David Denham is an organizer for social justice with a long track record of building strong alliances and effecting real change. As the head of the cross-partisan Represent Roanoke Valley/the Clean Money Squad, he has been a strong advocate for anti-corruption reform in Virginia for the past 6 years. Listen to the podcast to learn about his recent success mobilizing over 1000 RepresentUS volunteers nationwide in support of the constitutional amendment on redistricting reform. David also talks about his efforts to sign up 26 candidates for the legislature to take an anti-corruption pledge, collaborating with other groups like Activate Virginia and Clean Virginia. In addition, David talks about his civil disobedience experience and his work with the Poor People's Campaign. David offers a number of lessons for other grassroots democratic reform organizations active in Virginia. Listen in!
Interested in training on the constitution? Tune in today at 1 pm.
TUNE IN: Learners of all ages can continue their constitutional learning online with LIVE programming.
All streaming will be available through Zoom, and accessible on a home computer, laptop, or phone. Viewers can register at the Zoom link copied below each date or refresh this page at the scheduled program time to watch the livestream. For the full list of upcoming classes, check out the schedule.
Check back here for updates about live virtual America's Town Hall programs.
Wednesday March 25: First Amendment: Freedom of Speech and the Press
Join us for our first Virtual Post Legislative Forum.
Thursday March 26 at 7 PM Eastern
We have commitments so far from Sen. Favola and Delegates Lopez and Hope but we are hoping for more to join us.
If you have never done a virtual meeting on Zoom, it is quite easy. Cut and paste this link into your web browser:
(If you have never done Zoom before you will be guided through a simple download.)
If you prefer to join by audio call 929 205 6099 to join in.
WE NEED YOUR QUESTIONS:
Our host, Seema Jain, will ask questions as she always does, but we are asking you to email them to us in advance. EMAIL to Lwvarlingtonva@....
There is a "chat" feature on Zoom so if a question comes to you during the event you can enter but we really need to have questions as much in advance as possible.
The work of the League continues- in just a different form.
Hope to see and or hear you then!
Stay safe and well.
Topic: Virtual post legislative session Time: Mar 26, 2020 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting https://zoom.us/j/422396259
Meeting ID: 422 396 259
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Dial by your location +1 929 205 6099 US (New York) +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago) +1 301 715 8592 US +1 346 248 7799 US (Houston) +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose) +1 253 215 8782 US Meeting ID: 422 396 259 Find your local number: https://zoom.us/u/aeFsWDEKL
My friend Larry Garber sent me the note below and I am keen to draw it to your attention as the first webinar he is holding is on March 23 ....I know that some of you are keenly interested in corruption and the US election systems and so this may be of particular interest to you.
Best wishes, Frank Vogl
Family and Friends (with apologies to those who have already received this e-mail),
I an writing to let you know about a fantastic organization whose Board of Directors I am proud to serve on. Election Reformers Network (ERN) was founded in 2017 by a group of friends and former colleagues from organizations that monitor elections and support democracy overseas. ERN leverages this background to advance practical, nonpartisan reforms that can move our democracy toward a more representative elections system and less partisan involvement in election administration.
Since forming, ERN activities have included support for independent redistricting ballot initiatives, developing Electoral College reform alternatives, and advocating for legislative elections on the basis of multi-member districts using ranked choice voting. Currently, ERN is leading a project to assess conflicts of interest among the chief election officers responsible for administering the elections in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
A couple of upcoming programs that may be of interest to you:
March 23 webinar on the Role States in Play in Anti-Gerrymandering(register here)
March 25 webinar on Electoral College Reform (register here)
ERN is a 501c3 organization with a politically diverse governing Board and Advisory Council. Please click here for more information about the organization and here to receive news and updates from the organization (no obligations required). And once you have an opportunity to peruse the materials, I would welcome your thoughts on how we can use our focus on structural election reforms to improve our democracy.
Registered voters in Virginia can vote by mail by requesting an absentee ballot. Find out how to get your absentee ballot so you can vote at home and keep you and your family safe. RepresentUS just built a new tool to help you know your options for voting at home during the coronavirus pandemic, so you and your family can stay safe and still participate in this election. Here is the link :
This week The People hosted a conversation among representatives from leading reform organizations across the state to share our 2020 and 2021 priorities and to explore ways to collaborate and create community on line. Represent Roanoke Valley/Clean Money Squad, One Virginia 2021, and American Promise were among the organizations involved.
