Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Fifty Years of the Voting Rights Act

By Krist Novoselic

In 1954, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued its Brown v. Board of Education decision; which put an end to the doctrine of “separate but equal”. This unanimous ruling struck down the notorious Plessy v. Ferguson — an 1896 decision that propped up a regime of racial segregation lasting for generations. A decade after Brown, vestiges of segregation still existed in state and local election law. As a result, a broad-based, grassroots civil rights movement took action. To this day, the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), a centerpiece achievement of the civil rights movement, looms large over elections in the United States. The goal of this landmark legislation is to break down statutory barriers to political representation such as literacy tests, poll taxes and other voting rules meant to exclude. As a result of the VRA, elections today are reflecting more racial diversity than ever before. This demonstrates the success of the VRA.

On the other hand, the status quo of civil rights advocacy is far from dynamic. Civil rights issues have been drawn into the political polarization that currently grips American politics. We find the Act repeatedly manipulated by political elites of both major parties to maximize their electoral strength. Instead of broad-based, grassroots efforts, the battles over civil/voting rights within legislative reapportionment are fought among attorneys. The resulting course of law is a patchwork of civil rights rulings, some at odds with the Act itself. These fights occur at all levels of government; for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives; who controls the floors of various state chambers; on down to counties, cities and other local jurisdictions. Those who control and prevail with the drawing maps for this type of election effectively become Masters of the Political Universe. This article looks at how political elites tend to focus on geographical districting with single-seat, winner-take-all elections as a remedy to VRA cases.

While the VRA has been successful with electing minorities, measuring legislative responsiveness in the United States Congress shows poor results. This article examines legislation in the House of Representatives regarding immigration—an important concern to Latino voters—and how this issue is languishing as a result of distortions caused by partisan manipulation of district lines.

I conclude by suggesting some form of modified at-large voting as a way of keeping omnipotent political elites in check.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Great show with The Sonics last night

I go to play the tune "Cinderella" with The Sonics last night. Their set caught the band in top form. It was amazing to see them live. I imagined being in the audience at the Spanish Castle in 1965. (This is the venue immortalized in the Jimi Hendrix song.) My point is that their energy and straight-forward arrangements actually transcended time. They were the forbearers of Punk Rock who opened doors for many in the Pacific Northwest music scene.

Here are some images by Brian Kasnyk.

Group Photo

Chris Ballew & Myself
Rhythm Section: Myself with Dusty Watson

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Voting Rights Act In Yakima, Part IV: Let's Pass The WASHINGTON Voting Rights Act

Let's have our cake.........or taking your piece?
By Krist Novoselić

Micah Cawley is the Mayor of Yakima, Washington and he writes this great editorial in the Seattle Times today.

It is refreshing to see a forward-looking article about the Voting Rights Act (VRA) that encourages readers to go beyond the partisan stagnation that infects our politics these days.

Last week, Cawley submitted testimony in Olympia in support of the Washington Voting Rights Act. He advocated certain amendments to the bill that should make better prospects for its passage. This can be a game-changer with legislation that has been slogging its way through the process. Too bad proponents of the VRA squandered an opportunity to move an amended bill out of the Senate Government Operations and Security committee. They instead passed a version of the bill that already died in the Senate Rules committee. Unless proponents have a strategy -and I have not heard of one- it seems like EHSB 1745 [WA VRA bill] is limping its way to its death again in the Senate Rules committee. However, it's not too late and maybe Cawley’s positive attitude -and the amendments- can still give this bill some traction?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Revelatory Dream

Dream Machine
Yesterday I was recording with Robert Michael Pyle. (If you are interested in what we are up to, here is a link to some work we did a couple of years ago.) I was playing guitar to Bob’s prose about Darwin’s voyage of the Beagle. During one part of the performance, I was straining to hear what he was saying, however, I could make out things through little bits and pieces. Later, during a break, I was trying to remember the school of psychology that studies how the mind can construe fragments of a visual image for a complete mental recognition. I was stumped.

Last night I had a dream where someone handed me a book with these partial images made up of typed dots and dashes . It was like …_ _ .. .. , and  I could see just enough where it was the face of Zeus. I looked at the cover of the book and the title was “Gestalt Psychology”.

Wow! During sleep, my long-term memory (LTM) was working in concert with my amygdala and visual association area to remind me of what the school of psychology I was straining to remember.

I had gone to sleep a little stressed. I have been rushing some of my studies lately and made a mistake. I was telling myself to slow down and I am slashing some minor commitments. As of late, I think my mind can get cluttered so LTM is getting blocked. The dream was liberating and clearing. I felt great after a solid, good night’s sleep.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Making A Place on the Ballot for Women

This article will look at electoral rules that best accommodate how a gender component, within an association’s nominating rules, could guarantee a woman a place on the general election ballot.

There is a gender gap in our politics. According to the Center for American Women andPolitics, a total of 104 women will serve in the 114th Congress. Women make up 24.2 percent of the state legislatures. We have seen a steady rise in holding office since 1917, the year the first woman was elected to the US House. Notwithstanding, women still only hold 19 percent of the seats in Congress.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Voting Rights Act in Yakima, Part III: An Inclusive Compromise

This is the third installment regarding a recent federal court ruling finding the City of Yakima’s elections in violation of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). I write about how the City is offering a compromise remedy that better serves Latinos, if not all voters.

Soon after the summary ruling finding Yakima in violation of Sec. 2 of the VRA, political and opinion leaders suggested the City not appeal. Governor Jay Inslee wrote a letter to the city council saying, “I want to respectfully request that the Council send a clear message by voting to not appeal the Court’s decision and instead focus on implementing a plan to address this serious issue.” The Seattle Times editorial board wrote, that, “Yakima should abandon any notion of a costly appeal.” And guess what? Yakima did not appeal. It did however, offer a compromise that allows it to stand by its argument regarding representation for all of the city’s Latino voters — and not only those who are drawn into exclusive districts.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Voting Rights Act in Yakima, Part II: Options for the City & All ItsVoters

by Krist Novoselić

A federal court has ruled that Yakima’s elections are in violation of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Some may think that the City’s only options are to accept seven individual districts or appeal the ruling. This assumption is untrue as Yakima has more alternatives available than ceding to a district plan or wading forward with more litigation. A simple change to the voting rules can have Yakima keep at-large elections, while at the same time remedy issues of voter dilution.

Exclusive districts are not a solution mandated by the VRA. Making these so-called majority-minority districts is a decision by the parties in the lawsuit. Judge Rice’s ruling may have called on the City to submit a district plan, notwithstanding, legal precedence allows the defendant jurisdiction the choice of election systems as long its proposal actually does remedy the vote dilution. In other words — Yakima can choose to implement voting rules other than majority-minority districts.