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AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 4-2-17: School Vouchers, Voter Suppression, And NHRS

In a final flurry of action, the NH Senate completed action on its bills this past week, setting the stage for the next round of activity at the State House. One of the bills passed by the Senate was SB3, which is another in a long line of attempts at voter suppression. With some newspapers continuing to give front-page coverage to claims of massive voter fraud in NH (even as the stories themselves admit there is no evidence to back such claims), NH Republicans voted to impose new restrictions upon individuals registering to vote. Under this proposed legislation, the applicant will need to fill out a cumbersome and lengthy registration form and provide proofs of residency far beyond what has previously been accepted in NH. The goal, of course, is to reduce same-day registration and reduce voting by college students by dissuading them from even trying to register or creating such long delays at polling places that they will walk away and not vote at all. All of this is done in the name of voter fraud claims repeatedly and definitively refuted by town officials, the NH Secretary of State, and every non-partisan election observer. Instead, as NH’s Granite State Progress puts it, the NH Senate has now (by a party-line vote), thrown NH voters under the “make-believe, magic bus” of those who continue to assert fraud but offer not one scintilla of evidence to back their claims. What a basis for making policy!

SB3 will now go to the NH House, where it will undergo further hearings before being brought to the floor for a vote. Given that there is a Republican majority in the House and that Governor Sununu has also put forward unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, this bad legislation is likely to pass.

Full-Day Kindergarten   One positive development out of the Senate this past week was passage of a bill to provide targeted aid for full-day kindergarten here in NH. The House Finance Committee cut full-day kindergarten from their proposed 2018-19 State budget, but passage of this bill by the Senate makes clear that targeted funding for full-day kindergarten will be a point of contention in upcoming budget battles over the next two months.

House Finance Committee The House did not meet this past week, but the House Finance Committee did take its final votes and has now presented a proposed 2018-19 budget for the State of New Hampshire. As noted above, the Republican majority on the committee voted to eliminate proposed targeted funding for full-day kindergarten, following the logic of House Speaker Shawn Jasper, who could not imagine how any 5 or 6-year old could sit in school for a full day. (Maybe I’m odd, but I know I managed it just fine back in 1963-64!) The other proposals concerning us in this proposed budget concern the NH Retirement System. First, the budget makes no change in the State’s contribution to retirement costs for school districts and towns & municipalities that joined the System with promises of State backing. Instead, the State contribution rate remains at zero, meaning the State continues to break its promises and instead, passes along all retirement cost increases to local taxpayers. Second, this budget forces retirees under age 65 to pay 14% more towards their health insurance (20% of premium cost) and requires those aged 65-67 to now pay at least 10% towards health insurance premiums. In essence, the proposed budget reneges on prior agreements for retirees, making clear once again that the State of NH (at least in this budget) is not to be trusted whatsoever.

The proposed House budget will now go to the floor on Wednesday April 5 and will be voted on either the 5th or 6th. There will be numerous amendments proposed by members of both parties, but in the end, unless there is a major split within the Republican majority, the proposed budget will pass. It will then move on to the Senate where an entirely new budget will likely be drawn up and eventually passed, which means the final version of the 2018-19 budget will be worked out in a committee of conference between the Senate and House in May and likely voted on in June. In sum, the process has only begun.

School Vouchers   Finally, SB193, the radical voucher bill will be considered by the House Education Committee in a hearing this coming Tuesday morning. Advocates of “school choice” will be out in force in support of this raid upon public revenues, and have already launched attacks upon AFT-NH, among others, for opposing this legislation. They imply that AFT-NH spends millions in lobbying against this sort of legislation, which of course, is pure fiction, and whatever AFT spends nationally on the issue is dwarfed by the money spent by ALEC, Americans for Prosperity and the all the various front organizations funded by corporate interests intent on privatizing and profiting from education. The sad truth here in NH is that SB193 will result in major property tax increases as public funds are drained from public education to pay for private schooling. The reality is that choice already exists—what does not exist is the use of public funds to support private choices. SB193 does that, giving public monies to schools that can cherry-pick their students, need not offer the services required for special needs students, and remain free many programmatic and support requirements that public schools must meet. What the advocates of SB193 seek is public money, not public regulation, accountability or transparency. As Mark Fernald perceptively noted in a recent editorial, “If we create a system that is truly competitive and fair—with every school receiving public money meeting the same standards—I think we would find that our public schools do very well, and that most private and charter schools would not be interested in participating.”