Over the next several months, The People is focused on reaching out to Virginians from across the state, engaging in online town halls to identify people who want to engage with reform, and to educate and also learn how people see the reform priorities.
“On the call, we began to explore ways that we can collaborate. We want to help develop community with online tools, to listen, raise awareness and also give people the opportunity to act. We find that people are frustrated, do not feel heard, and want to know more about solutions. Many people we meet might not be connected to the organizations championing the issue they are most excited about, and we can help that connection happen,” shares Katie Fahey.
This has been a crazy and exciting General Assembly session! VAPLAN has been tracking bills all session, and recording votes. For the last two years since we began, we have put together a cross-issue legislative scorecard, ranking legislators based on how progressively they voted. Although special interest groups often create scorecards for particular issues like guns, the environment, or business, ours is the only one we’ve seen that covers multiple legislative areas to measure overall progressiveness. We’re happy to announce the third annual VAPLAN legislative scorecard! Before we get to the scores, a few important caveats are in order:
Our list of included bills is not necessarily a comprehensive list of all progressive bills—our strategy is typically to focus on bills that are not straight party-line votes (either in committees or on the floor), to enable us to tease out differences among Democrats and differences among Republicans.
We discovered this year in particular that a number of bills were "continued" -- which we consider similar to killing -- by unrecorded voice vote in House (sub)committees as well as in the Senate Rules Committee. Often this included patrons voting to continue their own bills. Additionally, some House (sub)committees left a number of bills behind without docketing them or bringing them up for vote—many closely-watched bills died in this manner this year, such as banning the death penalty for those with severe mental illness, right to work repeal, the ban on campaign donations from public utilities, etc.
A simple scorecard is also unable to capture lousy amendments that water down a bill and votes on these amendments, unspoken or backroom deals to water down bills, as well as heroic attempts to save bills from dying, all of which were especially important this year. In other words, the scorecard mainly reflects votes on final versions of bills, which do not necessarily match what votes might have been cast on more or less progressive versions of these bills.
Because legislators vary in the number of opportunities to vote on bills depending on their committee assignments, the scorecard is sometimes unduly affected by one unprogressive vote. A legislator on many committees can make up for that vote more easily, while one on few committees or less contentious committees (i.e. Cities, Counties and Towns) has a more difficult time overcoming that vote. Thus, while the rankings approximately measure how progressive legislators are, it’s probably better to think of them as ballpark ranges of progressiveness—the difference between #8 and #9 isn’t likely significant, but the difference between #8 and #20 probably is.
Lastly, and most importantly, a scorecard does not measure anything other than votes on a set of bills—it does not measure extremely important legislative skills, like ability to build a coalition to get bills through, writing good bills, presenting your bills well in committee, ability to find compromises to reduce opposition, mentoring younger members, helping save or block bills in committee, being a good committee chair, etc. This is a fun and useful tool, but not a complete measure of the quality of legislators.
Without further ado, here are the highlights. Full scores are available here.
Top Scores in the House:
1. Patrick Hope (HD-47) 2. Ibraheem Samirah (HD-86) 3. (tie) Marcus Simon (HD-53) and Don Scott (HD-80) 5. Mark Levine (HD-45) 6. Josh Cole (HD-28) 7. Jay Jones (HD-89) 8. Lashrecse Aird (HD-63) 9. Cia Price (HD-95) 10. Elizabeth Guzman (HD-31)
Top Senate Scores:
Ghazala Hashmi (SD-10)
Jennifer Boysko (SD-33)
Joe Morrissey (SD-16)
Barbara Favola (SD-31)
Jeremy McPike (SD-29)
Scott Surovell (SD-36)
Least Progressive Delegates:
91. Mark Cole (HD-88) 92. Rob Bell (HD-58) 93. Charles Poindexter (HD-9) 94. Emily Brewer (HD-64) 95. (tie) Kathy Byron (HD-22) and Margaret Ransone (HD-99) 97. Todd Gilbert (HD-15) 98. (tie) Ronnie Campbell (HD-24), Matt Fariss (HD-59), Kirk Cox (HD-66)
Least Progressive Senators:
35. Mark Peake (SD-22) 36. Bill DeSteph (SD-8) 37. (tie) Frank Ruff (SD-15) and Steve Newman (SD-28) 39. Amanda Chase (SD-11) 40. Mark Obenshain (SD-26)
The Delegates voting closest to the center are Democrats David Bulova (HD37), Mike Mullin (HD-93), and Steve Heretick (HD-79); and Republicans Glenn Davis (HD-84), Carrie Coyner (HD-62), and Terry Kilgore (HD1). In the Senate, the centrists were Democrat Chap Petersen (D-34), and Republicans Dunnavant (R-12), Hanger (R-24), and Vogel (R-27)—the exact same squad as in last year’s scorecard.
