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TCA: Are Davidson Co. Elections ‘Borked?’

Newsletter from Tennessee Citizen Action; September 13, 2012: 

BORKED

According to the dictionary for geeks, something is “borked” when it doesn’t work correctly or misbehaves, generally due to negligence by the person(s) that are responsible for it.

So just how borked are elections In Davidson County? Well, we’ll know this afternoon [pdf] after the Davidson County Election Commission meeting.

See, after deciding last week to NOT use the problematic Electronic Poll Books in the November Election, it came to our attention that the Davidson County Election Commission (DCEC) will meet again today to reconsider using the malfunctioning machines.

If the DCEC decides to reinstate the EPBs in November then we will be left scratching our heads and wondering why?

As the world’s leading democracy, we can’t use machines that deny some residents the opportunity to participate equally in our democratic process.

Read the rest of the story… and then call or email the Davidson County Election Commission and ask them to stick with their original decision to NOT use the Electronic Poll Books in November.

Go here for more…

CITIZEN ACTION IN THE NEWS

State wants Davidson County Election Commission to ‘make a wrong a right,” WPLN, September 11, by Blake Farmer

Tennessee Citizen Action Raises More Questions, As Officials Reconsider Decision on EPBs,” Nashville Scene, September 12, by Steven Hale

Citizens’ group worries that problematic poll books will be used again,” Tennessean, September 12, by Brian Wilson

Davidson election leaders could reverse poll book vote,” WSMV-TV, September 12, by Cara Kumari.

Metro Councilmembers pull purse strings, ask for commission audit,” WPLN, August 30, 2012, by Blake Farmer

ALEC UPDATE

ECHOING ALEC’S PLAYBOOK, THE REAL STORY OF WALKER’s TORT “REFORM”: On New Year’s weekend in 2011, many Wisconsinites were focused on the Badgers’ return to the Rose Bowl or whether the Green Bay Packers would beat the Detroit Lions and get another shot to win the Super Bowl, but the incoming administration of Governor Scott Walker had other, bigger contests on its agenda. In mid-winter, while many in the state were worried about who would win or lose the big games, Walker’s team was preparing to change state law in numerous ways, including making it easier for corporations to win big cases and limit the damages paid if their products or practices kill or injure people in Wisconsin.

Walker, who had suddenly dropped out of college in his senior year at Marquette University, didn’t think up these changes to Wisconsin personal injury law all by himself. Key provisions of his “tort reform” package were previously drafted by lawyers or lobbyists for the global corporations that are part of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Read the rest…

ALEC UPDATE, PART 2

PROGRESSIVE STATES ACTION: “ALEC and its high-priced global public relations firm have begun to attack its critics.

Wisconsin legislators affiliated with ALEC are deleting public records related to the organization.

In just 25 days last year, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker fast tracked his tort “reform” agenda through the legislature. Key parts of the package “were previously drafted by lawyers or lobbyists for the global corporations that are part of the American Legislative Exchange Council.” More

IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: PROFITING FROM PRIVATE DOLLARS: For years, corporations have joined the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for the opportunity to develop legislation that diverts public dollars into their corporate coffers. A new report by In the Public Interest, “Profiting from Public Dollars: How ALEC and Its Members Promote Privatization of Government Services and Assets,” exposes ALEC’s extensive privatization agenda.

The report details how private prison corporations, online education companies, health care corporations, and major industry players pay large membership fees to ALEC in exchange for valuable and unfettered access to state legislators. Corporations are able to work with ALEC lawmakers to craft bills that allow private control of public functions, and guarantee a steady stream of tax dollars to enhance profits.

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Press Releases

TCA: ‘Plethora of Election Problems, Mistakes’

Press release from Tennessee Citizen Action; August 9, 2012: 

VOTING PROBLEMS ON ELECTION DAY?

The past few weeks saw a plethora of election problems and mistakes at the polls in Tennessee.

As we venture further into election season, Citizen Action urges all to be proactive in their voter mobilization and education. Everyone should know that voting is a right guaranteed to you by the Tennessee Constitution and you should never let anyone tell you that you can’t vote.

If you had any problems voting during the primary election last Thursday, August 2, please email us at mary@tnca.org or call 615-736-6040.

