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Nashua Soup Kitchen And Shelter Goes Solar To Save Money

“Do you want to pay for electricity or feed more hungry people?”


Nashua, NH – The Nashua Soup Kitchen & Shelter (NSKS), which provides food and shelter to thousands of people in need, is set to become the first solar-powered nonprofit in Nashua and one of the first solar-powered soup kitchens in the northeast. The NSKS Board recently contracted with ReVision Energy for the installation and operation of a 39.3-kilowatt solar array, augmenting its longstanding commitment to energy efficiency and sustainability while saving thousands of dollars in electricity costs per year.

“Do you want to pay for electricity or do we want to get more food to hungry people?” said NSKS Executive Director Michael Reinke. “Partnering with ReVision Energy, we will model sustainability and devote even more of our donor’s dollar to helping meet the most basic needs of our community. It’s a no brainer.”

Nashua Soup Kitchen & Shelter is expected to save roughly $176,282 over the life of the solar array, offsetting a significant share of its electric load. The 131 solar panels, mounted on both flat and pitched roof sections of the NSKS facility in downtown Nashua, are expected to produce approximately 43,080 kilowatt-hours of clean electricity per year, thereby reducing more than 45,000 pounds of carbon pollution annually. The panels come with a 25-year warranty and are expected to produce efficiently for at least 40 years. A web-based monitoring platform will allow NSKS to track the array’s performance in real time.

“ReVision Energy is honored to partner with such a vital nonprofit on the front lines of fighting hunger and homelessness in our community, and we are inspired by their longstanding commitment to sustainability,” said Dan Weeks, Director of Market Development at ReVision Energy. “As a Certified B Corporation, we consider it an integral part of our mission to make solar and other clean technologies accessible to nonprofits, thereby saving them thousands of dollars a year to do even more of the important work they do.”

ReVision Energy will own the system through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with NSKS. The agreement is an innovative financing tool that allows nonprofits to benefit from solar power on a cashflow-neutral basis and with no upfront cost. Under the terms, NSKS agrees to purchase electricity from ReVision Energy at a fixed rate below its current cost of electricity. At year seven of the agreement, the nonprofit will have the option to purchase the system at a significant discount, enabling it to generate free solar power for decades to come.

“The PPA arrangement gives NSKS the ability to leverage the economic and environmental benefits of solar power while allowing ReVision Energy to make community investments that align with its core values of creating positive change in the world,” Weeks added.

Reinke said NSKS has long been committed to being a good steward of the earth’s resources. After a $2.7 million capital campaign, NSKS completed renovations of a former VFW building in 2014 including comprehensive weatherization and other energy efficiency measures. Its food pantry and community kitchen provide a means to reduce food waste and encourage the consumption of healthy and nutritious food while setting an example for the larger community.

From a financial perspective, the solar array will also benefit the NSKS bottom line. Its current budget includes more than $20,000 a year in electric costs, which will be significantly reduced by solar. Although no upfront payment was required to go solar, the project received a $7,000 challenge grant from a donor-advised fund at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.

“We feed the hungry and shelter those without a home. Our mission is possible only because our volunteers, our supporters, and, as an organization, we are able to direct the generous bounty of the earth to those in need,” Reinke said.

Rights and Democracy Decries Trump’s Executive Actions On Healthcare

Trump’s  Executive Order, Ending of Cost Sharing Reductions, and Roll Back of No-cost Contraception Will Rob Millions of Their Health Care

With the recent defeat of Graham Cassidy and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal efforts that preceded, we thought the battle to save our health care was won.

Unfortunately, yesterday President Trump demonstrated unequivocally that this battle is far from over—he is directly attacking women, the middle class, and the poor in his effort to strip millions more from having necessary access to health care in order to provide tax breaks for the wealthy and powerful.

Rights & Democracy stands in opposition to Trump and the GOP Congressional leadership’s inhumane and immoral attack on the health care of hundreds of thousands of Granite Staters and millions of Americans. We stand in support of our members of Congress (see Sen. Maggie Hassan’s statement and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s statement) in their resistance to these proposals and we call on Governor Chris Sununu to do the same.