The scorecard is calculated from the votes on 89 bills that came up this year, on topics from the environment, campaign finance reform, criminal justice, gun violence prevention, LGBTQ discrimination, and more. For every progressive vote a legislator cast on a bill (either in subcommittee, committee, or on the floor, depending on where the last vote was taken), they scored one point; for every non-progressive vote, -1. Additionally, we assigned plus or minus points for signaling intent to vote by co-sponsoring a bill. Any bill that the legislator had no vote on (either from abstaining, absence without recording intended vote, or from not being on the committee where the bill was voted on) is scored a zero.
The legislator’s total score is the sum of all the bill scores, divided by the number of bills that he or she could have cast a vote on, so that the final score measures the percent of votes cast on these bills that were progressive. The measure ranges from 1 (all votes cast were progressive) to -1 (no progressive votes were cast).
If you liked what you saw this session, and/or you like what you see summarized here in the scorecard, take a minute to contact your legislators and let them know how much you appreciate their work. Contact information for Delegates and Senators can be found HERE; if you aren't sure who represents you, put your address in HERE to find out.
Yup! Like Stephen Covey says, "Keep First Things First!" Aren't we just kidding ourselves to think we will ever make any real gains until we First Fix our Democracy? Getting all those running for public office to endorse the American Anti-Corruption Act https://anticorruptionact.org/ would be a great first step to Fix our Democracy, don't you agree? Great news! We already have a few 2020 congressional candidates who are endorsing!
Stephen D. Haner's article in today's Washington Post discusses how failure to fix the process first would result in a major revision to the commonwealth's energy economy that again puts consumers last. Haner had recommended 3 fixes: capping campaign contributions, developing a stronger advocacy voice for consumers, and dumping a legislative joint study commission that had proved subservient to the electric utilities. None of them were made.
Haner concludes that "with consumers all but voiceless, unlimited donations continuing from various energy interests, the key regulator neutered and the legislature showing no interest in real discussion between sessions, the new Virginia looks much like the old one."
On Thursday March 12th, we are calling for a digital day of action to mark the 100 days, and are asking you to use your social networks to urge people to register, using our graphics, or another method of your choosing. These upcoming weeks are essential for turn-out and we need everyone to do all they can to get people signed up! We will be sending out final graphics tomorrow with sizing appropriate for Twitter and Instagram.
On the evening of March 12th, at 8:30pm ET, join us for our second monthly National Mobilization Call for June 20, 2020. Register here to join us. You will be able to participate by either tuning intoFacebook Live or simply using the conference call service Zoom.
On Thursday evening, we will hear important developments in our organizing strategies for June 20, 2020. We will share new mobilizing resources, exciting updates about mobilization commitments and how the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is responding to current crises and movements.
Lastly, we wanted to share an important update about the MORE Tour. In light of the recent spread of the Coronavirus and in hopes of helping keep all of our folks safe, we are cancelling all MORE Tour activities for the next 30 days.
“While we are disappointed to not be able to gather, the new coronavirus already is uncovering the issues we had hoped to raise more clearly than our words and actions could have. This public health crisis makes clear how ignoring poor and low-wealth people impacts all of us.” – Rev. Dr. Barber & Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis
As we have been building out our plans for outreach and action in Virginia, we have been incredibly encouraged and inspired by the work being done in the areas of reform by your respective organizations and movements. I’ve had the pleasure of talking with many of you over the last several months (and most of you have met or had conversations with our ED, Katie Fahey), and Katie and I feel very strongly that the most impactful path forward in Virginia is paved with meaningful partnership. To that end, we are reaching out in hopes of organizing a conversation with all of us at the (virtual) table, to talk plans on the larger scale and figure out ways we can coordinate and support one another and the greater reform movement through collaboration. Attached here a summary that explains more about our thoughts around our strategy, and we’d love to use that as a springboard as we move forward. Because time is of the essence, we’d like to talk this month and have proposed a few dates/times here. This is also an open invitation to any organizations working in the reform space in VA that are interested - so please feel free to share this with anyone that fits that description. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and discussing in greater detail soon!