Even if the problem was resolved and you were able to vote, we want to hear your story. Every story means we are one step closer to holding our election administrators and commissioners accountable for fair and accurate elections.

MEET ALEC

ALEC, also known as the American Legislative Exchange Council, was back in the news last week, after holding yet another national convention. (Read about one progressive’s “Week With ALEC” here.)

We would agree with other critics that ALEC is a “a secretive, corporate-controlled lobby for conservative causes.” ALEC counts as its members executives of large corporations and mostly conservative state lawmakes. The lawmakers are tasked with carrying the legislation authored by the corporate executives back to their respective states. The large corporations do their part by contributing lots of $$$ to state legislator’s election campaigns.

Common Cause recenlty filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission accusing ALEC of misusing their tax-exempt status by lobbying state legislators. The state of Wisconsin has also filed a complaint ” claiming that ALEC’s ‘scholarships’ for travel expenses to conventions violate a ban on lobbyist gifts to legislators.” Tennessee also bans gifts from lobbyists to legislators but in 2006, with the help of ALEC Board Member Rep. Curry Todd* (R-Collierville), an explicit exemption was added for ” out-of-state travel expenses provided by ‘a recognized organization of elected or appointed state government officials.‘”

THESE LEGISLATORS STAND WITH ALEC

The good news is that many of the corporations who once belonged to ALEC are fleeing from it. Some TN legislators have left as well.

The bad news is that many State Legislators are still members. Here’s the who’s who of TN legislators who are associated with ALEC:

TN House of Representatives

  • Rep. Curry Todd* (R-Collierville)
  • Rep-elect Susan Lynn* (R-Mt. Juliet)
  • Rep. John D. Ragan* (R-Oak Ridge)
  • Rep. Kevin D. Brooks* (R-Cleveland)
  • Rep. David Hawk* (R-Greeneville)
  • Rep. Bob Ramsey* (R-Maryville)
  • Rep. Tony Shipley* (R-Kingsport)
  • Rep. Vince Dean* (R-East Ridge)
  • Rep. Curtis Johnson* (R-Clarksville)
  • Rep. Gerald McCormick* (R-Chattanooga)
  • Rep. Charles Sargent* (R-Franklin)
  • Rep. Debra Maggart (R-Hendersonville)
  • Rep. Stephen McManus* (R-Cordova)
  • Rep. Harry R. Brooks* (R-Knoxville)
  • Rep. Frank Niceley (R-Knoxville)
  • Rep. Jimmy Eldridge* (R-Jackson)
  • Rep. Julia Hurley (R-Lenoir City)*
  • Rep. Mark White* (R-Memphis)
  • Rep. Phillip Johnson (R-Pegram)
  • Rep. Ryan A. Haynes* (R-Knoxville)
  • Rep. Joe Carr* (R-Lascassass)
  • Rep. Jon C. Lundberg* (R-Bristol)
  • Rep. Joshua G. Evans* (R-Greenbrier)
  • Rep. Mike T. Harrison* (R-Rogersville)
  • Rep. Johnny Montgomery (R-Sevierville)
  • Rep. Steve McDaniel* (R-Parkers Crossroads) (Read quotes here)
  • Rep. Barrett Rich* (R-Somerville)
  • Rep. Kelly Keisling* (R-Byrdstown) (Also recently made appearance in HuffPost)
  • Rep. Vance Dennis* (R-Savannah)
  • Rep. Dale Ford (R-Jonesborough)

TN Senate

  • Sen. Reginald Tate** (D-Memphis)
  • Sen. Ken Yager* (R-Harriman)
  • Sen. Dolores R. Gresham* (R-Somerville)
  • Sen. Steve Southerland** (R-Morristown)
  • Sen. Jim Tracy* (R-Shelbyville)
  • Sen. Bill Ketron** (R-Murfreesboro)
  • Sen. Mike Bell** (R-Riceville)
  • Sen. Brian K. Kelsey** (R-Germantown)
  • Sen. Mark S. Norris* (R-Collierville)
  • Sen. Ophelia Ford** (D-Memphis)
  • Sen. Jim Kyle* (D-Memphis)

*These members won their primary races last week. And here is a list of the August 2 Primary Election results.

