Monday, October 31, 2011

Republicans are intentionally blocking Americans from their ballots

It is appalling and craven.

Republican state legislators are intentionally trying to keep millions of Americans from voting.

This article from the Tribune lays out how Republicans are putting up barriers to the ballot -- fewer early voting days, requirements to show photo IDs and government registration and fines for those citizens who help others get registered to vote.

During the days when respectable Americans could justify imposing a literacy test or a tax on people who wanted to vote (as many states did as recently as the 1960s), what side would you have been on? Or if you were alive, what side were you on?

Here is how President Clinton described this wave of anti-American vote-blocking:
"There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and the Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today," former President Bill Clinton told a group of college students in July.
It's time to attack back.

The government should handle all voter registration automatically -- we shouldn't make people jump through administrative hoops to register to vote -- and then fine those fantastic citizens who help others jump through the hoops.

Cities and counties should issue photo IDs to all residents and visitors to overcome the new photo ID poll tax requirements. They should require all landlords to give new tenants a voter registration form. City stickers should have a voter registration form included. Anytime a citizen moves and tells any level of government, that agency should automatically prepare a change of address form and send it to the election agency.

And most importantly, we should introduce an element of shame to the politicians who try to block citizens from making a free choice as to which politicians should run the government. Spread the word about what Republicans are doing. Attack back.

Monday, September 19, 2011

There is a war against voting. Attack back.

The Republican Party is waging a war on voting. This Rolling Stone article by Ari Berman explains it.

Republicans have taken control of several state governments and have implemented new laws designed to deny Americans the ability to vote in the presidential election. By making American citizens carry a photo ID with their current address before voting, by reducing the days and hours when polling places are open and by making citizens jump through administrative hoops just to register at their current address, these Republicans intend to win elections by keeping people who intend to vote Democratic from ever casting a ballot.

It’s appalling. And it is time to attack back.

Republicans may control state governments. But Democrats control local governments. And the best way to attack the Republican push to keep Americans from voting is to pass local laws and programs that will result in more people voting.

What can Democratic cities and counties do? Plenty. One main target of the Republican assault: people who move. Republican base voters are older, conservative people who have lived in the same house for years. Younger people who rent (and move every year) are more liberal and vote for Democrats. That’s why Republicans pass laws to make people submit paperwork to some obscure government agency every time they move to update their new address, because lots of people won’t know to do it, and then they won’t be able to vote.

So we can attack back by making sure people who move know they have to follow the ridiculous rule to register at their current address. We can pass local laws that require every landlord to give a voter registration form to every new tenant when they sign a lease. We can pass local laws that require every utility company to include a voter registration form in the first month’s bill for every new customer. And every city and county we control can automatically submit a completed voter registration form for their citizens whenever they update their address with the city or county through a car registration or school address or park program.

And we should really take the responsibility as a government to create an up-to-date voter registration list and proactively register our citizens to vote, rather than putting that burden on the citizen. The unique ID number that each state already issues to each citizen for their drivers license or state ID should be the same unique voter ID in a statewide database for voter registration, so that millions of Americans won't fall through the cracks and not get registered to vote.

Not every Republican elected official is part of the war against voting. And truth be told, some Democratic electeds have joined that war. When I have drafted, lobbied and passed pro-voter laws in Illinois, there were usually one or two Republicans who would vote for the bill, and one or two Democrats who would vote against it. So there are exceptions. But by and large, 95% of the Republicans were against my bills that got more people voting (and were quite clear they didn't want people to vote!) and 95% of the Democrats were for the bills.

There is a war going on. And we’ve been losing it. It’s time for local Democratic leaders to join the rebel forces that are fighting back. For every law they pass that will block one person from voting, we will pass a law that will bring a ballot to one more person. We will not let them win elections by disenfranchising Americans. We will attack back over the next 12 months with new local laws, programs and initiatives to get citizens in Democratic cities and counties registered to vote and prepared to do so under the new rules, so that in November of 2012, the greatest possible number of Americans will choose our leaders.