This is the last day of session and yesterday evening the constitutional amendment finally passed! We all agree that it is not perfect but it is an important step forward. Another informative article can be found in the Roanoke Times.
Democratic Majority in Virginia Strips Itself of the Power to Draw District Lines
The State Legislature, controlled by Democrats, voted to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would let an independent commission draw district maps.
WASHINGTON — Democrats in Virginia’s State Legislature took a blue-moon political step on Friday and voted to largely strip themselves of the power to draw new political maps next year — maps that could well have locked them into power for a decade. But to say they acted grudgingly is an understatement.
The State House of Delegates voted 54 to 46 to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would establish an independent commission to draw maps in 2021, when population totals from this year’s census will form the basis for redistricting. Separate legislation laying out rules for the panel and its actions was sent to a conference committee and seems certain to be approved later.
Nine Democrats, who hold 55 seats in the 100-seat House, voted in favor of the amendment and 46 opposed it. Only support from the Republican minority ensured that the measure would go to the voters, who are expected to approve it.
That was a marked change from last year’s bipartisanship, when the Legislature approved an identical version of the proposed amendment, the first move in a two-vote process needed to place such measures on the ballot. At the time, Democrats were in the minority in the House, and the amendment passed with overwhelming support from both parties, 85 to 13. Republicans controlled both houses of the Legislature but were widely expected to lose power, which they did, in November.
Many Democrats had made campaign promises to support the amendment on its second vote, and they were under intense pressure to make good on the pledge. The State Senate had earlier voted, 38-2, in favor of the proposed amendment. But passage in the House was uncertain until the final hours, as African-American Democrats raised questions about protections for minority districts and as others simply appeared to get cold feet.
“All of a sudden, the deal that an overwhelming majority of Democrats were willing to sign on to and campaign for in the fall of 2019 is no longer good enough,” said David Daley, an author and senior fellow at the advocacy group FairVote who supported the measure.
Advocates of the amendment nevertheless called its passage a seminal moment. “This is historic for Virginia to take a step forward on changing our broken redistricting system,” said Brian Cannon, the executive director of OneVirginia, a grass-roots group that drove the amendment campaign. “It puts citizens at the table with legislators for the first time ever. It takes it out of the smoky back room and adds sunlight and transparency.”
The proposed amendment creates a 16-member redistricting body composed of eight legislators — four each from the two major parties — and eight citizens. Disputes over boundaries would be settled by a court-appointed special master. If approved by voters, it also would enshrine specific voting-rights protection for minorities into the State Constitution for the first time.
Democrats nationally have sought to capture the high ground on the question of gerrymandering in recent years, as Republican-controlled legislatures drew map after map in the last decade that preserved their holds on power even when voters spurned them.
That said, the leader of the national party’s campaign against gerrymandering, the former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., had not publicly supported the Virginia measure. A spokesman, Patrick Rodenbush, said there were concerns that its protections against partisan interference were not strong enough.
On Friday, Mr. Holder said in a statement that he was still concerned about the amendment’s protections for minorities, and said he worried that there would be too little time for an independent panel to be assembled and start work before redistricting begins in early 2021. But debate over alternative amendments “helped bring to light some of its weaknesses, many of which, but not all, have been addressed by enabling legislation.”
The Virginia debate unfolded as Republicans in three other states have moved to roll back ballot initiatives favoring nonpartisan redistricting that voters approved in 2018.
In Missouri, where 60 percent of voters backed a constitutional amendment mandating nonpartisan maps, the Republican-controlled Legislature is pushing a new amendment initiative that would effectively repeal that overhaul. The citizens group that shepherded the first measure to passage, Clean Missouri, has pledged to fight it, calling the proposal “gerrymandering, plain and simple.”
Sean Nicholson, the campaign director for Clean Missouri, predicted that any change the Legislature proposes will be turned down in November. “People voted by an almost two-to-one margin — Republicans, Democrats, independents — to pass this in 2018,” he said in an interview. “One thing we’ve seen is that voters are legitimately angry at the idea of politicians trying to overturn their vote.”
Michigan Republicans first sought to strip state funds from an independent redistricting commission that voters approved, and then filed suit in federal court last July to abolish it, calling the panel “blatantly unconstitutional.”
And in Utah, the anti-gerrymandering group Better Boundaries reached a compromise on a new redistricting procedure with that state’s Republican-controlled Legislature, which was poised to neuter a citizen-passed plan handing political map drawing to an independent panel.