Your Action Needed Now   So, if you have not already, please join us in opposing SB193 by completing the two following actions-

  1. A hearing before the House Education Committee has been scheduled for Tuesday, April 4th at 10:00am at the Legislative Office Building, Room 207, 33 North State Street, Concord, NH. Please attend the hearing and show your opposition. If you do not wish to testify, you can sign a card showing your opposition.

    If you are unable to attend, you can email the full House Education Committee directly at HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us. For more resources on this issue to assist you with writing a quick note, please visit our web site at: http://nh.aft.org/2017-nh-state-house-news#

  2. Contact your State Representative by clicking the following one-click action to stop school vouchers!

    Defeat SB 193           

There is no question when our members, partners, and other stakeholders stand up and register their opinions to lawmakers, we do make a difference! Thank you for all that you are doing every day to push back against legislation that is harmful to our state.

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

Leo W Gerard: Goon-Busters Prepare For Trump’s Poll Trolls

Republicans have conjured for Americans a monster more frightening than any Hollywood has ever produced for Halloween. It pales “The Shining.”

It is a two-headed beast Donald Trump calls voter fraud and rigged elections.  Like Hollywood creatures, though, this goblin is completely imaginary. It’s fake like the sasquatch and chupacabra. There’s no scientific evidence of its existence.

The GOP antidote for its imaginary monster is horribly real, however. It is voter suppression and intimidation. That is a tangible two-headed beast of appalling proportions. Fearing they could not win fair and square, Republicans took steps to prevent young, old, black and Hispanic people – people likely to vote Democratic – from reaching the polls. This GOP Frankenstein threatens democracy itself.

2016-10-30-1477842084-1921291-Trumpkin.jpg

Image by Ryan Merkley on Flickr

Two statistics are important to know when trying to detect which election monsters are real and which are not. Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt, an expert on civil rights, has tracked allegations of in-person voter fraud for years. In-person fraud is the kind Republicans are talking about, someone pretending to be someone else, or a dead person, to vote.

Levitt, who is on leave from the law school to serve as deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, tracked down and validated 31 instances of that happening since 2000.

It’s probably 32 cases now, since police in Iowa charged a 55-year-old Des Moines woman Thursday with felony voter fraud. The Republican admitted casting two early votes for Donald Trump.

That is 32 cases out of more than 1 billion ballots cast. That’s fraud, but it’s not a real problem.

Republicans across the country insisted on “solving” this non-problem by forcing all voters to obtain very specific types of identification. In Texas, for example, the GOP said an open-carry gun permit would be fine, but a student ID card from a state university would not. That would help keep those pesky young people, who tended to vote Democrat, away from the polls.

In many states, civil liberties groups like the ACLU sued to overturn the voter ID laws, forcing the GOP to search for voter fraud cases to justify their legislation. In Pennsylvania, the state had to stipulate in court that none existed, and the law was overturned. Not surprisingly, the GOP failed to dig up cases in Wisconsin or Indiana either. Thirty-one in 1 billion is kind of few and far between.

The second statistic is this: if Pennsylvania’s voter ID law had taken effect, it could have prevented more than 1 million citizens from voting. That’s the number of registered voters in just one state who did not have the required ID. Again, that’s a state where Republicans could show not one single case of voter fraud.

While the ACLU and other civil liberties groups continue to try to overturn unnecessary voter ID laws, the Democratic National Committee asked a federal judge last week to prevent Republicans from intimidating voters, particularly at minority polling places, as Donald Trump has encouraged his supporters to do.