No government policy should stand between an American and her ballot. Let's attack back.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The rules of democracy matter. Raw disenfrachisement of voters is appalling

I find it appalling when government officials (almost exclusively Republicans, sadly) keep citizens from voting. They do so by putting up deadlines for citizens to register with some obscure government agency days or weeks before the election. They do so by making citizens stand in line in some random neighborhood location for one time period on a weekday. And recently, about a dozen states are requiring citizens to carry around and show photo identification in order to vote.

As if someone is any less of a citizen if they don't have an up-to-date drivers license.

(And in Texas, student IDs explicitly do not count.)

I have a bit of a hobby pushing for more inclusive voter registration laws in Illinois, and I am usually appalled when good-natured and intelligent legislators (again, almost always Republican) turn somewhat savagely against every effort to repeal government roadblocks to citizens exercising their right to vote.

That's why I really like this Colbert Report segment on voter ID laws passed in the last two years. He is clearly angry about them. And so am I. This is inspiring me to work to improve Illinois' laws even more in 2012 and expand the grace period even closer to election day.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Voter ID Laws
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

Monday, June 13, 2011

Great video on a new millionaire's income tax rate

This is a really neat video. The ending actually gave me chills.

I love this line: "Rich people are not the cause of a robust economy; rich people are the result of a robust economy."

Nice job.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Wouldn't it be great to meet a business partner online?

I have started a lot of different businesses. Most of them have failed, in the sense that they are no longer operating. The main lesson I have learned is that it is much better to start a business with a partner than to go it alone. Risk is shared, skills are shared, sweat equity is pooled and the end product is usually superior.

The trouble is finding a partner.

I don't know a good way to do it. It seems to be a friend-of-a-friend process, or who you went to school with thing, which is remarkably inefficient. It's a big world and everyone's circle of friends is relatively tiny.

It hit me one day when I was at lunch in Springfield with one of my clients, the Federation of Women Contractors. One of the women was talking about her son who had married a woman from Scotland. They were from the Chicago suburbs. I asked how they met, and she answered (you can predict): online. She said that on his profile he was very clear -- he was looking for a wife. Nothing else. And the woman who found who was looking for a husband with similar qualities that he had happened to be Scottish. And now he lives over there, happy as a clam.

Without an internet dating site, it would be essentially impossible to find a person with remarkably similar interests and goals over great distances without any shared friends. These dating sites are remarkably efficient market-making platforms for pairing up life partners. They make every other method of finding a spouse or a girlfriend seem ridiculously limiting and self-defeating. How do you meet a compatible stranger without a platform? Chance? Serendipity? Referrals?

That's when it hit me. There isn't an analogous platform for potential business partners to meet. There isn't a dating site for business partners. And there should be.

I would use it. In a heartbeat.

So, I'll create one. The trouble is, I need to use the product I'm trying to create in order to find the business partners (like a programmer and a marketer) I need to create the product. A bit of a Catch-22.

In the meantime, I'm working on the part that I can do: coming up with the filtering questions to get down to the most important qualities for potential business partners to know about each other. I've set up a surveymonkey site where my evolving questions are -- and I invite you to fill out the survey and 'join'

I've asked for advice from other entrepreneurs, and some people suggest I keep the idea to myself until I can line up funding, rercuit the people to run the company and then emerge as the first-mover to market. I've decided not to follow that path. Ideas are nice, but execution makes an organization work. So if someone else 'steals' this idea and actually executes it into a product and a viable business, good for them. An idea that never gets implemented ultimately isn't that valuable.

This product may fit best with LinkedIn (as there really isn't a great way to communicate with other people on LinkedIn) or, perhaps, the freelance sites like that list hundreds of thousands of freelancers available for hire. Networks become more valuable with more members, so adding onto an existing large network of potential business partners like programmers, lawyers, entrepreneurs, marketers and the like is probably easier than trying to create an entirely new network from scratch. The trick is finding the most useful way for strangers to match up as business partners by filtering down to the essential attributes about themselves that they are willing to share. Maybe there's an expert out there that already knows how to do this, but I suspect it's a trial-and-error proposition to come up with the right questions. I'd be interested in your feedback.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Closing the ignorance gap is good for progressives and Democrats

Millions of Americans believe that Medicare is not a government program. Millions. Medicare is probably the most effective socialist program in the country (the government taxes people and directly pays for the service without any for-profit middleman insurance company -- seems like socialism to me!), and instead of warming people up to the idea of government making their lives better, millions of people think that the government ought to stay out of Medicare.

