Voter Education Issues to Watch
"Because Equity is Still an Issue."
For more information: AAUW Fact Sheets and Position Papers on Affirmative Action, Athletics, Education, Managed Care Reform, Reproductive Rights, and Social Security Reform.
Full calendar of the NYS election cycle for 2014
2015 GOtV (Get Out theVote)
Updated: June 30, 2015
- Supreme Court Upholds Arizona Congressional Lines - In an opinion by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Court ruled that independent redistricting commissions are constitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court avoided a congressional shake-up Monday morning, upholding the constitutionality of independent redistricting commissions rather than striking down the congressional maps in Arizona and possibly several other states. The court ruled 5-4 in favor of Arizona's redistricting commission, rejecting an argument by the state's Republican legislators that the Constitution only gives the authority to draw legislative and congressional lines to state legislatures.
- Millennials now outnumber Boomers, Census Bureau says - It's finally happened: Millennials are taking over the country. Millennials, or those born from 1982 through 2000, now make up more than one quarter of the U.S. population (83.1 million), exceeding the 75.4 million Baby Boomers who were born from 1946 through 1964, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
- Study: Members of Congress 231% More Likely to Meet With You if You've Paid Them - When congressional schedulers were told that meetings were with constituents, CREDO members were able to meet with members of Congress or their chiefs of staff a mere 2.4 percent of the time. When they were identified as past donors, those meetings occurred 12.5 percent of the time. Similarly, people who want to meet with their representative in Congress have a 231% greater chance if they've donated.
- Proof that voter turnout in the U.S. is embarrassing - In comparison to other developed countries, the United States ranks near the bottom of the pack in terms of voter turnout. Data compiled by the Pew Research Center found that among OCED countries, the United States ranks 31st out of 34 for voter turnout, largely because of the individual responsibility placed on voters to register and vote in comparison to countries like Belgium and Turkey who have mandatory voting laws and rank at the top of the list.
- Gillibrand to push for national online voter registration - Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is introducing legislation to expand online voter registration, which would allow all eligible voters across the country to register online. The legislation would open online registration to nearly 100 million potential registrants who currently are without it, according to an announcement from her office.
- Congress is getting richer - The typical American family is still struggling to recover from the Great Recession, but Congress is getting wealthier every year. The median net worth of lawmakers was just over $1 million in 2013, or 18 times the wealth of the typical American household, according to new research released Monday by the Center for Responsive Politics. And while Americans' median wealth is down 43% since 2007, Congress members' net worth has jumped 28%.
- The new Congress is 80 percent white, 80 percent male and 92 percent Christian - The group that Pew finds most underrepresented on the Hill is those without a religious affiliation -- comprising 20 percent of the public and 0.2 percent of Congress. Congress is nearly as unrepresentative on race and gender. More than half of the population is female; white non-Hispanics are about 63 percent of the population.
- Top 100 Political Donors Give Nearly as Much as 4.75 Million Small Donors Combined - The 100 biggest campaign donors gave $323 million in 2014 - almost as much as the $356 million given by the estimated 4.75 million people who gave $200 or less, a POLITICO analysis of campaign finance filings found.
- Sweet Deal: Corporations Get $760 for Every Dollar They Spend on Elections - A report issued last month by the Sunlight Foundation, a government accountability group, found that for every dollar the nation's most politically active companies spent on political influence, they received $760 from the government in the form of federal business and support. In total, the yearlong study reported that 200 of the country's top campaign donors spent $5.8 billion on political lobbying and campaign contributions between 2007 and 2012 and received a whopping $4.4 trillion in return.
- Almost half of the 114th Congress has been elected since 2010 - You can say a lot of things about the U.S. Congress. One thing you can't really say, though, is that they've been in Washington way too long. Come January, nearly half of Congress (48.8 percent) will have been in office for four years or less -- i.e. elected in 2010 or later. That includes 49.7 percent of the House and 45 percent of the Senate -- assuming GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy defeats Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu in the Louisiana runoff Dec. 6.
- Less than a quarter of state legislators are women - Although the newly elected 114th Congress is the first to have at least 100 women, local legislatures and governments haven't seen the same kind of progress in recent decades. Women are the majority of the population in 39 states, but make up less than one-fourth of state legislatures in most states. Including here in NYS, where women make up 21.12% of the legislature, but 53% of the population. Women make up an even smaller share of mayoral posts; only about 18.4 percent of mayors in cities with over 30,000 people are women.
- Voter ID Laws Scrutinized for Impact on Midterms - After an Election Day that featured a wave of new voting restrictions across the country, data and details about who cast a ballot are being picked over to see if tighter rules swayed the outcomes of any races or contributed to the lowest voter turnout in 72 years.
- Facebook Slams the Door on Political Campaigns - Barack Obama's reelection campaign pioneered a pathway for political campaigns to reach voters through Facebook when it released an app that helped supporters target their friends with Obama-related material. But as the 2016 presidential campaign approaches, Facebook is rolling out a change that will prevent future campaigns from doing this.
