Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mandering Madness

Unless you're one of a select few, your tournament bracket is probably busted. Although March is almost over, (Gerry)Mandering Madness has only just begun!

Last week the Census delivered the final state-level files that are used for redistricting. So what's next for your state?

In Iowa, where redistricting has traditionally been a low-key affair, the loss of a congressional seat has politicians and constituents fretting about the future of their districts. Nevertheless, Iowa's redistricting process is fairly straightforward and is determined by a computer and three staff. So for now, all anyone can do is wait.

If only it were that simple in other states. Instead many will watch politicians and political parties fight (and bargain) for territory. In others, they'll see commissions grapple with complex issues as they draw new lines.

One such state is California, where the brand new Citizens Redistricting Commission is hard at work. The Commission was spawned from a 2008 ballot initiative and its authority was expanded with the passage of another ballot question in 2010. Now, 14 people (and some recently hired staff) are responsible for redrawing the boundaries.

On the other hand, redistricting won't prove problematic for states like Delaware and North Dakota which have only one representative, and so the state itself is one district.

Learn more about redistricting by watching our webinar on what nonprofits should know about redistricting or visit our redistricting resources page.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Nonprofits, Are You for or Against Voting?

VoteEarlier this month the Nonprofit Quarterly posted an article on "Nonprofits Dedicated to Making it More Difficult for People to Register and Vote." The author rightly points out that "our nation needs people to vote," and that's exactly why Nonprofit VOTE exists.

Because of their relationships with clients and communities--as well as their nonpartisan missions--we think that nonprofits are well-positioned to reach underserved and underrepresented individuals. While our work encourages civic participation and voter engagement, the Nonprofit Quarterly describes another type of nonprofit--one focused on "pushing in exactly the opposite direction."

We often hear stories of voter fraud, but not nearly enough about the greater problem of vote denial. Each election, millions of eligible voters are unable to vote simply because of a problem with voter registration. This issue can be solved by allowing voters to make any necessary changes at the polls on Election Day. Ten states and the the District of Columbia already allow this, including Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota (which has no registration requirement), Wisconsin, and Wyoming. An even more effective solution would be universal voter registration.

Crying "voter fraud," some states are pushing for beefed up voter-ID laws. Unfortunately, the type of fraud these laws would address (the impersonation of another voter at the polls) is exceedingly rare. In fact, only 24 people were convicted of or pleaded guilty to illegal voting between 2002 and 2005, an average of eight people a year.

However, voter-ID laws often disenfranchise many eligible voters--primarily people of color, young people, senior citizens, and people with disabilities. Among Americans over the age of 65, 18% do not have a photo ID, and fully a quarter of African Americans and 15% of low-income voters also don't carry ID.

Nobody wants voter fraud. Therefore, stiff penalties are the best deterrent, and have been so effective that evidence of violations is minimal to none. Nonprofits can not only help people register and participate, but can also support efforts to modernize registration and ensure that all eligible Americans are enfranchised. Get started today!

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Friday, March 25, 2011

The Latest from the U.S. Census

Yesterday the Census Bureau delivered the last of the state-level files from the 2010 Census. That means every state is now armed and ready for redistricting, and many are already knee-deep in it. In addition to more redistricting data, we learned a few other things about the nation's population.

For example, the U.S. mean center of population on April 1, 2010 was Plato, Missouri (37.517534 N, 92.173096 W, to be exact). Wondering what the mean center of population is? The Census Bureau's Twitter account described it as the "Place where flat, weightless, rigid map of US would balance perfectly if all residents were of identical weight."

The new numbers also show that one in six Americans are Hispanic, and Hispanics accounted for more than half the nation's growth (56%) between 2000 and 2010. Like Hispanics, Asians also experienced double-digit increases, and now account for 5% of the nation's residents. African Americans account for 12% of the population, as their numbers remained stable. Meanwhile, non-Hispanic whites diminished as a proportion of the population and are now at 64%.

Many groups are already using the data to point to new trends, such as the rise in the percentage of the nation's black population living in the South. The New York Times reported that it hit its highest point in half a century, attributing the gains to younger and more educated black residents moving out of declining cities in the Northeast and Midwest in search of better opportunities.

Stay tuned, because there's plenty more to come! And if you want to learn more about how your nonprofit can access and use Census data, sign up for our webinar "Power in Numbers: Putting 2010 Census Data to Use."

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Connecting to Elections and Campaigns

How do you like to read the news? Connect with friends? Engage campaigns? If you answered the internet, you’re not alone. Pew found that more than half of all American adults (54%) were "online political users" in 2010.

These people looked online for news about politics and campaigns, watched videos, shared election content, and used social networking sites for political purposes. In contrast, only 31% of adults used the internet for campaign-related purposes in 2006.

Unsurprisingly, for many internet users and young people, the internet was a more popular resource than newspapers, and was second only to television.

It's not just the internet—cell phones also played a large role in last year's midterm. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, 26% of adults surveyed said they had used their mobile phones for political activities around the 2010 election. These people used their phones to tell others that they had voted, to read election news, to send text messages, and to spread the word about the conditions at various polling sites. Young people (ages 18-29) and digitally connected people were most likely to use their mobile phones for political purposes.