This is ignorance.

And this civic or government ignorance that millions of American suffer from is a heavy anchor holding back progressive governance.

The more people hold reflexive anti-government suspicions, even as they like some of the biggest government programs like Medicare, the harder it is to build consensus for reasonable, pragmatic investments in our economy like Medicare for everyone or expanded public transportation. This is because the ignorant won't agree.

We must educate the ignorant. If after they come to understand that Medicare is, in fact, a government program, and they are still against the government out of some precious feeling that the government is bad, then fine. But some of the people who are anti-government but pro-Medicare will change their mind and drop their animus against the government when they are shown what the government actually is.

Who will close the ignorance gap? It isn't fair to ask a political candidate or a political party to do so. Their job is to earn majority support from the people where they are -- not necessarily to change the electorate's views on issues. They are working to change the electorate's views on the candidates and the parties, but not on issues. If a candidate finds that a good chunk of the people are simply misinformed about an issue, it isn't the candidate's job to teach them. So who will?

Who will pay for a mailing to every Republican-leaning senior in America that says Medicare is the Government!

I think we tend to overlook the very large benefits of relatively small civic education targeted to the ignorant whose ignorant views result in voting for the anti-government party. (Not all Republican voters are ignorant, of course, but for those that are in the 'keep government out of Medicare vein', some civic education could change their minds and their votes.) As a related example, I'm convinced that millions of Americans have no idea how marginal federal income tax rates work (if we raise taxes on income above $250,000, no one who makes less than that in a year will pay higher taxes). If all American did understand it, then no one would fall prey to the ignorant response to raising the highest marginal income tax rate with 'you're going to end up paying higher taxes....somehow'. And people do!

I'm increasingly intrigued with the idea of waging a campaign to narrow the ignorance gap among swing voters. People need to be educated in order to make up their own mind about the state of our nation. We can't expect a modern, intelligent, pragmatic government if we don't invest in educating the people who ultimately run it, and that's the electorate.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

For better politics, talk about money

"We're not allowed to talk about money in our society. You can't ask someone how much they make. That's considered impolite. It's taboo. But who does that benefit? The rich people. They don't want us talking to each other about money. Because if we do, we're going to want to do something about how much we're all struggling and how much money they make."

That blew me away about a decade ago at a fundraising workship put on by Kim Klein. The topic was how to fundraise for a non-profit organization (key point: ask someone for money), but I learned then that talking about money is the key to progressive politics.

Politics is basically about money. The rich want to keep it. The rest of us want to take that money and spend it to make our lives better off. That's the bottom line.

Turns out, the rich are actually better off when we take that money and spend it on everyone else, because that makes the economy work better. Wouldn't you know it, when the masses of people have more money to spend, we spend it! And that makes the economy work. When the masses do not have a lot of money to spend, we don't spend it, and that slows the economy down, hurting the rich as well.

Unfortunately, most of the rich (and the Republican Party that supports them) do not see it that way. They just want to keep the money, even if makes the rest of the country essentially bankrupt. So the big ongoing fight at the center of American politics is whether we are going to take the money that the rich get now and spend it on the rest of us or not. That's going to be at the center of President Barack Obama's re-election campaign in a year and half, when he campaigns to raise the federal income tax rate on income above $250,000 and all Republicans will oppose it.

The fascinating part of American politics is trying to figure out how to convince the people who make less than $250,000 a year and who vote Republican to understand that they are hurting themselves financially. They may have other reasons to vote Republican that are correct on the merits (maybe they are anti-choice or they are for unilateral military action) but on whether or not they are making their family better off financially, people who are not rich and and vote Republican are objectively voting to make their families worse off.

This paradox of non-rich Republican voters choosing to make their families worse off on behalf of some other cause (the concept of a small government, perhaps) needs a lot more attention. We need polling data and focus groups with all sorts of representative demographic groups (women, men, younger, older, southern, northern) to really understand how best to point out to non-rich Republicans the financial consequences of Republican policies. We non-rich people vastly outnumber the rich people in any given year (the top 2 percent of wage earners by definition only make up 2% of the population). But somehow, 98% of Republican voters are supporting tax policies that only benefit the top 2%, and they either don't know that they are hurting their families by doing so or they don't care. We need to understand which it is, and we need to find out which of those non-rich Republicans are open to accepting that financial truth if explained to them from a trusted source in a non-confrontational way.

