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.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Voting Rights Act in Yakima, Part I: Racially Polarized Voting


By Krist Novoselić

 On August 22, United States District Court Judge Thomas O. Rice ruled that the City Of Yakima’s voting system was in violation of the Voting Rights Act. The ruling identifies the city’s at-large voting system as the culprit for racially polarized voting. In the next installment about this issue, I will argue that the problem is winner-take-all rules and not at-large arrangements. Yakima can use this ruling to move beyond districts towards a truly inclusive voting system for all its voters. Until then, let us look at a recent instance of racially polarized voting in Yakima County.

Washington State held a primary election in August of 2012. One race for a seat on the State Supreme Court raised concerns over the issue of racially polarized voting in the Yakima area. Election returns revealed vote count disparities in the race between Steve Gonzalez and Bruce Danielson. Danielson, an obscure lawyer from Kitsap County beat Gonzalez who was an incumbent by appointment to the bench. Research points to voters choosing the candidate on surname alone – voters simply rejected the Latino.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Standing With Eddie Vedder and the Real Possibility of Peace

Palestinian / Israeli Separation Wall
Thank you Eddie Vedder for speaking up for peace in our world. Eddie has gotten some criticism over comments he made about the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis. That situation has been messed up for so long, it is no wonder that even mentioning it is toxic. Let’s face it, the relationship between the Palestinians and the Israelis is a disaster! I don’t know how many times I have heard the same explanations and excuses and it matters not, there is a continuing catastrophe between those two peoples.

Our world is connected as never before. People from all corners of the planet share culture and commerce at the click of a mouse. In contrast to this great convergence of humanity, Israel is building tall concrete walls while Palestinians fire rockets over them. There's a shared recent history between these people, and I think there could be a shared future that's more in tune with what's going on with our ever-connected universe.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Youth Vote: A Cheap Date

Nate Cohn writes this article in the April, 28 NYT’s Why the Democrats’ Turnout Problem Is Worst in NorthCarolina. The issue for Democrats is that young voters tend to sit out midterm elections. Sen. Kay Hagan is up for reelection this year and this situation is bad news for her. Hagan’s margin of victory in 2008 came from voters under the age of 30 — a voting bloc that gave her 71 percent of their vote that year. The Obama-mania of 2008 responsible for this turnout is long gone. Cohn makes this point and how it will be tough for Hagan to achieve these numbers with the youth vote this year.

Hagan is a Democrat, and like the GOP, these "state parties" are basically soft money conduits around individual campaign contribution limits. A party is supposed to be a group of likeminded people who pull others into the arena of elections. Instead, the two state parties cling to voting rules that push people away. And they use social media in accordance with their top-down group structures. It is an exclusive system that never follows up when constituencies like youth show up to vote.

Democrats have been doing this for too long. I recall the 1992 election with the big Rock The Vote effort that helped elect the Clinton / Gore ticket. There was a huge youth turnout and all the Democrats could do for this constituency was the Motor Voter Bill. My point is that there was no real effort to keep these voters engaged. The 1992 and 2010 midterms had a similar dynamic and, by what Cohn is reporting, we’re set to see it gain in 2014.

I am not a youth voter. I want a democracy for all ages. Part of making this happen is a willingness to abandon the two state parties for new forms of association. This is why I am interested in using new political social networking platforms. I want to associate with people who want to engage elections with new tools to challenge the current broken paradigm. This means advocating reforms and running candidates outside of the state party structure in 2014 and 2016. 

With the right tool, we can build a democracy for the ages.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Punk Rock Gender Parity

Backstage Life
I am so happy about the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame event and how it went so well. Earlier that week there were three long days of rehearsals in NYC. I feel we conjured the spirit of the band, and we could not have done that alone. This, for me, is a bittersweet notion as we all miss Kurt so much. But considering we were inducted, the show had to go on. Joan Jett was first on my list to be out front. I spoke to Dave about it and he ran with the idea of having all women lead. We felt that would be a good tribute to Kurt and what Nirvana was about. 

