Tuesday, December 29, 2009

For auld lang syne

New Years Eve is a mere 48 hours away.

With it comes January 1st, 2010, upon which many new laws across our great nation will take effect. Here's a look at a few of the new laws, passed by your elected legislators, that will become effective this New Years Day.

1. New Hampshire will prohibit the trafficking of people for the purposes of sexual or labor exploitation, providing for forfeiture, restitution and compensation.

2. In Montana, insurance companies will be required to provide coverage for autism spectrum disorders.

3. In Texas, teenagers who might want a tan for prom now will have to be accompanied to the tanning facility by an adult.

4. Same-sex couples will be able to marry in New Hampshire.

5. Any lighter that appeals to children will no longer be allowed to be sold in Louisiana. This includes lighters that have a toy-like appearance or entertaining audio or is commonly recognized as appealing, attractive, or intended for use by young children.

6. Illinois joins at least 18 other states in prohibiting drivers from sending text messages while driving.

7. In Texas, college students will need to show proof they've been vaccinated against bacterial meningitis before they can live on campus.

8. In Kentucky, people will be limited on how much money they can borrow through payday loans.

9. Smoke detectors in Texas now will need to be capable of alerting a hearing-impaired person if requested by a tenant.

10. Oregon’s new seat belt law requires children under the age of 16 to wear a seat belt on an all-terrain vehicle or a motor vehicle while on public property.

To read about more new state laws taking effect January 1st, 2010, click here.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Nonprofit Tagline Report

Vamping up your nonprofits' 2010 Census campaign, voter outreach campaign, or simply reevaluating your communications strategies?

Check out Nancy Schwartz's Nonprofit Tagline Report on building the brand name of your nonprofit initiative. Sections include:

  • The 10 Have-Tos for Successful Taglines.
  • 7 Examples of what not to do.
  • What Makes a Winning Tagline.
  • Over 2,500 Nonprofit Tagline Examples.

Check out her top 3 "Dont's" for nonprofit taglines!

1. Don’t be generic. Be specific and as emotive as possible to highlight a connection
between an individual and your organization.

2. Don’t craft a tagline your organization can’t stand behind 100%. Your
nonprofit has to be able to deliver what you promise. When you do so, your
organization reaffirms its credibility. When you don’t, you lose any you may have.

3. Don’t veer off focus.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Counting prisoners in the wrong place?

African-American leaders weigh in on the impact of counting prisoners, ineligible to vote in 48 states, in prisons versus their home communities. Why count people in far away communities where they cannot vote nor derive any benefit from local services?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Children and the Census

Photo c/o US Census Bureau PIO

Children are the most often missed age group in the Census, according to Why are Young Children So Often Missed in the Census, a new report by Dr. William P. O’Hare of the The Annie E.Casey Foundation. In the 2000 Census, the net undercount of children under 10 years old was 1 million; children under 5 account for over three quarters of this. The report notes a more pronounced discrepancy in rates of undercounted minority children. In 2000, black males under age 5 were missed at a rate of 5.3 percent, compared to 3.3 percent for non-black males in this age group. Among females, blacks under age 5 were missed at a rate of 5.4 percent, compared to 3.8 percent for non-blacks in this age group.

There are several factors that explain the high undercount of young children: Young children are more likely to live in households with 7+ occupants, which make it difficult to complete the census form with spaces for only six names; children are also more likely to live in places characterized as hard to count, including rental units, mobile homes, and complex households with adults other than parents. Looking ahead to the 2010 census, prospects for an accurate count of children do not look promising, as there has been an increase in the proportion of young children from minority populations from previous years, there are more children living with undocumented residents than in previous years, and an estimated two million children will be affected by the housing crisis which will add to the complexity of getting an accurate count.

The report offers several suggestions for combating the undercount of children, including reaching out to different nonprofit agencies and doctors whose clients are families with young children to raise awareness of the census.

Click here to read the full report.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

MOVE Act and 2010 primary dates

(Image - Senatus)
The new Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act, which stipulates a 45-day deadline for states to send general election ballots to military and overseas voters, has many states scrambling to either push back their 2010 primary date or receive a compliance waiver in order to avoid violating the Act.

States are citing many factors, such as the purchase of new equipment, new election administration processes and voting systems, as preventing them complying with the MOVE Act. The Act was passed after the 2008 elections, when it was found that up to 1 in 4 military and overseas voters were disenfranchised because they didn't receive their ballots in time.

Read more from the Pew Center.