- Voter turnout in 2014 was the lowest since WWII - Just 36.4 percent of the voting-eligible population cast ballots as of last Tuesday, continuing a steady decline in midterm voter participation that has spanned several decades. The results are dismal, but not surprising -- participation has been dropping since the 1964 election, when voter turnout was at nearly 49 percent. The last time voter turnout was so low during a midterm cycle was in 1942, when only 33.9 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/318-66/27016-facebook-slams-the-door-on-political-campaigns
- 2014 November General Election Turnout Rates: NYS: 28.8% - 3.9 million voters
- Connections: Why Don't Young People Vote? - Why don't young people vote? Yes, youth vote jumped in 2008, but it has flatlined once again in the years that followed. Why is that? Our panel of 20-somethings helps us understand, and they bring a diverse set of political leanings, too.
- NonprofitVOTE.org Webinar: Who Turned Out in the 2014 Midterm Elections
- Voter suppression laws are already deciding elections - In the meantime, some back-of-the-envelope calculations from Wendy Weiser - director of the Democracy Program at New York University's Brennan Center for Justice - should at least give us pause: Right now, it looks like the margin of victory in some of the most competitive races around the country was as big as the likely "margin of disenfranchisement," as Weiser puts it. That is, more people were newly denied the right to vote than actually cast deciding ballots.
- Listen to AAUW's post-election analysis call with AAUW Vice President of Government Relations Lisa M. Maatz and Associate Director of Field Operations Patty Snee! The recording is available on AAUW's YouTube channel.
- New Party Lines in NYS: Four different ballot lines all cleared the 50,000-vote threshold to automatically pop up again this election cycle: Green, Working Families, Independence and Women's Equality Party lines.
- New York Election Results
- How many black members of Congress has your state elected? - There have been 137 black members of Congress ever. Over half the states (27) have elected at least one senator or representative who was black. Illinois has had the most with 18, followed by California with 12, and New York and North Carolina with 10. Of the 137 members, 107 were Democrats and 30 were Republicans.
- Freshman class is young by U.S. Senate standards but have government experience - They are a youthful bunch - at least by the mossy standards of the U.S. Senate. Among the 11 new senators elected in Tuesday's midterm elections, eight are under age 60, and one is just 37. And after their victories, the Senate's new freshmen exuded the kind of can-do confidence that comes only with youth. Or with not understanding what they've gotten themselves into.
- Redistricting - Citizens Union released a white paper that shows the deepening effects of partisan gerrymandering in this year's election cycle.
- 2014 will be the most expensive midterm election ever - The total price tag for the 2010 midterms -- an election which almost no one is paying attention to -- will be nearly $4 billion, according to projections released Wednesday by the Center for Responsive Politics. That would make it the most expensive midterm election in history and set the stage for a 2016 presidential contest that could approach double-digit billions in spending.
- How Voting in Large Numbers Dramatically Improves Society - Do you want a higher minimum wage? Free childcare? Universal healthcare? A free college education? Then vote for politicians who support those things, and vote out those who don't. It may not seem that simple, but if enough people adhere to this strategy with the patience of several more elections, all those things will happen here. Denmark has proven that to the world by having a model society made possible by a consistently high voter turnout rate. The last election in Denmark brought out 87 percent of the population. To compare, the 2012 presidential election only saw a 57 percent turnout of registered voters in the U.S.
- How Oligarchs Are Becoming Their Own Political Parties - With the advent of Citizens United, any players with the wherewithal can start what are in essence their own political parties, built around pet causes or industries and backing politicians uniquely answerable to them. A case in point is the race for governor in Florida, where Tom Steyer pushes climate protection against the Koch brothers' efforts to stop government intervention.
- Taking most of the places at the table: White men are 31 percent of the American population. They hold 65 percent of all elected offices.
- The Independents Who Could Tip the Senate in November - The percentage of people identifying as independents exceeds 40 percent. There are more independents than either Republicans or Democrats, and it's the fastest growing group of voters. More than 50 percent of millennials self-identify as independents. A recent Gallup poll revealed that 58 percent of Americans and 71 percent of independents believe this country needs a third party because Republicans and Democrats "do such a poor job."
- Do You Care About Reproductive Rights or Marriage Equality? Then You Should Care About State Judge Elections - State judges make decisions about child custody arrangements, restraining orders, and sentencing for people found guilty of a crime. Judges rule on the validity of employment discrimination laws, restrictions on reproductive health care access, and same-sex marriage bans under state constitutions.
- A month from Election Day, election rules still in flux - The ballots are printed, election workers trained and voting locations scouted. But with just a month to go before Election Day, the rules under which the midterms will be conducted remain in flux in four key states. The outcomes of legal challenges could determine just who is eligible to vote on Election Day - and, in states where Senate and gubernatorial races are nail-bitingly close, just who wins when the votes are counted.
- Privacy advocates sue Pentagon over Internet voting test results - Privacy advocates, worried that the Defense Department is sinking millions of dollars into unproven online voting systems, are suing the Pentagon for the release of long-promised test results on whether Internet-based voting is safe.