I think the main reason why so many non-rich people vote for tax policies that hurt them is how little we talk about money in our culture.

It is to our advantage to get people talking about money. When people talk about how much they make, and whether they are getting by, and then talk about whether the people who are making a million or twenty million or two hundred million dollars this year can afford to pay more in taxes to make them better off, they are much more open to voting Democratic to raise taxes on high incomes. And when people do not talk about money at all, because it is taboo, they are not very open to raising taxes on the top 2%, because they assume that might somehow in some way be worse for them.

Most of politics is defining the question. A great and powerful independent educational campaign would be to ask the question directly to millions of middle-income Americans "Do you think millionaires can afford to pay 5% more of their income above $250,000 in taxes in order to make your family better off?"

Perhaps it's another version of class consciousness. An educational campaign to remind people how much they make and that in order to look out for their family, they should vote for the party that will look out for families who make about what they make, not the people who make a million dollars a year.

It's a campaign that will never be waged through earned media. But by getting people to think -- perhaps through paid media or through social media or direct mail -- "I have to look out for my family, and since I make under $100,000 a year, I have to vote for whoever will look out for people who make that amount of money" we are on the path to a consensus to raise taxes on the wealthy who can afford to pay it.

I can imagine a radio ad that appeals to men broadcast on the news stations. Instead of hawking gold investments, insurance or hair growth products, sell the listener on how he and his family are better off if we raise taxes on income above $250,000 a year, since somebody's got to pay for the government, and it's either going to be you or them. Or a financial advice columnist type of voice, like Terry Savage, but instead of calling on people to wake up and get their personal spending under control by acknowledging how much they make and bringing their expenditures in line with their income, send out the same frank, insistent call for families to take control of their finances by voting for the candidates who are going to help people who support their income bracket, not the wealthy.

I want to help run an independent, educational campaign that gets more American voters to think about politics through the lens of how much money they actually make in order to make their family better off.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Creating more liberals to build our base

To raise our standard of living and create higher wages and benefits for regular people requires a larger base of Americans believing that we should raise our standard of living and create higher wages and benefits for regular people. Our base is not large enough to do so today on an ongoing basis. One particularly important task, then, is to create more liberals out of the millions of 18 year olds, newly naturlized citizens and persuadable Americans that emerge every year.

There aren't many institutions that focus on what it takes to convince someone to self-identify as a liberal. The Democratic Party doesn't, as the Party rightly focuses on convincing Americans to self-identify as Democrats. The people running the party are delighted if conservatives elect Democrats and delighted if conservative Democrats are elected. If that means those conservative Democrats don't support the progressive agenda, well, too bad for the liberals. Better to elect a conservative Democrat than a Republican. After all, if there were more progressive voters in that district, the representative would likely be more progressive.

Self-identified conservatives outnumber self-identified liberals in every state in the Union, according to Gallup. This is a problem for progressives, as governments reflect the views of the people who elect them.

We need to figure out how to grow the number of self-identified liberals and then we need to figure out who will actually do that work. I suspect that education has a lot to do with liberal self-identification, so potentially funding a lot more scholarships for students can help. I imagine that the general idea of antipathy towards the government needs to be overcome (polls show that particular government programs like Medicare or Pell grants are far more popular than the term 'government spending') so a direct mail campaign to swing voters explaining that these popular government programs are, in fact, government spending of the type liberals advocate for might be helpful. I find an historical context helps explain the direct connection between a person's standard of living and the progressive triumphs of the New Deal and the Great Society and, more recently, the Affordable Health Care Act, so developing and distributing more movies, television shows, books and web videos that explain how liberal policies make people's lives better would help.