Hi everyone, No word yet on a vote on SJ18, the proposed constitutional amendment. Incredible. if you haven't already called your delegate, it's not too late! I continue to email my Delegate, Mark Levine, but he is opposed to SJ18. But I keep persisting.
Something’s rotten in the state of Virginia. Legislative Democrats are on the verge of scuttling bipartisan redistricting reform and handing themselves unilateral power over the next decade of state legislative and congressional maps — embracing the same partisan gerrymandering that Democrats have so bitterly complained about when Republicans hold complete control.
In a last second power play Thursday, Democratic leaders in the House of Delegates moved to substitute an entirely new constitutional amendment and replace the one that has consistently won big majorities from both sides, and which polls show is supported by more than 70 percent of Virginians.
Their new plan not only bakes in an advantage for Democrats, but it restarts the clock on long-term reform in Virginia — pushing it after the 2021 redistricting cycle. Those maps would then be drawn by — ** checks notes ** — that’s right, the Democrats. Democrats know their new plan can’t pass, even with control of both chambers. It’s pure pretext with the consequence, intentional or not, of short-circuiting the only reform that can.
This is a bad faith move, and Democrats would be howling if Republicans pulled this partisan chicanery in a red state. And after Democrats have talked a good game nationally about fair maps and ending this anti-voter practice, it would be a setback for fair-minded, good government reform efforts nationwide if they walk away from change in the first opportunity the party has to walk the walk. Voters of all sides, across all the states considering reform, will rightly grow more cynical about change as they see this bipartisan deal fail.
Last winter, resounding majorities of both Democrats and Republicans embraced a compromise that would have given citizens a role in drawing maps for the first time ever, a meaningful step forward over politicians drawing their own lines, choosing their own voters, and handing themselves uncompetitive, safe seats for the next decade.
The proposed constitutional amendment cleared the House 83-15, and sailed through the Senate nearly unanimously, on a 39-1 vote. Virginia, however, requires any changes to its Constitution to pass during two consecutive sessions, with identical language, before heading to voters for approval. And in November, Democrats captured both houses of Virginia’s legislature, winning trifecta control of state government.
Now, suddenly, the very redistricting reform that Democratic majorities in both houses embraced — and that many newly elected Democrats who rode a blue wave to power promised to enact — is no longer good enough.
What’s changed? You only need a calendar to see through this partisan ruse. If Democrats can now manufacture flaws in the compromise they overwhelmingly endorsed just 12 months ago, and fail to pass the identical language a second time before the 2020 session ends on Saturday, there won’t be enough time for the ensuing statewide referendum before it’s time to draw new maps in early 2021. Voters — who deserve a chance to weigh in — will not get to decide.
It’s not a coincidence. If the commission is not enacted, control over the new maps reverts to the Democrats. They’ll be able to draw themselves a decade-long advantage. Maybe they’ll start the reform process anew, and maybe they won’t. Either way, any reform would be safely punted all the way to 2031.
The bipartisan compromise may not be perfect, but such is the essence of bipartisan compromise. Politics is the art of the possible. This is the best plan that can pass both houses of Virginia’s legislature, under either party’s control. Neither side likes to give up control of the maps. Virginia lacks the kind of statewide initiative process that allowed reformers in California, Michigan, Missouri and elsewhere to design their ideal and bring it directly to voters.
And so this compromise creates a mapmaking commission that’s evenly divided between legislators and citizens, and a careful process of checks and balance to ensure partisan fairness. But while it’s not completely independent of politics, no state legislature has ever voluntarily handed over more power over redistricting than in this plan.
The substitute amendment, meanwhile, while it does some nice things, doesn’t create a perfect process, either. It would create an 11-member commission that mirrors the state’s “political diversity.” Democrats don’t define what that means, but it’s easy to posit: They want a majority Democratic panel to ensure that this blue-trending state stays that way. (The criteria offers little protection against a commission that’s packed with partisans, as well.)
Democrats would strip the state Supreme Court of its power to appoint two special masters to break a commission gridlock. They insist the state’s highest court is a partisan body. One of the most vocal opponents of the amendment is Del. Mark Levine, who argued that the entire makeup of the high court could have a conservative lean in The Washington Post: “Every current member of the Virginia Supreme Court received a 12-year term from the Republican leadership of the House of Delegates. …Even more troubling, the House of Delegates that chose our Supreme Court was itself constituted via illegal racial gerrymander, according to a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Nevermind the fact that most of the justices have been elected unanimously — including one who was reappointed, again unanimously (including by Del. Levine), after Democrats took control in January.