Last night the President announced that he will end Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) payments that lower costs for more than 6 million people who buy coverage on the exchange. Uncertainty about the future of these CSRs is key reason that many insurers are substantially hiking their rates for 2018—some by more than 20 percent. Some insurers have also left the market. Even Republicans are worried about how this decision will drive up costs and leave millions uninsured.

In addition to the elimination of CSR payments, Trump issued a new executive order that allows health association plans to sell watered down health coverage that doesn’t meet current standards under the ACA. This executive order includes provisions like those in the ACA repeal bills that were roundly rejected earlier in the year by both lawmakers and the public. Trump’s order loosens up rules for insurance companies so that they can go back to refusing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, charging them more for their coverage, and selling bogus plans that don’t even include essential health benefits like maternity care, mental health and prescription drugs that are required for plans sold in the ACA marketplaces. These plans could even have lifetime and annual benefit caps.

Waiving ACA protections means these plans can cherry pick young, healthy consumers and pull them out of the existing individual health insurance market, leading to a market dominated by older and sicker people. That means that rates will skyrocket, insurers will flee, and, ultimately, the entire private health insurance market could collapse.

Finally, the Trump Administration has launched a full on assault on women’s reproductive health with a sweeping new rule that eliminates free contraceptive coverage based on any religious or “moral” objections from the employer. This is a significant departure from the existing law, which allowed exemptions for religious employers like churches and Catholic hospitals only. Under the new rule, any employer, not just religious ones, can deny coverage for birth control based on their own personal religious beliefs or “moral” objections.

Through the ACA, employers were required to include no-cost birth control coverage in their health insurance plans. More than 55 million women have access to birth control without co-payments because of that guarantee – saving them $1.4 billion in 2013 alone. But now these 55 million women could lose access to free contraception if their bosses decide they suddenly have a “moral” objection to paying for it. As a result, millions of American women and families could be left without affordable birth control.

The eliminations of CSR payments, the executive order on health association plans, and the new rule denying contraceptive coverage to millions of women, all make it clear: Trump doesn’t care about the will of the people who have rejected the Republican agenda for health care over the past several months.

Instead of listening to Americans, Trump is charging full-steam ahead with his stated goal of ACA repeal through a political campaign to sabotage the ACA by forcing premium increases, creating instability in the market, actively interfering with the ability of consumers to sign up for coverage, and rolling back the no-cost birth control for 55 million women.

When coupled with the Republican budget proposal working its way through Congress now—which includes massive cuts to Medicaid and further privatizes Medicare—Trump’s sabotage would mean the destruction of our health system as we know it. We will return to the days when being sick could bar you from coverage. We will return to the days when being a woman meant discrimination in the health care system. And we will see Medicaid and Medicare—two programs essential to the quality of life of millions of Americans—irreversibly transformed leading to access and lower quality care.

And what does Trump and his GOP backers in Congress gain from robbing millions of their health care? Huge tax breaks for corporations and the wealthiest Americans.

Nashua Teachers Union Joins Local Fight To Reduce Childhood Food Insecurity

“Childhood food insecurity is a national problem, it occurs when children receive insufficient food on a regular basis; in many cases missing meals entirely. After a while, these children also experience “fear of hunger” that affects their behavior as much as physical hunger affects their bodies. There are more than 16 million food insecure children in America today,” wrote the coalition End 68 Hours of Hunger.

Nearly one in four children face food insecurity. The “68 hours” between child’s free lunch on Friday and their free breakfast on Monday are specifically what End 68 Hours of Hunger is working to address.

“That insecurity can lead to some behavioral disruptions,” writes End 68 Hours of Hunger. “On Monday mornings they return to school ill, often spending the day in the nurse’s office. They are unable to focus and concentrate until they once again are nourished.”

The work they are doing to eliminate those 68 hours of hunger is having a noticeable impact.