There are literally tens of millions of potential liberals in our country who could be convinced to self-identify and then vote as a liberal. They are waiting for us to reach them with the right essay contest or movie or internship or free magazine or infomercial or Google ad or book that shows up unexpectedly one day to grab their attention and change their mind. And it's all tax deductible to the investor who funds the work! Who else wants to get to work?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Earth Hour reminds us to widen our horizon globally for progressive advocacy

Today is the day for Earth Hour when people turn off the lights from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm local time to raise awareness of the need to confront global warming - an idea dreamed up only six years ago by Australians looking to raise awareness about climate change and now the largest single action taken by the people of the world to advance a political cause. There will likely be close to half a billion people participating or made aware of Earth Hour today in almost every nation on earth.

What I really like about Earth Hour is the reminder that our electorate is really global and our ability to successfully wage advocacy campaigns does not end at our national borders. While I prefer to focus on state and local governments to implement the progressive agenda, largely because they are run by Democrats who are far more sympathetic to the agenda than the opposition, the prerequisite work to build consensus among citizens before their representatives are ready to implement an improvement can occur everywhere, both in Republican-majority states in the US and in nations without basic democracy. It is just as important that the average Chinese citizen (who doesn't vote for her government) comes to see global warming as an economic threat as it is for the average American citizen (who does) in order to forge a binding global agreement on reducing pollution.

When I turn off the lights and sit in candlelight tonight, I'll do so not only to remember the need to modernize our economy to emit far less pollution, but I'll do so as part of global solidarity with the other tens of millions of progressive advocates who similarly work to build consensus for a higher standard of living for all. And I'll be thinking about what sort of similarly effective campaigns my clients can launch or participate in to change the minds of everyday people in order to hasten the day when we implement their particular part of the progressive agenda.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Political opportunity for the wealthy to support higher federal income taxes on multi-millionaires

This is a great opportunity for wealthy Americans to build support for a middle class country.

The middle class is shrinking as the wealthy, particularly the very wealthy, are getting increasingly richer.

We don't tax high incomes much at all. The consequence of relatively low tax rate on high income when most of the income growth is for the very rich is that governments are broke. And when governments are broke, the investments that make a middle class and allow for upward mobility (good public education, health care, public sector jobs) wither, shrinking the middle class with it.

Most public school districts are firing teachers this year.

Most states are firing social workers who take care of disabled people or people with drug addictions.

Most public transportation districts are raising fares and cutting back on service.

Most public colleges are raising tuition and cutting classes.

This takes money out of the pockets of the middle class and makes us poorer.

The best way to fix this is to raise taxes on people who are making millions of dollars and use that money to make public transportation more affordable, keep public libraries open longer, hire more teachers in the public schools and dozens of other state and local government investments that make the middle class better off.

But right now, in the face of united Republican opposition to raising taxes on wealthy people, Washington has taken high income tax cuts off the table for the next 18 months.

This month, several U.S. Representatives just put higher taxes for millionaires and billionaires to pay for a middle class back on the table.

Here is a video of Illinois Representative Jan Schakowsky talking about why the wealthiest Americans should pay more for the good of their country.

This is a great opportunity for some progressive wealthy people to define the debate on tax fairness for the next year.

When wealthy people make the point that those who earn more than ten million dollars a year can afford to pay a higher tax rate on the income above $300,000, it is uniquely compelling, because the faint aura of class envy doesn't exist as when a poorer person makes the same point.

Plus, the notion of solidarity, so central to a stronger consensus on the necessary taxpayer investment in our economic growth, is engendered when the wealthy who will pay more call for a higher tax rate on high incomes in order to benefit other Americans.

As the Senate Democrats and House Republicans in Washington march towards an inevitable budget clash this spring, a stronger call by wealthy Americans to raise more revenue from the people who are enjoying their best years and can thus afford higher taxes would resonate. This call should especially be directed in a campaign to purple parts of the country to help shape popular perception of whether the Bush tax cuts should be repealed in 2013, as President Obama will campaign for in his re-election effort and the Republica nominee will campaign against. The more we can convince Americans in swing states to embrace higher taxes for high incomes, the better the electoral terrain for President Obama and the Democratic Party 19 months from now.

We can't expect President Obama to convince the nation on his own to do the right thing. Wealthy Americans who understand the economic and moral imperative of fair taxes on high income have an opportunity and obligation to convince millions of Americans in 2011 to support the policy, both to help win the budget battle this year and to win the federal election in 2012.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

America is not broke - Michael Moore speaks in Madison yesterday

America is not broke. We are the wealthiest nation on earth.

