense of democracy.
We need to assert our rights at the local level to change our form of government to one that serves and protects people over the profits of corporations and their representatives.
Given the failure of the N.H. legislature to protect our votes, and given its advocacy for voter suppression, we have to take action in our communities.
The New Hampshire Community Rights Network provides education about local self-governance and the development of rights-based ordinances that put communities in charge of decision-making regarding their resources, ecosystems, health and safety, religious freedom, immigrant rights, food sources, access to the ballot and fair elections that are clean and verifiable.
We have the power in our communities to preserve our right to vote and to demand integrity in our elections. The New Hampshire Community Rights Network is a vital resource for communities to procure clean and fair elections. To learn more, contact the New Hampshire Community Rights Network at through the website www.nhcommunityrights.org.
Diane St Germain
NHCRN Board of Directors
Youngstown residents submit signatures for their Community Rights Fair Elections Initiative
Youngstown, OH: Today, a long-standing community rights group in Youngstown, OH, submitted over 1,900 signatures to qualify their Youngstown Fair Election Bill of Rights initiative for the November ballot. The measure is the first of its kind in the state, limiting campaign contributions to registered voters within the City, and capping those contributions at $100.
The Youngstown Community Bill of Rights Committee drafted the initiative with the support of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). CELDF has been assisting Youngstown residents to advance their democratic and environmental rights since 2013, when residents launched their community rights work to protect themselves from fracking activities. Fracking threatens their drinking water and has caused earthquakes in the area.
“We have fought to keep fracking projects out of our City for several years, with six ballot measures that asserted our right to clean water and to local community self-government,” said Lynn Anderson, a lead organizer with the Youngstown Committee. “We have been vastly outspent by industry and their corporate allies. It is clear to us that we are trying to advance rights via the ballot in an election system set up to favor corporations. This time, we’re addressing the election system too.”
The initiative states that the people of Youngstown recognize that “corporations use their disproportionate wealth to frame important issues and influence elections.” Therefore, the measure removes corporations from the election process. It also places candidate selection in the hands of voters rather than powerful political parties. It reinforces the separation of powers between the judiciary and other branches of government by removing the initiative’s content as grounds for blocking it from the ballot. Thus, if technical requirements are met, initiatives must be placed before voters.
Tish O’Dell is the Ohio Community Organizer for CELDF. She stated, “The right to community self-government is an inalienable right – one that the American Revolutionaries fought and died to uphold. The right to vote is supposed to reflect our right to self-government. In Youngstown, that right is rendered meaningless when the people in the community are outspent in their issue campaigns 50:1 by corporate entities. Residents are ready to level the playing field and bring inalienable rights back to the real people who live here.”
The City has 10 days to hold the petitions and then must advance them to the Mahoning County Board of Elections to certify the signatures. The full text of the Youngstown Fair Election Bill of Rights can be read at the Youngstown Community Bill of Rights Committee’s website: http://www.protectyoungstown.org/
Ohio Communities Part of Growing Movement Ohio residents are advancing Community Rights, including free and fair elections, as part of the broader Community Rights Movement building across the United States. Other localities are advancing similar measures to establish and protect their rights to a healthy climate, clean air and water, and the right to local community self-government.
Local communities and state Community Rights Networks are partnering with CELDF to advance these fundamental democratic and environmental rights. They are working with CELDF to establish community rights and the rights of nature in law, and prohibit extraction, fracking, factory farming, water privatization, and other industrial activities as violations of those rights. Communities are joining together within and across states, working with CELDF to advance systemic change – recognizing our existing system of law and governance as inherently undemocratic and unsustainable.
Additional InformationFor additional information regarding petitioning communities, contact CELDF at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn about the Ohio Community Rights Network, visit ohiocrn.org. To learn about the Community Rights Movement, visit www.celdf.org.
About CELDF — Community Environmental Legal Defense FundThe Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit, public interest law firm providing free and affordable legal services to communities facing threats to their local environment, local agriculture, local economy, and quality of life. Its mission is to build sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature.
Jul 28, 2017 www.sentinelsource.com/opinion/editorial/elections-integrity-the-real-threat-is-vulnerable-voting-software-and/article_19ba0e88-f0a4-5c68-a1cc-a592e6381d58.html
Donald Trump’s election last November has cast a wide spotlight on the integrity of our elections process. But somehow, the biggest threat to that integrity continues to elude the light.
The fact of Trump’s unexpected win and his actions since have kept attention focused on the election in two ways.