“Teachers report that children are more responsible, and their performance improves.  Actual documented increases in reading and math scores have been reported as well.”

During their meeting on October 10, the Nashua Teachers’ Union Board of Directors unanimously voted to support End 68 Hours of Hunger – Nashua with a donation of $3,000.00 to purchase the food needed to feed about 200 Nashua students during February vacation.

“It was the fastest discussion we’ve had in regards to making donations,” said Nashua Teachers’ Union President Adam Marcoux. “It was never a question of if we would do something, it was a question of how much do they need to help our students over that vacation week. We have worked closely with End 68 Hours Hunger before, and people really appreciate what their organization does for our students.”

End 68 Hours of Hunger provides food for students over the weekend as well as the three vacation weeks. “It’s 2017 and hunger is still a problem for our students.” Marcoux went on to say, “I was talking with a retired nurse and this came up. She recalled speaking with a student at her school, asking if they were excited about the upcoming vacation. The student answered no. When asked why, they responded ‘because I don’t get to eat at home.’ It is a heartbreaking situation to think about our students having to worry about food.”

“One of the goals of the Nashua Teachers’ Union is to be a community partner, supporting groups and organizations that work to help our students and schools. We are proud to once again support End 68 Hours of Hunger in their effort to help our students.”

Members of the Nashua Teachers’ Union will also pack the food prior to the vacation week. “Packing the food is a lot of fun, too! Last year, we had people seeing who could pack the bag the best. By the end, we had people competing with each other. It made for a fun afternoon,” Marcoux said.

For more information on End 68 Hours of Hunger – Nashua, please visit www.end68hoursofhunger.org.

Featured Image: STEM Outreach – Turnagain Elementary School – by Army Corp of Engineers FLICR CC

President Trump’s Approval Rating In Free Fall

Even when Trump won the Electoral College, after losing the popular vote, his approval ratings were slightly underwater. In fact, Trump somehow won the Electoral College with a 61% “unfavorable” rating, the “worst in presidential polling history,” according to Gallup Polling.

Today, Morning Consult, released the results of a new nationwide poll of more than 470,000 people showing a significant drop in the President’s approval ratings.

Morning Consult reported that after the election Trump had only a 46% approval rating and a 34% unfavorable rating. After the inauguration, Trump’s approval rating jumped slightly but never reached 50%.

Since January, Trump’s approval rating has fallen from 49% to 43% but his disapproval numbers went from 43% to 53%.

Below are two snapshots of Trump’s approval ratings from January and then what Morning Consult found today.

 

 

 

A majority of the states saw a drop in approval ratings, however key “battleground” states where Trump’s favorability was close to zero at the election have plummeted in 2017.

  • Michigan: -22% net percentage point change
  • Arizona: -26%
  • New Hampshire -18%
  • Wisconsin: -18%
  • Pennsylvania: -16%
  • North Carolina: -18%

It is not just “battleground” states that saw a significant drop in approval ratings. States that Trump carried in the general election have “soured” on Trump in 2017.

  • Tennessee -23%
  • Mississippi -21%
  • Kentucky -20%
  • Kansas -19%
  • Indiana -19%

The biggest drop in approval ratings came from traditionally “blue” states.

  • Illinois: -30%
  • New York: -30%
  • District of Columbia: -29%

The poll shows that the people of Washington D.C. disapprove of Trump the most with -60 net approval rating.

It appears that millions of people across the country are waking up and are realizing that Donald Trump is nothing more than a con man, who hoodwinked them in the general election. He continues to lie to the public about his connections to the Russian government. He continues to push policies that contradict his campaign promises. He also continues to fill the swamp with unqualified people, like Besty DeVos and Scott Pruitt.

Workers across the country are also starting to realize that while Trump campaigned on renegotiating NAFTA, to help bring back jobs and raise wages for working people, the fact is that his new NAFTA looks a lot like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that he claimed to be against.

Initial reports are showing that the new NAFTA will do nothing to help workers worldwide and will do nothing to stop the offshoring of American jobs. Because the new NAFTA negotiations are being held in secret, we do not really know how bad the overall agreement will be.