The problem is that the super rich have almost half the wealth. That leaves the rest of us with less. And now, since the super-rich are hoarding half the wealth, they want all the rest of us to settle for less. We should pay more for for-profit health insurance companies' products and end up with less care. We should pay more for college and go deeper into debt. We should go without pensions and work longer into our 60s, 70s and 80s. And we should pay higher taxes, because we can not ever raise taxes on the wealthy.

Michael Moore visited Madison, Wisconsin where, because of 14 Democratic State Senators who refused to participate in the Republicans' attempt to steamroll their anti-middle-class agenda through the legislature, the people have ground their legislative process to a halt. He gave a great speech to tens of thousands of ordinary citizens who have demanded that we grow the middle class, and we shoot down the lie that our country is broke. The truth is that our country is wealthy. We just won't demand that the super-rich who have all the wealth spend it on all the rest of us. Fortunately, that is changing.

Here it is:

Friday, March 04, 2011

This is what politics is about: teachers versus bankers.

Jon Stewart nails it.

Remember, politics is ultimately about money, and we are living in the era of the Robber Barons where income inequality is at its most severe since the 1920s.

Why are our governments broke? Largely because we don't tax wealthy people enough. And now, because we won't tax millionaires enough, we are firing tens of thousands of teachers, social service providers, cops and firefighters.

You have to pick a side. Either you vote to make the bankers wealthier or you vote to hire more teachers. Either you vote to make the middle class even poorer, by making unions weaker, or you vote to tax rich people more.

Embrace it: we want to raise taxes on rich people. Because then we have the money to spend on things that make the rest of us better off. Things like health insurance. And college tuition. And in the process of taxing rich people more, taking their money and spending it on everyone else, we make our economy stronger. That's why Democratic policies are better for the economy than Republican policies. Turns out, taxing the rich more and spending that money on everybody else means more people have money to spend -- which makes our economy strong. And when we don't tax the rich more and most people have to pay more for health insurance or college tuition or transportation, then we have all have less money to spend and the economy suffers. Makes sense, right?

You want to balance the state budgets? Repeal the federal tax cuts on rich people that the Republicans absolutely insisted on, and put all that money into state budgets.

Or we can continue to let the rich grow even richer while the rest of us get poorer. The way to finance a middle class is with higher taxes on the wealthy. No other way around it.

Here's the segment.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Notes on the administration of a Mexican election today

Through good fortune, I happen to be in Mexico today on the day of a gubernatorial election. I had the opportunity to speak with the people at a polling place and would like to share what I learned, with a particular eye towards election administration.

Today the State of Guerrero is holding an election for Governor. Today is a Sunday (notable in itself) and the polls are open from 9 am to 6 pm. The polling place I visited is outside -- a card table and a booth on the side of a street with posters taped up the wall is all the shelter required. I've never seen an outdoor polling place before today, but apparently with the excellent climate of Mexico, there is no need to find a polling place inside.

The ballot is colorful. There are three candidates and seven political parties. Of the seven parties, only one nominated a single candidate (PAN). The other six parties split evenly in two teams of three, with PRI and PRD each leading a respective coalition of two smaller parties. The ballots show the logos of the parties in full-color over the printed name of the candidate. Voters are given a black permanent marker and told to put a mark over the name and/or logo of the candidate of their choice, then fold the ballot in half or quarters and drop it into a box. The box is made of flimsy paper with transparent windows on each side, a bit like a magician's box, to allow anyone to see the folded ballots inside. The ballots will be counted by hand and then taken to a central location.

A posted sign on the wall above the booth instructs that no cameras or cell phone are permitted inside the booth to prohibit any images to be taken of the marked ballot. This is presumably to stop the production of any proof of voting for vote-buying purposes.

I was told that no electioneering is permitted at all on the week before election day. It still occurs, but is apparently not only frowned upon but the potential subject of a complaint against the offending party.