Unfortunately, only 22% of online political users who voted said that they were encouraged to vote by material they found online during the 2010 campaign. We can do better than that. Start by making sure that your nonprofit uses its online presence to encourage voting and provide helpful election information. With small, simple steps nonprofits can do their part to ensure that all internet users are encouraged to vote. Visit Nonprofit VOTE for tips and ideas.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Wednesday's Webinar on Redistricting

Thank you to everyone who participated in Wednesday's webinar, Getting a Seat at the Table: What Nonprofits Should Know About Redistricting. A special thanks to our presenter Justin Levitt for lending us his expertise.

The PowerPoint is available for download along with the audio portion of the presentation in MP3 format. Alternatively, you can watch the presentation online.

If you have any questions please use the information below to contact our two presenters.

Justin Levitt

Associate Professor of Law
Loyola Law School
Phone: (213) 736-7417

Lindsey Hodel
Director of Training and Partnerships
Nonprofit VOTE
Phone: (303) 910-5700

Here are some of the redistricting resources we mentioned during the webinar:
For more suggestions, visit our redistricting page and stop by your state page for local resources.

Hope you can join us for an upcoming Nonprofit VOTE webinar!


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Florida Also Limits Felon Voting Rights (Again)

Last week, Florida Governor Rick Scott reversed a 2007 decision made by then-Governor Charlie Crist that automatically restored voting rights to nonviolent ex-offenders. Unfortunately, ex-offenders in Florida will once again face high hurdles in order to have their rights restored.

Sound familiar? Probably because this is reminiscent of an executive order made by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad in January that once again requires felons to petition the governor individually to have their voting rights restored.

The Brennan Center has summarized the key points of the new Florida rules:
  • Even people with nonviolent convictions must wait five years after completing all terms of their sentence before being allowed to even apply for restoration of civil rights.
  • The clock resets if an individual is arrested for even a misdemeanor during that five-year period, even if no charges are ever filed.
  • Some people must wait seven years before being able to apply, and must appear for a hearing before the clemency board.
  • A provision allowing people to apply for a waiver of the rules was eliminated.
Prior to last week's change, African Americans were already excluded from the polls at more than twice the rate of other Florida citizens. Not counting those currently serving a criminal sentence, 13% of the voting-age African-American population in Florida has lost the right to vote, representing nearly a quarter of those who are disenfranchised in Florida.

At a time when many states are finally relegating these Jim Crow relics to the past, it is troubling that states like Florida and Iowa are focused on reversing the progress that's been made.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Redistricting Webinar Wednesday!

Don't forget to join us Wednesday for our first webinar of 2011:

Getting a Seat at the Table: What Nonprofits Should Know About Redistricting
Wednesday, March 16th at 2:00pm Eastern
Redistricting is right around the corner and critical decisions will be made that can affect our communities, our missions, and our funding for the next decade. Tune in to learn the basics and find out how your nonprofit can get involved.

Featured Presenter: Justin Levitt is an Associate Professor of Law at Loyola Law School and author of "The Citizen's Guide to Redistricting."

Hope you can join us!



Thursday, March 10, 2011

New Voter Registration Poster Available!

Our new "Register to Vote" poster is now available to order! Whether you're gearing up for a municipal election or just want to make voting more visible at your organization, this poster is the perfect tool.

Voter registration is one way your nonprofit can promote voter participation year-round. Want tips on how to get started? Download "A Nonprofit's Guide to Voter Registration" (also available in Spanish) or watch an archived webinar on "Voter Registration Basics for Nonprofits." For more on how to register to vote or to check your registration, visit our voter registration page.

A Spanish language version of the poster is also available.

Order a Poster


Monday, March 7, 2011

Veterans Campaign

Veterans Campaign keeps it simple. They're a nonpartisan, non-ideological organization who trains veterans to run for public office.

Why veterans? Members of the military are of course allowed to vote, but because of their position they are not entitled to solicit or receive political contributions or engage in political activity while on duty, in a government office, or while wearing a military uniform. As a result, many veterans have no exposure to daily campaign life. Thus, Veterans Campaign seeks to demystify the process while encouraging veterans to continue their legacy of public service as an elected official.

To achieve their goals, Veterans Campaign holds campaign training workshops, sponsors lectures, and conducts research.

The executive director of Veterans Campaign noted that many veterans, "have a code of ethics that allows them to put the country before themselves," and perhaps most importantly, "veterans, particularly those who have served in combat, clearly recognize that 'the enemy is the guy at the end of the battlefield, not the guy on the other side of the aisle.'"

What groups would you like to see more represented in government?

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Friday, March 4, 2011

Finally, an Actual Case of Voter Fraud

…and it's the Indiana Secretary of State. Yesterday Secretary of State Charles White was indicted on felony charges of voter fraud. White took office in January, and it appears that he used his ex-wife's address--rather than his own--on official documents, including his voter registration. Doing so allowed White to keep his seat on the town council even after moving out of the district.

The charges include voter fraud, perjury and theft (related to his town council salary). White insists that the address was simply a mistake. If convicted of any count he would automatically be removed from office. So far White plans to remain in office while contesting the charges, despite calls for his resignation from both state Democrats and Republicans. Governor Mitch Daniels, who is also a Republican, said "It would be neither credible nor appropriate for the state's top elections official to continue to perform his duties while contesting criminal charges, some of them under the very laws the secretary of state implements."

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