It is good to see that people are finally starting to wake up and see Trump as the con man he really is.

Trump Administration Continues to Erode Federal LGBTQ Protections  

CONCORD, N.H. —The Department of Justice (DOJ) today released new guidance that gives federal agencies, employees, and government contractors unprecedented leeway in discriminating against LGBTQ people. The guidance represents a radical departure and sweeping reinterpretation that far exceeds the original modest intent of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which was passed to protect people from being discriminated against on the basis of their religion.

The guidance comes just one day after the administration also announced its intention to no longer interpret Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as protecting transgender people from workplace discrimination.

Linds Jakows, campaign manager for Freedom New Hampshire, released the following statement regarding the discriminatory ban:

“Protections for LGBTQ Americans are facing increasing threats at the federal level. The recent actions out of the Department of Justice in Washington are particularly dangerous for transgender Granite Staters, because we don’t have any explicit laws on the books to protect us from discrimination. Transgender people can – and too often, do – face discrimination in their workplace, in access to housing, and in public spaces.

“The good news is, we can do something about this. Our state representatives and senators can and must take up legislation that would ensure transgender people are protected from discrimination in all its insidious forms. Action at the state level is more urgent now than it’s ever been before.”

Freedom New Hampshire is a nonpartisan coalition working to educate people about what it means to be transgender, the unique hardships that transgender people face and to grow support for fair and equal treatment of transgender Granite Staters under the law.

Granite Staters Speak Out Against Cuts To Medicare And Medicaid

Granite Staters Call for No Cuts to Medicaid and Medicare to Pay for Tax Breaks for the Rich and Corporations at Manchester, NH Community Forum

National Day of Action Calls on Congress to Protect Health Care for Millions in the Budget and Reject Massive Tax Breaks for Wealthiest Americans

Manchester, NH – After Congress spent weeks once again attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, over thirty Granite Staters attended a community forum co-organized by Granite State Organizing Project (GSOP) and Rights & Democracy (RAD) on Wednesday, October 4 to educate the public on the Congressional  budget proposal. New Hampshire seniors, working people, Representative Robert Backus, and voices from the front lines of healthcare including doctors gathered to discuss what’s at stake under budget plans. These Granite Staters joined hundreds of others across the country at similar events for this national day of action led by Health Care for America Now (HCAN). On this day of action, grassroots groups across the country mobilized against the latest effort to strip health care from millions of Americans while at the same time advancing a tax cut proposal that benefits primarily the richest 1% of households.

The event highlighted the devastating impacts of the House  Budget Resolution, which cuts $1.5 trillion from health care, especially Medicaid while giving tax breaks to the rich and corporations. The resolution includes the adoption of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) repeal proposal that the House passed in May that could take healthcare away from over 23 million people and make permanent cuts to Medicaid for seniors, people with disabilities, children, and veterans.  House Speaker Paul Ryan plans a vote on the House budget proposal this week.

“We’ve seen time and again that Congress will stop at nothing to strip millions of Americans of vital care, and now they are using the budget process to make the same kind of devastating cuts to health care that were so unpopular in the last few repeal bills,” said Viola Katusiime, an Organizer for GSOP. “Americans across the country rose up to beat back repeated attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and we will remain vigilant as Congress tries to gut essential health care programs to pay for tax breaks for the 1 percent.”

The proposed budget cuts would fundamentally transform Medicaid for the worse, ending its guarantee of coverage for children, seniors, and people with disabilities including 171,500 New Hampshire Medicaid recipients. These cuts would also be a devastating blow to New Hampshire’s state budget and cripple its ability to face public health emergencies like the opioid crisis, which is ravaging communities across the Granite State (since under the administration plans it will be up to each state alone to manage health care emergencies without additional support from the federal government).