If Democrats really believe the court’s integrity to be compromised, why do they keep voting for these justices?
Under their new plan, if nine members can’t agree on a map, two maps with at least majority support will be voted on by the legislature. But if Democrats use the “political diversity” provision and essentially control six members of the commission, and have also drawn the 2021 legislative maps, they’ll be handing themselves a license to gerrymander with no guardrails.
Some Democrats opposed to the compromise have insisted that every word of the amendment must be perfect if it is to enter into Virginia’s constitution. But now they’ve proposed a hurried substitute, weeks into their session, with less than 48 hours now remaining. The compromise was debated amongst legislators and citizens for months.
Democrats have bolstered the amendment through enabling legislation, and several legislators put thoughtful plans on the table that offered clear protections of minority voters — including a guarantee of diversity on the commission. These protections hold the same statutory weight in every step of the commission process as similar bills introduced during this year’s legislative session. These enabling bills co-sponsored by Democratic Sens. Louise Lucas and Mamie Locke are in the process of passing.
If Democrats did not want the amendment they passed last year, they could have prioritized reform weeks ago and worked to improve the amendment before this midnight hour, just as they prioritized the impressive electoral reforms they enacted this session. They could have passed the amendment, trusted the voters to decide, and then started a new amendment process to make it perfect. They did none of these things.
Instead, they chose to stall, run out the clock, and then offer a disingenuous, sneakily partisan, and dead-on-arrival proposal when it was too essentially late to make changes. They wanted to kill the compromise, ensure their own power over the maps and not make their hands dirty. But the mud is now everywhere.
This galling hypocrisy would be rightfully called out if it was being practiced by Republicans in North Carolina, Texas or Wisconsin. These maps are the building blocks of our democracy. They belong to the people. While no compromise pleases everyone, in every way, this one has the endorsement of the most respected non-partisan reform groups. For years now, after the effective GOP gerrymanders of this last cycle, Democrats have proclaimed that they want their ideas to prevail under fair maps. They had their chance. Now democracy itself will pay the price.
Because the next time Democrats say that? No one will believe them.
Meanwhile in Virginia, we're still waiting for the final vote on the redistricting constitutional amendment which should happen this evening or at least this week. I hope that many of you send emails to members of the privileges and elections committee and Speaker Filler-Corn to vote on the issue.
"Slay the Dragon"
A Reel Progress Screening and Discussion
March 9, 2020, 7:00 p.m. - 9:15 p.m. ET
Landmark E Street Cinema E Street between 10th and 11th Streets NW Washington, DC
Distinguished guests: David Daley, Author of "Ratf**ked: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count" & "Unrigged: How Americans Fought Back" Chris Durrance, Co-director, "Slay the Dragon" Karen Hobert Flynn, President, Common Cause
Moderator: Daniella Gibbs Léger, Executive Vice President, Communications and Strategy, Center for American Progress
Every 10 years, after the U.S. census, the lines of electoral districts are redrawn—and politicians take that opportunity to manipulate the lines to their advantage, a practice known as gerrymandering. Gerrymandering undermines the will of the people, and as recent Center for American Progress reports have shown, it has concrete impacts on a wide range of issues, including limiting access to health care and preventing legislative action on gun violence.
With a new census on the horizon, it is a critical time for greater public focus on gerrymandering and how it can be prevented. "Slay the Dragon" tells the story of how citizens' groups are fighting back, with a focus on the group Voters Not Politicians, which fought to put redistricting reform on the ballot in Michigan. It is a timely and engaging film about the perils of gerrymandering—and how citizens can fight back.
Please join CAP's Reel Progress program for a screening of "Slay the Dragon" at Landmark's E Street Cinema, followed by a panel discussion with gerrymandering experts and one of the film's directors.
Magnolia Pictures and Participant open "Slay the Dragon” at the Landmark E Street Cinema on March 20.
March 9, 2020 7:00 p.m. - 9:15 p.m. ET Landmark's E Street Cinema, 11th Street Northwest, Washington, DC
Space is extremely limited. RSVP required.
Closed-captioned-enabled video will be posted following the conclusion of the event. If you require ADA-related accommodations for your in-person attendance at this event, please email events@... as soon as possible so that we may assist you.
What's happening with getting money out of politics in Virginia?