- Noncandidate Spending Increases in State Elections - Fueled by the political groups empowered by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Pennsylvania is on top of the heap for ad spending so far in state-level races in 2014, with more than $37 million already spent, followed by Texas ($36.8 million), Florida ($33.7 million), Illinois ($26.4 million) and New York ($14.5 million). Through Sept. 8, one day before the final five state primary elections, more than $280 million nationwide was spent on television ads promoting and attacking candidates running for state political office in 2014. The increase in spending by non-candidate committees can be traced in part to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, decided early in 2010. The ruling gave the green light to unions and corporations to spend unlimited funds on ads supporting or opposing candidates.
NYS's Sunlight Site
SunLightNY.com is a site which Attorney General Cuomo's office has developed to let us see the internal results of campaign financing. You can learn the source of a candidate's funds, the legislation representatives have sponsored and the laws governing special interests. It is a wonderful source of information, useful to all of us.
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Take Our Daughters to the Polls
A new campaign has been launched to call on all parents to take their daughters to the polls when they vote on Election Day. The “Take Our Daughters to the Polls” campaign encourages adults to speak with their daughters about the importance of voting and to show them how to participate in the electoral process. The campaign was created by the White House Project, a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing women’s leadership in the United States, and supported by numerous national organizations, including AAUW. You can participate by signing the pledge to take a young girl to the polls on Nov. 4 and by spreading the word.
- from AAUW's Washington Update for October 3, 2008.
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The Sunlight Foundation
A great organization to empower watchdogs! The foundation is using the power of the Internet to "shine a light on the interplay of money, lobbying, influence and government in Washington in ways never before possible." They have compiled a great list of helpful sites for those of us wanting the insider's scoop on all things government and politics.
Just a few of the sites that the Sunlight Foundation features - and in some cases, funds - include:
- Congresspedia.org - The "online wiki-based citizens' encyclopedia on Congress" from the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Media & Democracy.
- Contractor Misconduct Database - The government awards contracts to companies with histories of misconduct such as contract fraud and environmental, ethics, and labor violations. The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is providing such data about the top 50 contractors.
- EarmarkWatch.org - Ever wanted to be an investigative reporter? Want to follow the money? This site is a user-friendly, online investigative tool that lets citizens determine "if earmarks address pressing needs, favor political contributors or are simply pure pork." The unique site guides users step by step through the process that an investigative reporter would follow - associating different kinds of political information with each earmark, and also guides users about how to use online resources on campaign finance, lobbying and federal spending for their research - tying the pork to the source. Users can also comment on and fact-check one each other's work, or send messages - including tips and suggestions - to others.
- Fedspending.org - OMB Watch's combination of data from the Federal Procurement Data System and the Federal Assistance Award Data System has created a free, searchable database of federal government contracting and spending. The database allows you to search contracts and grants by state, congressional district, contracting agency or type of award, and shows where the money is being spent and - very important - whether it was competitively bid or just given to Haliburton.
- GovTrack.us - This site uses THOMAS data and others to provide Congressional profiles and searchable legislative data. Users can sign up for email alerts to track Members, legislation and votes.
- LOUIS - Sunlight Foundation's Library of Unified Information Sources - "a search engine that combs through seven different sets of government documents. The seven sets of documents are Congressional Reports, the Congressional Record, Congressional Hearings, the Federal Register, Presidential Documents, GAO Reports, and Congressional Bills and Resolutions."
- OpenSecrets.org - This site is the premiere source of data on money in national politics. The user is able to search by member of Congress, by donor, or by industry sector. The site also contains four separate databases: lobbying, personal financial disclosures, congressional travel and revolving door.
- VoterWatch - "...combines C-SPAN video of Congress with the accompanying text from the Congressional Record to allow viewers to search the video for comments made by a member of Congress."
- WashingtonWatch - This site determines the average cost, or savings, per individual of each bill introduced in Congress by performing calculations on government estimates compared to the US population. The Web site provides users with pro and con arguments for each bill, allows comments on each bill, allows users to vote "yes" or "no" on the bills and provides a "write your rep" function.
- Watchdog.net - "...is a hub for data about politics. The site brings together census data, voting records, lobbying forms, campaign finance reports, and much more in one easy-to-understand place. And then it gives you the tools to actually do something about it."
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The Power of One Vote
Your one vote can make a difference.
- In 1645, one vote gave Oliver Cromwell control of England.
- In 1649, one vote caused Charles I of England to be executed.
- In 1776, one vote gave America the English language instead of German.
- In 1845, one vote brought Texas into the Union.
- In 1868, one vote saved President Andrew Johnson from impeachment.
- In 1876, one vote gave Rutherford B. Haves the presidency of the United States.
- In 1923, one vote gave Adolph Hitler leadership of the Nazi Party.
- In 1960, a one-vole change in each precinct of Illinois would have denied John F. Kennedy the presidency.
- In 1968, Hubert Humphrey lost and Richard Nixon won the presidential election by a margin of fewer than three votes per precinct.
- In 2000, one vote in the U.S. Supreme Court lost the presidential election for Al Gore and won it for George W. Bush.
- from AAUW's Action Alert, Sept. 2004.
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