Medicare serves over 55 million people ages 65 and over and people with permanent disabilities, including 266,210 people in New Hampshire. But the Medicare cuts of $487 billion over 10 years and efforts to privatize Medicare through vouchers in the budget resolution would devastate this program and leave seniors and people with permanent disabilities without an affordable option for care.

At the same time, the federal budget proposal includes trillions of dollars in tax breaks for the rich and corporations. Under the administration’s proposed tax plan, wealthy households’ income tax rate will be reduced by almost 5 percent, and the corporate tax rate will drop by 15 percent, among a variety of other tax breaks. These tax cuts in total will cost $1.5 trillion – the same amount as the health care cuts in the House budget resolution, including significant Medicaid cuts and $500 billion in new cuts to Medicare, a vital program for seniors.

While Senator Jeanne Shaheen regrettably could not attend the event she voiced her solidarity with the Granite Staters in attendance in a letter she sent to them:

“I share your commitment to supporting the individuals who rely on the quality, consistent access to health care services that Medicare and Medicaid offer. We must continue to invest in them and resist reckless attempts to cut these programs by prioritizing tax cuts for the wealthy. Please be assured that, in reviewing any new tax proposals, I will be looking to see how the plan will impact middle-class families and small businesses across the state of New Hampshire.”

To learn more about how Granite Staters are fighting this unjust and immoral budget, please contact Viola Katusiime with Granite State Organizing Project at violakat@granitestateorganizing.org or Kathy Staub with Rights & Democracy at kathy@radnh.org.

Hassan And Senate Democrats Push “Bump Stock Ban,” However This Cannot Be The End Of The Conversation

By WASR (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

“Thoughts and prayers from politicians are not going to stop the next shooting,” said Zandra Rice-Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress. “What we need to do is focus on preventative measures. We know that reasonable, common sense gun laws and regulations work. Closing the automatic weapons loophole is a small but critical step in preventing another mass shooting tragedy.”

Earlier this week, Senator Maggie Hassan helped introduce the Automatic Gun Fire Prevention Act, a bill to close a loophole that allows semi-automatic weapons to be easily modified to fire at the rate of automatic weapons, which have been illegal for more than 30 years.

“As we continue to mourn the victims of the horrific attack in Las Vegas and their loved ones, we must finally act to address the gun violence that plagues our nation,” Senator Hassan said. “While automatic weapons have been illegal for decades, some firearm accessories allow shooters to fire at similar rates to that of automatic guns, and we know that the shooter in Las Vegas possessed such accessories. There is no reason to have weapons that can fire at such high rates other than to inflict massive harm, and we should take the common-sense step of closing the loopholes that allow dangerous individuals to mimic the effect of deadly, fully automatic weapons.”

Under the National Firearms Act, the sale, manufacture and transfer of automatic weapons are illegal. However, bump stocks, slide fire devices and other similar accessories can be attached to semi-automatic weapons, allowing them to reach fully-automatic rates of fire.

Semi-automatic rifles typically have a rate of fire between 45 and 60 rounds per minute. A bump stock, or other similar devise increases the semi-automatic rifles rate of fire between 400 and 800 rounds per minute.

This bill would ban the sale, transfer, importation, manufacture or possession of bump stocks, trigger cranks and similar accessories that accelerate a semi-automatic rifle’s rate of fire. The bill also makes clear that its intent is to target only those accessories that increase a semi-automatic rifle’s rate of fire.

I applaud Senator Hassan for signing on to this important legislation. At the same time, I believe we should be doing more than prohibiting “bump stocks.”

This legislation to ban bump stocks is a good place to start the discussion but it cannot end there.

Congress should be pushing for a ban on “assault” style rifles, that were make to inflict massive damage on the battlefield and have no practical use for civilians. Congress should be pushing for background checks on all gun sales, closing the “gun show” loopholes that allow people to sidestep the current background check laws. Congress should be pushing for the registration and licensing of all guns. Congress should be pushing for mandatory safety and technical testing prior to approving a license for a gun.