Monday, December 14, 2009

2010 Census On Track

In a news briefing earlier this morning, Census Director Robert Groves reported that preparations for the 2010 Census are nearly complete, and it’s on track to being a successful count. According to Groves, the bureau has recently completed compiling its master address list used to mail out the census forms. In spite of the challenges facing the census count including undocumented residents wary of census takers and the high number of foreclosures, Groves is hopeful that the 2010 Census will have a strong turnout, owing in part to the short form and the outreach efforts emphasizing the confidentiality of the process. ''The plan has been set. Operations have been assembled,'' Groves said. ''It is a time for all of us, especially social, political and religious leaders around the country to get the word out that everyone needs to participate -- that it is easy to do, and it's especially safe.''

Read more about the press briefing here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Fair Elections Now Act

Legislation that would reform public financing of congressional elections was recently introduced in the House and Senate. The legislation, sponsored by Senator Durbin (D- Ill) and Representative Larson (D- Conn) and has 5 senate co-sponsors and 119 house co-sponsors, includes a voluntary public financing system that would be driven by small-donors. "We believe the answer is grassroots involvement," Larson said. "President Barack Obama demonstrated that it could be done."

The legislation is in part a response to a case before the Supreme Court which would allow unlimited corporate expenditures during elections. "It takes a major scandal to create a major reform," Durbin said. "I don't know that we've reached the level in the Senate or in the nation where people are going to demand this of us.... But if they think that the Supreme Court has tipped the scales so dramatically that they don't have a fighting chance any more, they may be open to this."

Under this legislation, funds would be allocated equally to House candidates and based on population of the states in Senate elections. According to Sen. Durbin, the legislation would allow candidates to focus on the issues instead of spending "every waking moment begging for money."

To read more about this, click here or here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Civic engagement of non-college-bound youth

The 2008 election showed marked increases in the under-30 age group - the only age group to show such increases - continuing an upward trend that began in 1996.

However, to what extent is this a movement that can be characterized across American youth as a whole? PACE has released a white paper that explores the divide between low and high income youth civic engagement, citing an imbalanced distribution of educational, political, and/or civic resources and opportunities that encourage voting.

Key data points include:

  • Nearly 60 percent of 18-24 year-old college students voted in the 2004 presidential election, while only one-third of non-college attending youth (ages 18-24) voted.
  • During the 2008 primaries, college students were nearly four times more likely to have voted than students not attending college (25 percent vs. 7 percent).
  • During the 2008 presidential election, 70 percent of all young voters in the 2008 election had gone to college, although just 57 percent of U.S. citizens under 30 have ever attended college.
To download the paper, click here.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Bias Older, Higher Income Voters - It's In the Mail

Vote by Mail is growing. It's convenient for some. It costs less. But is it good for democracy? Or is it newest form voter disenfranchisement plan - overrepresenting the votes of older wealthier voters and underrepresenting younger and lower income voters. The same bias found in registration laws, felon disenfranchisement, vote suppression strategies and the like.

A new survey looks at the demographics of those using making the greatest use of vote by mail in California elections. The Field Poll found those permanently registered to receive mail ballots and most likely to participate in mail elections where much older and whiter vs younger and hispanic. This skew can also be found in states like Oregon with who distribute mail ballots automatically to all registered voters, but more so in a state like California where automatically getting mail ballots is optional.

What if the US Census were only conducted by mail? The population profile would look like it did 20 years ago, perhaps even older and wealthier. Fortunately the Census goes to great lengths to include everyone setting up questionnaire assistance and be counted centers across hard to count areas and conducting an extensive canvass of non-respondents.

Early voting facilitates participation and can save costs. But like the Census, democracy means elections that provide a range of opportunities for people of all backgrounds to vote - by mail, early in person and at a poll location or drop box on Election Day. The trend towards all mail balloting - without options - could set voting rights advances back a few decades or more.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

From Project Vote: Representational Bias in the 2008 Election

Doug Hess and Jody Herman of Project Vote have just released this report detailing the increase in diversity in the 2008 electorate.

The report finds that although older, wealthier White voters continue to make up a disproportionately larger amount of the electorate, a rapid increase in the diversification of the adult citizen population since the 2004 election contributed to increased voting among minority groups in 2008.

Among the report's conclusions are:
  • Voting among non-Whites in 2008 made up approximately 91 percent of the increase in the total number of voters since 2004. This increase was driven by an increase in minority voters under the age of 30. In fact, because of this increase in participation by young minority voters, 2008 was the only election in recent memory where the voting rate by youth increased while the rate for those 30 and over did not.
  • Registration rates increased remarkably among young Black men (8 percentage points), young Latinos of both genders (6 percentage points), and Asians (5 percentage points for young men and 13 points for young women).
  • Among younger populations, Black women voted at the highest rate (64 percent), followed by White women (56 percent) and Black men (52 percent). All minority groups under 30 saw increases in their turnout rates compared to 2004.