In May, the House Government Reform Committee passed significant new legislation to provide voting rights in the House of Representatives for citizens of the District of Columbia, the DC Fair and Equal House Voting Rights Act of 2006, H.R. 5388. The bill calls for a permanent 2-seat expansion to 437--one for DC and an at-large seat for Utah (entitled to the next seat by population size). This balanced approach provides voting rights for DC citizens without upsetting the partisan balance in the House.
DC citizens pay U.S. taxes, fight and die for the U.S. during wartime, and are governed by the laws that Congress passes. Yet, they have only a non-voting delegate in the House. H.R. 5388, sponsored by Rep. Tom Davis (R VA) and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D DC), corrects this wrong.
On September 14, the House Judiciary Committee will have a hearing on H.R. 5388, and proponents will then push for a vote in committee and on the House floor. Only Congress can ensure that the democracy we espouse and fight for globally becomes a reality in the nation's capital. We must continue to move this historic bill to final passage.
What You Can Do:
Tell your Representative to cosponsor and vote for H.R. 5388 to provide DC citizens voting rights.
In August, LWVUS President Mary Wilson testified before a Committee on House Administration field hearing in Phoenix, AZ, in opposition to the creation of new barriers to voting by eligible citizens. The League opposed H.R. 4844, the "Federal Election Integrity Act of 2006," which would require photo ID at the polling place and documentary proof of citizenship in the voter registration process. The proposed measures would undermine activities of the League and others who seek to boost citizen participation in our democracy.
The expansion of the franchise to include all Americans regardless of race, ethnicity or sex is one of the great successes in the evolution of American democracy. Breaking down barriers to citizen voter participation--from literacy tests to the poll tax--has been a constant battle. Many Americans simply do not have documentary proof of citizenship and photo ID, and it would be a hardship for them to obtain such documents. See p. 7 of this Voter as well as p. 7 of the June 2006 magazine for articles covering these issues.
What You Can Do:
Urge your Members of Congress not to support H.R. 4844, requiring photo ID at the polling place and documentary proof of citizenship in the voter registration process.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM
Crucial bipartisan presidential public financing legislation recently introduced by Reps. Marty Meehan (D MA) and Christopher Shays (R CT), H.R. 5905, and Sen. Russell Feingold (D WI), S. 3740, would make a series of important reforms to the presidential public financing system and again provide participating candidates the opportunity to run competitive races. The legislation would:
* Raise the spending limits for the primary and general elections and increase the amount of public funds available to presidential candidates for these races;
* Make public funds available to primary candidates earlier in the process;
* Provide additional public funds for a publicly-financed candidate where a privately-financed candidate has significantly outspent the spending limits applicable to the publicly-financed candidate;
* Increase the public funds available to pay for the presidential system; and
* Prohibit the national parties and their agents and officers, and federal office-holders, from raising and spending soft money to pay for the party nominating conventions.
In the 2004 presidential election, the public financing system failed to function properly, in large part because there had been no adjustments made in the system since its enactment in 1974. See the article on p. 9 of the June 2004 Voter.
We now face a presidential election in 2008, where the two major party nominees may well opt out of the primary and general election public funding systems, and end up spending a combined $1 billion in private funds on their races. If this happens, big-money fundraisers will play a dominant role in the election, with individuals each raising six- and seven-figure total amounts for the candidates. It makes no sense to abandon a system that has played a vital role in protecting the integrity of the presidency and can be repaired to continue to play that role.
A voluntary system of public financing and spending limits for all federal elections is essential to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption, to give candidates the opportunity to run competitive races, and to stop the arms race money chase that results from unlimited spending in campaigns.
On the congressional side, Reps. John Tierney (D MA) and Raul M. Grijalva (D AZ) have introduced H.R. 3099, the Clean Money, Clean Elections Act, to establish full public financing of congressional elections. The bill has 39 cosponsors to date. A similar bill is expected from the Senate. See the article on p. 10 of this Voter.
What You Can Do:
Urge your Members of Congress to co-sponsor and support legislation to save presidential public financing and new legislation to establish congressional public financing.
LOBBYING REFORM AND ETHICS
The lobbying and ethics bills passed by the House and Senate this year, and awaiting House-Senate Conference, are not meaningful reforms.
Reps. Christopher Shays (R CT) and Marty Meehan (D MA) have introduced a new, strong lobbying and ethics reform bill, H.R. 5677, that will:
* Prohibit private interests that lobby Congress from paying for trips by Members;
* Require Members to pay charter rates, rather than reduced fares, for the use of company planes made available by corporations for their travel;
* Ban gifts to Members;
* Establish an Office of Public Integrity to help enforce congressional ethics rules and lobbying disclosure laws;
* Require lobbyists to disclose the campaign funds and financial benefits they provide to assist Members;
* Require disclosure of the amounts spent by professional lobbying firms and lobbying groups on campaigns to generate lobbying of Congress by the public; and
* Slow the revolving door.
Fundamental changes are needed. The League wants Congress to enact lobby reform legislation that makes such changes and establishes an Office of Public Integrity to oversee and enforce ethics rules and lobbying laws, receive allegations and complaints, conduct investigations and present cases to congressional ethics committees. See Sounding Off, "Not Business as Usual," in the June 2006 Voter.
What You Can Do:
Tell your Members of Congress to make meaningful lobbying reform and to support and cosponsor H.R. 5677.
Members of Congress continue to debate proposed legislation to address President Bush's 2002 secret order allowing National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance of thousands of people overseas and hundreds of people within the U.S. without court-approved warrants. White House attempts to legalize the NSA's surveillance program has run into difficulties in both houses of Congress. The National Security Surveillance Act proposed by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R PA) has encountered strong opposition.
Congress must exercise its constitutional authority and ensure that the executive branch does not encroach on civil liberties. See p. 4 in this Voter.
What You Can Do:
Tell Congress to exercise its constitutional authority, protect civil liberties and maintain the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches.
Join the Grassroots Lobby Corps and make a difference! Stay informed and take action with the League on important upcoming battles for responsible federal policy. To sign up to receive action alerts by e-mail go to www.lwv.org and click on "Take Action." It takes just a few minutes a month to make your voice heard.
RELATED ARTICLE: * REDISTRICTING
The LWVUS and the LWV of Texas filed an amicus curiae in LULAC v. Perry, arguing that the Texas legislature's mid-census redistricting was unconstitutional because it was done solely to achieve partisan advantage. In late June, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion that allows partisan gerrymandering to continue in the states.
The Court did protect the voting rights of racial and ethnic minorities. While it said states are free to redistrict at will, the justices invalidated Texas's District 23, citing a Section 2 violation of the Voting Rights Act. This decision will require lawmakers to adjust boundaries in line with the Court's ruling.
With its decision, the Supreme Court has failed to set constitutional limits on redistricting, forcing advocates for fair redistricting to focus on achieving reform at the state level.
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|Title Annotation:||election law|
|Author:||Ponomareff, Shirley Tabata|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2006|
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