We regulate everything from our drinking water to the cars we drive yet when it comes to guns it is “laissez faire.” We are quick to make changes when a man attempts to take a bomb onto an airplane in the sole of his shoe.  Yet after 60 people died and hundreds more are injured, no real changes are being suggested.

What will it take before all of the members in Congress take against against the gun lobby and do what is right for the health and safety of the American people?  How many more innocent people have to die before they take meaningful action to stop the gun violence epidemic that has grown over the last decade?

Legislators Put Government Between Women And Their Doctors With 20 Week Abortion Ban

(Image John Ted Daganato Flickr)

Last night, the US House voted 237-189 to approve HR 36, a bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks and to criminalize doctors with up to five years in prison for conducting the procedure.

Both Congressional Representatives from New Hampshire voted against the legislation that the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) strongly opposed, stating, the bill “attempts to ban abortions through medically unnecessary cutoff points.”

“This legislation is dangerous to the rights, health, and safety of American women,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, “This bill attempts to put the government between women and their doctor based on inaccurate and unscientific claims. Pregnancy is usually a joyful time, but for some families it poses dangerous health risks and extremely difficult decisions that should be made between a woman, her doctor, and her loved ones, not politicians.”

“As an adoption attorney for 25 years, I understand that the decision to end a pregnancy is deeply personal and difficult and should be made in consultation with one’s family and doctor, not the government,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “The fact of the matter is that abortions occurring after 20 weeks are exceedingly rare and this legislation would endanger women who are seeking such services for serious medical reasons. This bill is nothing more than an attempt to rollback women’s access to comprehensive reproductive services.”

ACOG added, “The clear consensus by leading medical groups is that a ban on abortion after 20 weeks would interfere with the physician-patient relationship at a time when women are in need of empathetic, respectful and evidence-based care. These medical decisions should be made solely by each individual woman in consultation with those she trusts the most, including her obstetrician-gynecologist – not politicians.”

Abortions after 20 weeks are extremely rare.  Planned Parenthood notes that 99% of all abortions occur before the 21st week. Late term pregnancy complications such as severe fetal anomalies, pose a serious risk to the health of the mother and create a very complex situation.

In an online post, Planned Parenthood called the legislation,  “dangerous” and “out-of-touch” saying it is “nothing more than yet another attempt to restrict women’s access to safe, legal abortion.”  They also note that attacking women’s reproductive rights and banning abortion after 20 weeks is not what the American people want, regardless of party affiliation.

Image from Planned Parenthood (link)

Ilyse Hogue, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America says that politicians should not be interfering between a woman and her doctor.

“Abortion after twenty weeks of pregnancy is rare and almost always medically complicated. There is no place in these conversations for politicians pursuing an ideological agenda with no knowledge of the medical specifics of each case. Women making these difficult decisions need medical professionals, not tone deaf legislation.”

In their statement after HR36’s passage, The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) said,”The bill as passed attacks women’s moral and religious autonomy and handcuffs doctors under the threat of imprisonment from practicing medicine in their patients’ best interest…HR 36 seeks to intimidate medical professionals by criminalizing care — threatening up to five years in federal prison if the law is somehow violated.”

“The House bill is not a sincere effort to protect women but is rather yet another battle in the campaign to dismantle abortions rights — a campaign that has lasted nearly 45 years since Roe v. Wade, the year that the Supreme Court affirmed a woman’s right to choose abortion. If the bill becomes law, it would certainly have a chilling effect on the provision of abortion care in the US, which is exactly what its extreme, anti-abortion supporters intend,” NCJW concluded.

President Trump, who claimed to be pro-choice prior to running for President, said he would sign this legislation.

Kobach Using Sham Voter Fraud Commission Bolster Inaccurate Voter Database

Trump’s Voter Fraud Commission Forced to Produce Electronic Communications Related To Its Work, Revealing Potential Coordination With Federal Agencies

Lawsuit By Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Yields Index Of Electronic Communications Exposing Coordination By Most Partisan Members Of Commission

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity recently released records of its communications in response to litigation brought by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.  These records, available online, underscore the partisan nature of the Commission led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.  Records indicate that Kobach communicated exclusively with partisan allies regarding the Commission’s work, to the exclusion of other Commissioners.  The communications released late last week also make available to the public the most information yet regarding the Commission established by President Trump to support his unfounded claims of voter fraud in the 2016 election.