It was a good balance of females as Joan Jett and Kim Gordon are matriarchs of Punk Rock, while St. Vincent and Lorde represent the powerful up-and-coming women in Rock. Every one of these performances nailed a Nirvana tune in their own way. Joan - Smells Like Teem Spirit, Kim - Aneurism, St. Vincent - Lithium and Lorde - All Apologies. I had fun on the last song because I got to play accordion and all of our guests were on stage for a gala closing! Our set will be broadcast in high quality television in May so check it out.

We also did a club gig afterward that was a lot of fun. I will have more on that soon but thank you to J Mascis and John McCauley for your great contributions!!!!

Our "all female" Hall of Fame set also had me thinking about the political realm (Imagine that!) At FairVote we have done a report regarding the state of women's representation. I will have more to say about this, especially how at-large districts tend to put more women in office, at another time. Until then, enjoy this short and engaging video about the study narrated by Marie Wilson.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Leave it to those Millennials!

Millennial Makeover in Pennsylvania’s 10th district.
Nick Troiano today announced his independent campaign for US House in Pennsylvania’s 10th district. I find his campaign intriguing for many reasons. First off, he is a Millennial and if you’ve ever read the book Millennial Makeover, there is a good theory about how this generation will make waves when it comes of age. Read my review of this book here and the following is an excerpt.



The youth vote always seems up for grabs but that’s not really any news. In their book Millennial Makeover, authors Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais tell us more. They say the party that connects with the Millennial Generation will dominate the political landscape for the next forty years. (Millennial refers to people born between 1982 and 2003.) 
The authors point to generational theories in analyzing American society since the Jackson era. This thinking separates different periods of history as being led by either civic or idealist generational types. It’s a cycle where one era follows the other – each lasting about forty years.
For example, the GI Generation dominated the civic era of the Great Depression, WWII, the 50s and early 60s. They were “outer-fixated”and reared in a protective manner that affected their adult lives in ways that made them problem solvers and institution builders.

Then came the idealist Baby Boomers – “inner-fixated” who were “reared in an indulgent manner and are driven throughout their lives by their deeply held beliefs.” This generational type, who started shaping culture and politics in the mid-sixties, is dominating the current idealist era.

Winograd and Hais paint a picture of how tech savvy the Millennial generation is. Again, no real news but they put it in historical context. They say “waves of technological change and innovation…. have oscillated in harmony with its generational cycles”. They give an account of the impact of the telegraph regarding media and the debate between Lincoln and Douglas and the realigning election of 1858. The narrative follows technology through radio and television up to the current emergence of social networking that’s defining our era. The thesis is that we’re due for a generational realignment so watch out for the techie Millennials and their civic era attitudes - views which include a positive perspective on government and politics.
Troiano’s independent campaign is a sign of this generation coming into its own. And look at how he’s doing it: First, he has abandoned the two major institutional parties for an independent campaign. And second, he is using the new communication paradigm to abandon the constituencies who dominate the institutional parties. Troiano on his site says,

I believe people should be the driving force of our democracy, not well-funded special interests. My "America Deserves Better” campaign will only accept contributions from individuals –– not PACs, corporations, unions or lobbyists. Please make a contribution of whatever you can afford to help me change politics as usual.

Public Financing is Dead, Long Live Citizen Financing!

 

Have you seen the public financing bill in the US House? It proposes a pilot program in three states where citizens can buy “My Voice” vouchers worth 50 bucks that go to candidates. I could go into more detail but that would be too archaic — like describing how a wire recording machine works. My point / analogy is that this voucher pilot program bill is obsolete even before it is voted on — Troiano, and other candidates to come, are a new paradigm manifesting. Why join some clunky state voucher pilot program when you can just donate to Troiano’s, or some other forward thinking candidate's citizen funded campaign?


We’re getting close to filing deadlines for the 2014 election. This means the playing field is solidifying for the season.  It will be interesting to see how much the new paradigm appears in this election and what kind of impact it makes.