The Democrats requested an injunction, saying Trump’s threats violate a 1982 consent decree that Republicans entered into after they stationed pseudo-guards at minority polling places in New Jersey to intimidate voters. Some of the guards were off duty police officers, were armed and wore arm bands marked “Ballot Security Task Force.”

Trump has repeatedly contended the election is “rigged” against him and asked his supporters to wear red shirts and stand as sentinels at the polls to prevent dead people from voting. Speaking in Altoona, Pa., in August, he said he wanted uniformed officers like the GOP had in 1982: “We have to call up law enforcement. And we have to have the sheriffs and the police chiefs and everybody watching.”

He added, “We have a lot of law enforcement people working that day. . .We’re hiring a lot of people. We’re putting a lot of law enforcement — we’re going to watch Pennsylvania, go down to certain areas and watch and study, and make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times.”

“Trump said to watch your precincts. I’m going to go, for sure,” said Steve Webb, a 61-year-old carpenter from Fairfield, Ohio. “I’ll look for. . .well, it’s called racial profiling. Mexicans, Syrians. People who can’t speak American,” he said. “I’m going to go right up behind them, I’ll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I’m not going to do anything illegal. I’m going to make them a little bit nervous.”

Despite Webb’s assertion that he’s not going to do anything illegal, deliberately attempting to make racially profiled voters “a little bit nervous” while they are attempting to exercise their most basic right as citizens violates federal law as well as the terms of the consent decree.

In addition, the lawsuit notes that the Pennsylvania GOP has attempted to reverse a state election law requiring poll watchers to be registered voters in the county where they are monitoring balloting. That law makes it impossible for Trump’s rural white supporters to guard the polls in inner city Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to ensure that the undead from George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead,” filmed near Pittsburgh, don’t vote repeatedly there.

There’s no reason to reverse this state law, the lawsuit says, except to license Trump supporters to intimidate and harass minority inner-city voters.

Republicans tried to wriggle out from under the constraints of the consent decree in 2009. But Federal Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise thwarted them. He wrote then: “It does not appear that the RNC’s incentive to suppress minority votes has changed since 1982. It appears that the RNC has been largely unsuccessful in its efforts to attract minority voters. Until it is able to do so, it will have an incentive to engage in the type of voter suppression that it allegedly committed in the actions that led to the enactment and modification of the consent decree.”

Judge Debevoise dismissed GOP arguments that voter fraud is a problem. By contrast, he said that suppression of minority voters is a serious issue.

That was seven years ago. But it was a point the DNC repeated in its arguments last week. It acknowledged that Trump keeps harping about a rigged election and dead people voting. And it provided lengthy proof that these are fears without basis in fact. They are boogeymen.

“On the other side of the ledger,” the DNC wrote, are the “constitutional rights of all Americans to cast their ballots without fear of intimidation or harassment . . .This is therefore a case of a real, impending harm balanced against an imaginary one.”

The DNC asked the court to extend the consent decree another eight years and to issue an injunction forbidding intimidation at the polls. Election Day is just a week away, however. Even if the court rules for the DNC, it’s not clear that every Trump supporter with a red shirt, a gun and ill-intent will hear about the decision before Nov. 8.

So civil liberties groups are preparing for the worst. If a red-shirted goon shows up at your polling place, call the ACLU at 866-OUR-VOTE or the Department of Justice Voting Rights Hotline at 800-253-3931. They have goon-buster teams nationwide. Don’t let anything frighten you from voting on Nov. 8.

Election Bill Creating Poll Tax, Residency Requirements Passes House Election Law Committee

SB179 would penalize New Hampshire voters
rather than improve elections

Concord, NH – Today the House Election Law Committee passed an elections bill along party lines (11-8) that creates unnecessary hurdles for New Hampshire voters by instituting an arbitrary vehicle registration “poll tax” and a 30-day residency requirement. The key features of SB 179, which also passed along party lines in the state Senate earlier this month (14-10), are likely unconstitutional at both the state and federal level.