First came his ludicrous claim that he actually won the popular vote — once the 5 million or so “illegal” voters (all in states that he lost, naturally) are discounted. That contention has since morphed into a call for increased scrutiny on voters themselves, which in turn has led to a truly alarming development: the formation of a voter integrity panel that, so far, has only deepened fears of further voter-suppression tactics — which have spiked since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013. The panel’s call for states to hand over all information on every voter, and Vice Chairman Kris Kobach’s stated intention of releasing all that information, has privacy-rights activists and voting-rights proponents equally concerned.
The second way in which Trump’s November win has focused attention on the integrity of our elections is the specter of interference in the process by a foreign government, most prominently Russia. Trump’s Russian ties — whatever they are — are certainly a grave matter and need to be fully examined. But so far, reports of meetings with individuals with Russian-government ties to discuss how to make Hillary Clinton look bad leading up to voting have dominated the discussion. That’s a problem, for sure; but it’s not the problem.
The biggest threat of manipulation of our elections right now is via technology, and the refusal of those in power to admit that threat even exists.
We’re a society of convenience. We give up our money, private information and rights at the drop of a new mobile app. So it’s no surprise we’ve embraced machine counting of ballots. It’s incredibly fast and efficient, and far cheaper in the long run than paying people to count ballots. Many elections officials, especially in urban areas, moved to machine counting years — even decades — ago. And many of those machines are still in use.
We also know that most anything technological can be hacked or manipulated. The National Security Agency itself has been hacked, as have NASA and the Pentagon. Why, then, would anyone think it impossible to hack into voting machines or elections databases?
Among the most undereported stories of the past year was that Russian hackers tried repeatedly to get into elections software in as many as 39 states and to gain control of about 100 local polling sites. Ultimately, NSA investigators found, they either didn’t gain enough control or opted not to manipulate the polling.
The most-often given reason for this is that so many different systems are used across the thousands of polling jurisdictions that manipulating them all would be too hard. But every year, more polling places turn to machines, and there’s more uniformity in the systems being used.
Although not warning explicitly of Russian interference, a handful of Monadnock Region residents has been sounding the alarm regarding the vulnerability of voting machines in New Hampshire for several years. And the Secretary of State’s Office, inexplicably, has insisted the machines used here can’t possibly be tampered with, and refuses to even allow local polling officials to conduct cross checks on paper.
The New York Times recently noted a report by New York University law school’s Brennan Center for Justice, noting the same vulnerabilities. And that report calls for some of the same safety measures the local contingent has been pushing, including updating old voter-database software, replacing ballot-counting machines that don’t back up their totals on paper — most of the machines used in New Hampshire leave no paper trail — and audit the votes.
Perhaps smearing one candidate through fake news or the release of an “October surprise” is enough to sway a national election. But we’d bet the Russians — or anyone else interested in controlling who we elect, or otherwise undermining the entire process — could do far more damage electronically.
It’s time elections officials, both state and federal, stopped playing “voter fraud” games and started paying attention to the real danger of hacking.
JIM HIGHTOWER - PARTISAN USE OF PREEMPTION IS SURGING
We the People are being burgled. Again.
The latest hit is just the latest in a long string of political robberies, a nationwide crime wave being pulled off by moneyed elites and their political henchmen. With each heist, they haul off a little more of our democratic power: the ability of the working majority to have any real say in the corporate and governmental decisions that affect us.
The elites are master thieves, often plucking pieces of our power without us realizing it, until we try to use it and — phhttt — it's gone. And yet another democracy-stealing tool has recently been fabricated and quietly distributed to profiteering corporations and right-wing ideologues throughout the country: PREEMPTION.
This concept has been around since Day One of our nation, contained in the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and in similar clauses in state constitutions. It allows higher levels of government to intervene and overrule lower levels — the Feds can legally preempt state and local laws, and states can preempt city and county ordinances.
Obviously, this extreme power is fraught with danger, so it's meant to be used sparingly and only to advance a very big public purpose like, for example, overriding state and local laws that officially sanction rank racial discrimination.
In just the past half-dozen years, some of the greediest corporations and grubbiest of politicos have colluded to take preemption into their own hands. Discarding the concept's core principle of serving the public interest, they're presently wielding its nullifying power as a cudgel to clobber democratic rule and impose special interest policies against the will of the people.
As you might expect, Trump & Co. are big on federal preemption. They're targeting a multitude of state and local laws for extinction, including popular and effective provisions enacted to ensure workplace safety, provide consumer protection, establish sanctuary cities, expand voting rights, prevent air and water pollution, reduce gun violence, maintain public oversight of for-profit charter schools, improve children's health and mitigate climate change.
It's at the state level, however, that the intrusive and abusive power of preemption is exploding, as today's right-wing governors and legislators rapidly escalate a state war to quash progressive actions by local governments and grassroots movements. Democracy be damned.