Volunteers with each political party sit with the volunteer election administrators (credentialed by the federal election administration agency). These volunteers are permitted to call their political workers with the names of supporters who have or have not yet voted. No one, however, may accompany a voter to the polling place, as that would be considered an inducement of voting.

Ballots are counted immediately after the polls close at 6 pm. There are four offices: a President, a Secretary, a First Counter and a Second Counter. The two counters are responsible for the official count of each polling place. The smallest administrative unit is a section of a colony (or colonia), instead of the term precinct.

To verify identification, the federal election administration agency prepare a booklet that contains a copy of the photo identification of every voter in the section. The voter must present his or her voter ID card (supplied by the federal agency) and the presented card must match the copy shown in the book. The Secretary than puts a check mark in the book under the image of the voter ID card and also stamps the word "VOTA" under the image to indicate the citizen has voted. Furthermore, the plastic voter ID card is physically stamped with an indentation on the back. On the back of each card is a row of boxes numbered consecutively to indicate the year of the election with just enough room in each box to accept an indentation. Finally, the voter's thumb is marked with ink.

If a citizen isn't registered to vote, there isn't any recourse on election day. The volunteers told me the deadline to appear on the list of registered voters of the section is three months before the election.

There aren't any primaries in Mexico, so the internal process where political parties determine which candidate they will nominate for the election isn't clear. There is an internal election, according to the volunteers who worked at the section that I spoke with, paid for by the government, but it is not administered the same way as the general election today.

Starting next year, state and federal elections are to be held at the same time. Today's election was for one office: Governor. The legislature was not up for election. So even though everyone in the State of Guerrero had the same ballot, citizens could only vote on election day in the section where they lived, not where they worked.

Perhaps some day Mexicans and Americans will share an election day to elect a joint body of some kind. I certainly hope so.

Here is some video I shot this afternoon that shows the polling place.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

This is the time to create a more just, progressive state

I'm grateful that Illinois remains a blue island in the Midwestern Red Sea, with Governor Pat Quinn and a Democratic-led General Assembly ready to govern. January is in many ways the best month of the legislative calendar, because it is now when all things are possible. The deadline to submit bill ideas to the professional draftsmen and women is not until early February. Most legislators are open to ideas now, while they are putting together their legislative agenda.

The ideal bill is significant enough to improve people's lives if enacted, but not so large as to require a revolution in administration to implement. And with 177 legislators (about 95 of whom are in the Democratic majority), the path to a higher standard of living and a more just, progressive state is through dozens of these bite-sized bills, every year.

My favorite question for young people thinking about politics or government is to ask "If you were in charge, what would you change?" It has to be specific, concrete and ultimately helpful. This is the question always facing the progressive movement and the Democratic Party -- what would we change to make life better for regular people? And what change can we actually make this year?

For me, I plan to continue our path of change away from the government telling citizens they can not vote in an election because of some administrative barrier. I plan to continue our movement towards building high speed rail with actual bullet trains with my client the Midwest High Speed Rail Association. I hope we can finally make home birth safer with licensed providers and repeal the law that makes non-nurse midwives felons, on behalf of my client the Illinois Coalition for Midwifery. I plan to forge the nation's most innovative and progressive set of policies to support and grow small businesses with my client the Small Business Advocacy Council. And consistent with that mission of growing small businesses that generate jobs, I plan to work with my clients the Federation of Women Contractors and the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association to ensure Illinois' procurement dollars find their way to the smaller and diverse-owned businesses, not just the major legacy companies.

Don't let Republican control of the US House dampen your enthusiasm for implementing the progressive agenda. Aside from the obvious asset of the most progressive President in a generation in the White House and Democratic control of the Senate, there are some Republicans who fear the rising tide of the empty, angry anti-government ideology of the Tea Party in their own ranks and attempt to swim against that current. High speed rail is a good example of this internal debate, where only some Republicans take the self-defeating view that any taxpayer investment in infrastructure to improve our economy is by definition a bad idea. Some Republicans take the correct position that a taxpayer investment in high speed rail that generates real estate development, economic growth and less oil consumption is worth the money. The more we engage in the debate with our legislators and our fellow citizens on what we can do together through our government to improve our standard of living, the better.

Dream big in the New Year. The time to refine our big, game-changing proposals into more manageable laws and programs will come.