The House Election Law Committee amended SB 179 to require voters to obtain a driver’s license and register their car in New Hampshire – a change that has no clear connection to maintaining the integrity of elections. New Hampshire’s constitution clearly states that “all elections are to be free,” and this amendment acts as a poll tax by charging engaged Granite Staters vehicle registration fees in order to vote.

Furthermore, SB 179 falls short of meeting the standards set in the United States Supreme Court case Dunn vs. Blumstein, which permitted up to a 30-day registration requirement in states that need it for administrative purposes. Given that New Hampshire is a same-day registration state, there is no compelling argument that the state’s election administration officials need the additional time.

“The sponsors of this legislation claim these restrictions will somehow stop voter fraud, but the proposed changes would penalize New Hampshire voters rather than help our elections,” explained League of Women Voters New Hampshire Election Law Specialist Joan Flood Ashwell. “There are many ways for voters to confirm their identity without forcing them to pay vehicle registration fees, and there are many ways to ensure they live in our state without a 30-day residency requirement. We can’t deny eligible voters the right to vote here in New Hampshire.”

Despite all evidence to the contrary, politicians continue to push restrictive election laws based on a false narrative of ‘phantom’ voters. New Hampshire attorney general investigations and a national Washington Post investigation** found that in-person voter impersonation and registration fraud is virtually non-existent.

America Votes-New Hampshire State Director Paula Hodges said, “SB 179 is one of more than a dozen dangerous bills proposed by radical lawmakers that would deter voters and undermine New Hampshire’s long-held tradition of streamlining voting. The various proposed bills range from eliminating same-day registration, to creating new inter-state cross-check programs that could purge thousands of eligible voters from the rolls. It’s clear these politicians are trying to influence elections by discouraging voters, and that’s wrong.”

“We urge the governor to veto SB 179 should it pass both chambers this year,” Hodges added.

Why Are GOP Politicians Agreeing With Al Gore?

elephantCan someone explain this to me? Why are GOP politicians suddenly agreeing with Al Gore? 

Last August, Al Gore called for an end to the electoral college.  That’s our system of indirect elections for President.  When we go to the polls and vote, we vote for a group of electors, not the actual candidates. Members of the “electoral college” are chosen state-by-state, and the presidential candidate who wins the most electors wins the election.

In 2000, George W. Bush won the election by winning a majority of the electors, even though Al Gore had a half-million more popular votes.  In 2012, the Republican party saw the system as so important to their election strategy that their Party Platform included “Protecting the Electoral College” as item #6.

Except, whoops, the 2012 election didn’t exactly turn out the way the GOP expected it to.  (Remember Karl Rove’s election-night meltdown?)  President Obama won re-election by more than three million votes.  And so now some GOP politicians are following Al Gore’s lead and proposing reforms to the electoral college system.

Last week, the Los Angeles Times reported on GOP proposals to change the winner-take-all system “in half a dozen states, including Pennsylvania, Virginia and Michigan.  All were presidential battlegrounds that President Obama carried last fall. But their state governments remain under Republican control, and some GOP lawmakers are pushing changes that would make it harder for Democrats to prevail in future contests.”

Whoa, that was a quick turn-around.

voting“Make it harder for Democrats to prevail” seems to be the key phrase here.  Last summer, Bloomberg News warned that

“Across the country, the Republicans’ carefully orchestrated plan to make voting harder — let’s call it the Voter Suppression Project — may keep just enough young people and minorities from the polls that Republicans will soon be in charge of all three branches of the federal government.”

That didn’t quite happen, but not for lack of trying.  By election day 2012, we had seen

Read the NY Times editorial, tallying all the various ways Republican officials tried to affect the vote, here.

“Make it harder for Democrats to prevail.”  These days, it doesn’t seem to matter to the GOP what route they take to that goal.  Hire questionable consultants? Agree with Al Gore?  Maybe even technological dirty tricks, as alleged by the group Anonymous?

The GOP is trying to win elections by manipulating the election system, rather than by earning votes. And that speaks volumes about how little faith they have in their policies and politicians.

If the party doesn’t have faith it its policies and politicians, why should we?

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