“The information released by the so-called Commission on Election Integrity as a result of our lawsuit paints an incomplete but alarming record about the Commission’s work and intentions.  For example, it appears that known vote-suppressors Kris Kobach, J. Christian Adams, and Hans von Spakovsky, worked together without the input of other commissioners to develop the unprecedented June 28thletter to state election officials seeking vast amounts of personal voter data.  Email communications with the Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security also suggest the Commission appears directed at facilitating Secretary Kobach’s dangerous agenda of comparing personal voter information with inaccurate databases to bolster his unfounded claim of widespread voter fraud to support the enactment of suppressive laws,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Clarke added: “The American people deserve to know the full story behind this Commission.  With the voting rights of millions of Americans at stake, we will continue the fight to ensure full transparency with respect to this so-called Commission’s activities.  The release of these new materials further underscores the dangerous agenda of this Commission.”

Under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), presidential commissions are obligated to operate in a transparent manner, yet the Kobach Commission has fallen short of that requirement.  Court filings by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law previously revealed that Commissioners were communicating on private email accounts rather than using federal government-issued accounts in violation of the Presidential Records Act.  Now, in providing a catalogue of communications to the D.C. District Court as part of the lawsuit brought by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, it appears that the Commission failed to provide any records of text messages or a complete record of staff communications regarding the Commission’s work.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law has undertaken a series of comprehensive actions to challenge the Commission.  This includes filing litigation that remains active in the D.C. District Court seeking for the Administration’s compliance with federal transparency requirements pursuant to the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA); launching a hotline for the public to report instances of voter suppression (866-OUR-VOTE); issuing letters to Secretaries of State demanding they not comply with Mr. Kobach’s request for private voter data; and filing a Hatch Act complaint against Mr. Kobach regarding his repeated exploitation of his Commission role to solicit campaign contributions and promote his candidacy for Governor of Kansas.

Why Tomorrow’s Supreme Court Case is So Important

Here’s where we are, as a country: only 20% of us trust our government to do what is right.

Pew Research Center: Public Trust in Government 2017

Pew Research Center: Public Trust in Government 2017

And tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Gill v. Whitford, a case testing the limits of partisan gerrymandering.

Not sure what “gerrymandering” is?  It’s when lines for legislative districts are drawn in a way that influences election outcomes.  Depending on who’s drawing the lines, gerrymandering can help ensure that Republicans win, or that Democrats win.  It causes a whole lot of “wasted votes.”

Gerrymandering lets politicians pick their voters, rather than voters picking their choice of politicians.

In Wisconsin, the districting plan at issue in Gill v. Whitford allowed the political party that drew electoral boundaries to gain 60% of the seats in the state Legislature, despite only getting 49% of the statewide vote.

Last year, those electoral maps were struck down by a federal district court, which found that

“Act 43 was intended to burden the representational rights of …voters throughout the decennial period by impeding their ability to translate their votes into legislative seats. Moreover, as demonstrated by the results of the 2012 and 2014 elections, among other evidence, we conclude that Act 43 has had its intended effect.”

Here’s why tomorrow’s case is so important.  Right now, American citizens trust the courts more than any other branch of government. According to Gallup, that may be because the Judicial Branch is seen as “above the political fray” compared to the White House or Congress.

But if the Supreme Court overrules the District Court decision in Gill v. Whitford, that’s going to put our Court system squarely in the middle of that “political fray.”

And at a time when

  • 72 percent of voters agree “the American economy is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful”
  • 68 percent agree that “traditional parties and politicians don’t care about people like me” and
  • 57 percent feel that “more and more, I don’t identify with what America has become”

the last thing our country needs is for the Supreme Court to give citizens a reason to lose faith in the judicial system.

 

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