** No re-election bid this year.

CONSTITUTIONAL CHALLENGE TO PHOTO ID TO VOTE LAW

GOOD NEWS! We have a Constitutional challenge to Tennessee’s Photo ID to Vote law! The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports:

“An amended complaint was filed Tuesday by attorneys for the city and for two Memphis voters without state-issued ID cards whose provisional ballots in last Thursday’s election were not counted. The complaint charges that the voter photo ID requirement adds a new qualification for voting beyond the four listed in the Tennessee Constitution and is therefore an unconstitutional infringement on the right to vote under both the federal and state constitutions.

The attorneys…have asked the federal court to ask the Tennessee Supreme Court whether requiring otherwise qualified voters in Tennessee to present photo IDs violates the state constitution.”

HERE WE GO! Thank you again to everyone who worked so hard last winter to repeal the law. The fight is not over yet!

THE WIZARDS OF I.D.

It was only a matter of time. Finally, Jon Stewart skewers conservative charges of rampant voter fraud on last night’s edition of The Daily Show: “The Wizards of I.D.”

Watch Part 1.

Then watch Part 2.

Favorite line – “If you have a favorite Meg Ryan movie, you might be eleigible to vote!”

UPCOMING EVENTS

RALLY TO STOP VOTER SUPPRESSION IN TENNESSEE Please join to speak with one voice to decry this injustice. Saturday, August 11, 10:30 am – 12:30 pm at Krutch Park, Knoxville, TN More info here.

COMMITTEE MEETING Tennessee Equality Project Nashville Committee Meeting at Nashville West Buffalo Wild Wings onWednesday, August 15 at 7:00 p.m.

CONFERENCE Tennessee Health Care Campaign
23rd Annual Conference on Saturday, August 18
9:00 am – 4:30 pm
Kresge Learning Center
Meharry Medical College
1005 Dr. D.B. Todd Blvd. Nashville. For more info: THCC2.org

TRAINING: VOTER REGISTRATION Nashville’s League of Women Voters is hosting a “How to Register Voters” Train-the-Trainer workshop on Sat, August 18 10:30 am – 12 noon at the Goodwill Career Solutions center, Nashville

SUPER VOTER REGISTRATION DAY The NAACP, Middle Tennessee Urban League, Citizen Action, and others encourage your organization to join with us to organize and sponsor an all-day Voter Registration Drive on Sunday, August 19.

COMMUNITY ORGANIZING WORKSHOP A Nashville Workshop on Faith-based Community Organizing on Saturday, August 25 from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm at the Spruce Street Baptist Church. Planned by The Nashville Faith-Based Organizing Project. Training by The Gamaliel Foundation. Register for free online here.

Categories
Featured Liberty and Justice News Tax and Budget

State Sovereignty Supporter Pushes Federal Mandate in TN Legislature

Earlier this year, Republican state Rep. Debra Young Maggart co-sponsored a resolution demanding that the federal government refrain from further burdening Tennessee with unwarranted and potentially unconstitutional policy mandates.

But earlier this month, Rep. Maggart and Sen. Diane Black, R-Gallatin, expressed their interest in legislatively obligating the State of Tennessee to embrace an as-yet unfulfilled federal mandate, signed by George W. Bush, that critics say violates just the sort of constitutional principles lawmakers like Maggart saw fit to reiterate in their state sovereignty resolution last session.

The federal mandate at issue here is part of the Adam Walsh Child Protection Safety Act of 2006 (pdf). Among other things, it demands harsher treatment of juveniles found guilty of committing sex crimes — in particular, by posting youthful offenders’ pictures, names, birthdays and addresses online.

“The adoption of this legislation would put Tennessee into compliance with the requirements for juveniles to be placed on state’s Sex Offender Registries under the Adam Walsh Act which was scheduled to go into effect in 2009,” according to a press release issued Dec. 7 by Maggart and Black. “Tennessee was awarded over $50 million in Byrne Grant funding last year, 10 percent of which could be in jeopardy unless the state adheres to these requirements.”

Failing to abide by the Act could result in a loss of state law enforcement subsidies of $750,000 to $940,000 next year, the Tennessee Office of Criminal Justice Programs reports.

“Is it a mandate? Yes,” said Maggart.

But she sees little in her past advocacy for the sovereignty resolution — combined with her support now for the Bush-era federal mandate — to indicate she’s guilty of a political double standard.