An update from the VA chapter of America Promise
Boy, a challenging General Assembly if your goal is to get money out of politics! Our American Promise group in Virginia worked so hard to raise visibility about the corrosive impact of money on our elections, our officials, and our public policies. While we succeeded in raising awareness with a number of legislators, we were unable to find a champion for a state resolution supporting overturning Citizens United and ALL campaign finance bills were killed in the Privileges and Elections committees of the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates.
Even so, we joined members of our new partnership dialogue platform on democracy reform in Virginia, the "Virginia Swamp Busters", which consists of nearly two dozen grassroots democracy reform groups, in celebrating the passage of many "pro-democracy reform" bills passed such as "no excuse" early absentee voting. We are delighted that HB506 and HB1103on ranked choice voting passed in the Senate and are now going to the Governor's desk. These bills propose options for localities to adopt ranked choice voting for town councils and board of supervisors. Others, such as the Redistricting Constitutional Amendment, SJ18., are still in play, having been passed by the Senate but not the House.
Joining 20 other states to introduce a resolution endorsing overturning Citizens United
We hoped to have Virginia become the 21st state to pass a resolution supporting an amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would effectively invalidate the 2010 Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling by authorizing Congress to put in place campaign finance rules. Yet, this year, we couldn't find a champion to introduce the resolution. Along with our Wolfpac colleagues, we discussed the introduction of such a bill with Del Sam Rasoul who had previously introduced a binding resolution, i.e. linked to an Article 5 convention. We contacted other Delegates, including Del Dan Helmer (40th District), Del. Elizabeth Guzman (District 31), and Del Shelley Simonds (District 94) about championing the resolution without any luck. But the effort continues, so if you have ideas on possible champions, let us know. We are non-partisan and would love to identify Republican potential sponsors.
Status of campaign finance bills
Virginia is a state, unique in our country, where officials are bound by no limits on campaign contributions which they can then put to personal use. Historically, this situation has allowed business and special interest to dictate state pipeline policies, under-fund schools, and keep tobacco taxes low while payday interest rates remain high.
There were good campaign finance bills introduced into the General Assembly this year which ranged from limitations on campaign contributions, banning donations from public service corporations, improving disclosure of donors, restricting personal use of contributions and allowing localities to implement public financing of elections.
The only two campaign finance bills which actually were discussed and came to a vote in the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee (see below) died an early death. The House of Delegates had a number of good bills which never came to a vote because of the early demise of bills in the Senate.
1) Sen Peterson's bill (SB488) put $20,000 limits on campaign contributions. This bill rolled in other bills with lower contribution limits, such as that of Sen Ebbin (SB889). In order to get a discussion on the bill, Senator Peterson had to raise the contribution limits to twice the level proposed in his original bill. $20,000 is about 5 times the national average and it exceeds the national record of $13,200 (Ohio).
The bill was defeated 9-6 with 3 Democrats voting with Republicans to kill the bill. (YEAS--Deeds, Ebbin, Surovell, Mason, McClellan, Boysko--6; NAYS--Howell, Vogel, Reeves, Chafin, Ruff, Spruill, Peake, McDougle, Bell--9).
2) Another bill patroned by Sen. Peterson (SB25) banned contributions from public service corporations. After considerable testimony supporting the bill, it was voted down 10-5. It is quite noteworthy that all of the 10 legislators who voted against the bill all received quite substantial contributions from Dominion Energy.
This bill had a companion bill (HB111) in the House of Delegates (patroned by Del Joshua Cole). Neither this bill, nor another excellent bill (HB895, patroned by Del Mark Levine) which would limit campaign finance contributions, were reviewed by the sub-committee on campaign finance.
But we worked hard to build our visibility, developed partnerships and learned some good lessons!
Building Awareness is the Entry Point for Action
Over the past year, we organized more than 15 outreach events around northern Virginia and beyond which included:
The showing of the documentary Dark Money in Arlington, Winchester, Staunton, and Madison. We will show the film in Winchester on March 26th.
Documenting success stories: Two events were organized with Hedrick Smith; we showed his "People Power" videos and more recently, in collaboration with Transparent GMU at George Mason University, his PBS documentary "Democracy Rebellion".
We got over 10 letters to the editor published, including the following which were published on the 10th anniversary of Citizens United:
Our newly-created "Virginia Swamp Busters" platform, a "democracy reform" dialogue platform for grassroots groups around Virginia, proved a useful tool for sharing information on the status of bills being introduced in the General Assembly, thus strengthening our advocacy efforts.
We used it to organize a "democracy reform" evening in Richmond with our partners, including RepresentUS,Clean Money Squad, and others. The airing of a new documentary "UnRepresented" was held on January 28th (one week after the 10th anniversary of Citizens United) at Virginia Commonwealth University. It was followed by a panel of discussants, including Jeff Thomas, the author of the Virginia Way, Del Sam Rasoul (District 11, Roanoke), American Promise, Virginia 2021, and FairVote. The discussion was chaired by Andrew Rodney, the executive director of the documentary.
We participated in events highlighting the need for campaign finance reform on the 10th anniversary of Citizens United. In addition, we organized learning sessions with organizations such as the Campaign Legal Center and the Coalition for Integrity while drawing on knowledge from APAs in other states, such as Minnesota and Michigan.
A letter- writing platformwas designed to facilitate messaging between constituents and their Virginia legislators on the issue of getting big money out of politics. Over 120 letters were sent in support of priority campaign finance bills and the need for a Virginia resolution to "get big money out of politics" through a constitutional amendment.
Members of our group also participated in the House hearing, held in mid-February, by the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Written and oral testimony was shared, including from American Promise, on the need for amending the Constitution to allow for regulating campaign financing.
Building Linkages with Legislators and their Staff Generates Champions.
Over the past six months, we organized around 15 meetings with Virginia legislators. Then, in October, between 15-20 Virginians, including 4 high school students, attended the annual America Promise conference during which we met with our 2 Senators and 5 Representatives in Congress to discuss supporting the House Resolution 2. This resolution proposes a constitutional amendment to authorize limits on campaign finance. There are currently 214 House co-sponsors, including 6 of the 11 Representatives from Virginia. Our thanks to Reps. Beyer, Connolly, Wexton, McEachin. Scott, Spanberger for their support.
On January 29th, we visited with our legislators in Richmond to emphasize the importance of passing the various campaign finance bills currently in-committee. We brought attention to our message by distributing cupcakes and dollar bill shaped sugar cookies.
Of course, our campaign finance champions in the House of Delegates and the Senate, such as Del Marcus Simon (see photo below), Sen Chap Peterson, Del Sam Rasoul, Del Mark Levine, and Sen Adam Ebbin got extra cookies!
We delivered petitions supporting campaign finance reform and the passage of a resolution to get big money out of politics. These petitions, signed by over 400 Virginia citizens, were delivered to Governor Northum as well as the chairpersons of the Privileges and Elections committees in both the Senate and the House.
And we enjoyed the camaraderie while lobbying with our colleagues from RepresentUS such as David Denham (Roanoke) and Rick Kenski (Northern Neck).
JOIN US FOR "ROUND TWO" IN THE FIGHT TO GET BIG MONEY OUT OF VIRGINIA POLITICS.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
1)SEND A MESSAGE TO YOUR VIRGINIA LEGISLATORS EXPRESSING YOUR DISAPPOINTMENT ON THE LACK OF SUPPORT FOR CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM. CLICK HERE TO USE OUR LETTER WRITING PLATFORM.
2) ATTEND LOCAL TOWN HALLS AND BRING UP THE NEED FOR CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM. USE OUR TALKING POINTS.
Both Eileen Filler Corn (on the redistricting bill) and Dick Saslaw (see request below from Virginia Organizing) seem to be using the Mitch McConnell approach towards legislating...not letting bills be heard and voted on.
Please contact Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw. He has repeatedly delayed the Fair Energy Bills Act (FEBA) from being heard in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. There will be one more chance for them to vote on the bill this Monday, March 2. Please contact him today at (804) 698-7535 or email: district35@....
It is time to stop Dominion from over-charging the people of Virginia for their electricity and restore the regulations Dominion has worked to chip away.
Right now, Friday morning, the House P&E committee is meeting and we will see whether they allow the redistricting constitutional amendment to go to the floor for a vote. My view is that bottling up a bill in sub-committee and not allowing a vote is undemocratic. During the meeting, a few 'very minor" campaign finance bills will be reviewed. You can watch the committee discussions live on video ; find the agenda of the meeting here
Yes, Eileen Filler-Corn not bringing this to the floor for a vote is outrageous! It is suppressing the Voice of the People since it's passage merely puts the initiative on the ballot in November for Virginians to decide! I could not believe the Delegates (especially the Dems) would put up such a resistance to this after passing it last year. Now I am learning where the real push back is coming from ...