“I know we need this money,” Maggart told TNReport.com. “It is a mandate, but again, it is what we’re operating under, and I think that we should have uniform laws on sex offenders across the country because sex offenders are really clever.”

The Tennessee sovereignty resolution, House Joint Resolution 108 (pdf), was really meant to ward off unfunded mandates such as government-run health care or expansions of education programs, Maggart said. It wasn’t necessarily intended to label all the federal government’s directives to the states as bad.

“I just think they’re two different animals,” she said. Of the federal health legislation under consideration in Congress right now, Maggart said, “The costs are going to be out of this world.”

“But keeping sex offenders out of our community where they can prey on our children,” she added, “is a completely different thing.”

Michael Hough, a public safety specialist for the Washington D.C.-based American Legislative Exchange Council, said that elements of the Walsh Act, particularly the juvenile offender provisions, were upsetting to state lawmakers, many of them conservatives, from around the country who gathered in Atlanta last summer to discuss the law.

“Everyone basically agreed that parts of the law were very good, but — as happens a lot when the federal government passes things — they don’t really understand what’s going to happen when it is put out in the states.” said Hough, whose organization tends to promote state-level, small-government, market-oriented policy solutions.

Hough said many lawmakers complained of the costs associated with implementing much of the Walsh Act — that they’re in fact even higher than the potential Byrne grant cuts that would result from noncompliance.

Likewise, the National Conference of State Legislatures has stated that the Walsh Act works to “preempt many state laws and create an unfunded mandate for states.”

The Act was also found unconstitutional in April 2008 by a U.S. District Court judge in Florida, who declared that under the general reasoning inherent in the Walsh Act, “virtually all criminal activity would be subject to the power of the federal government.”

“Surely our founding fathers did not contemplate such a broad view of federalism,” wrote the judge.

His opinion was later overturned on appeal by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which said the provisions of the United States Constitution allowing for regulation of interstate commerce permitted Congress to pass laws that “track those offenders who move from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.”

To date, only Ohio has adopted the Walsh Act, and currently it is under review in the state supreme court.

“This is not about kids playing doctor when they’re 10 years old,” said Maggart. “The needs of the community to be protected by a 16-year-old that’s a rapist, it outweighs everything.”

But Nashville defense attorney Brent Horst, himself a former sex-crimes prosecutor in Florida, said situations where children “playing doctor” crosses a line could result in an individual being publicly labeled as a heinous sort of criminal for decades.

“No one wants to be soft on sex offenders,” said Horst, but requiring that juvenile offenders be added to the adult registry is an “incredibly stupid, unfair and unjust” idea. It could end up subjecting a “a poor kid who’s just a normal teenager experimenting with his sexuality” to years of societal contempt, he said.

“It’s all about the (federal) money,” Horst added.

If approved by both chambers and OK’d by the governor, the new law would require juvenile offenders to register if they have been found guilty of crimes such as rape, aggravated sexual battery, aggravated rape, rape of a child, aggravated rape of a child or an attempt to commit of those crimes.

Juveniles convicted as adults under Tennessee law must already register with the sex offender website.

Maggart, who, like Sen. Black, is from Sumner County, was the No. 2 co-sponsor of the HJR108 sovereignty resolution. A very popular measure, it passed 85-2 in the House and 31-0 in the Senate. Black didn’t appear to vote on the legilsation.

HJR108 reaffirmed Tennessee’s claim as a self-governing jurisdictional entity in keeping with the Tenth Amendment, which reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

HJR108 also lamented that while “the federal government was created by the states specifically to be an agent of the states…today, in 2009, the states are demonstrably treated as agents of the federal government.”

Similar measures were enacted in several other states, but on June 23 Phil Bredesen put pen to paper and made Tennessee’s the first such resolution in the country signed by a governor.

The resolution’s chief sponsor last spring, Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, says she tends to agree with Maggart — that the Hendersonville Republican’s effort to list juveniles on public sex offender electronic bulletin boards is more an effort to improve public safety in Tennessee than an attempt to suck up to Washington, D.C.

“This would be a Tennessee law to put juveniles on a sex offender registry,” said Lynn, who supports the bill. “It would happen to be coincidence, as far as I’m concerned, that the federal government is mandating this.”