Help me fight voter suppression
November 16, 2016 7:49 AM   Subscribe

Following the election, I'm realizing that I need to spend some time fighting voter suppression, gerrymandering, and taking down the electoral college. But I'm pretty broke. What can I do?

We're low income (and will have even less to spare if Obamacare is repealed) so donating is not a great option for me but I'm a freelancer and I have time to volunteer. The national popular vote compact seems like the best way to get rid of the electoral college--how can I help make that happen by the 2020 election? Would applying to be a poll worker be a good idea? What are organizations that need my time and leg work?

I'm in New York State, if it matters.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi to Law & Government (10 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Being an election judge helps. I find it gives me a better insight into the actual process and my words when fighting voter suppression laws have more impact.
posted by advicepig at 8:03 AM on November 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

The organization leading the charge on the Compact is National Popular Vote Inc. Mostly they suggest contacting legislators, but New York State has already passed the Compact. Other than that they don't seem to be asking for "leg work." To help fight voter suppression, "leg work" on voter registration drives would be the most valuable effort.
posted by beagle at 8:06 AM on November 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

New York state has already enacted the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, so you don't really have much to do there. And it has passed in every state bordering NY except Pennsylvania (where it is pending) and Connecticut, so even if you're willing to travel a bit, it's unlikely to be helpful.

Gerrymandering is done as part of the legislative redistricting done after the census, so you won't really get another chance until after the 2020 election. Of note, NYS will use a bipartisan redistricting commission starting in 2020 instead of the state legislature.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:08 AM on November 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'd suggest looking around for excellent local candidates. Then volunteer for them. This fight needs to be grass roots based to win. That's how the Rs pulled off gerrymandering and vote suppression in the first place.
posted by bearwife at 8:09 AM on November 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

Under New York state law, private citizens are allowed to challenge other voters' eligibility at the polls on Election Day, according to NYU's Brennan Center for Justice.

In New York, the person whose eligibility to vote is challenged must "respond to polling place challenges immediately" — by answering a poll worker's questions and taking an oath — "even before an election official has first assessed the validity of the challenge." The law has long been used to target college students voting upstate, the Brennan Center has found, "even though state law grants them the right to vote in New York."

I'd suggest talking to your state legislators about passing a law like the one approved in my home state, Maine, in 2004, which requires challengers to present proof that the person that they're challenging isn't eligible to vote. That's a good start (though I agree with the Brennan Center that voter challenges shouldn't be allowed on Election Day, period).

Here's the Brennan Center's 2012 report (warning: PDF) on existing voter challenge laws throughout the U.S. It makes for interesting, if depressing, reading. (If you don't want to deal with the PDF, here's the executive summary from the Brennan Center's website.)
posted by virago at 8:50 AM on November 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Join your local League of Women Voters. It's a great way to learn how the electoral process works in your area, and they work against voter suppression. Depending on what the needs are in different areas, they monitor polling places, distribute information about candidates and ballot measures, organize debates, register voters, and get out the vote.
posted by BrashTech at 8:52 AM on November 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Update... Consulting my local LWV chapter page, they do charge a membership fee. However, I didn't have to pay any fees to volunteer with the state LWV as an election observer. If your local League does have a membership fee and it will be a hardship for you, you might contact them about whether it could be waived, or how you could work with them without becoming an official member.
posted by BrashTech at 9:03 AM on November 16, 2016

Regularly attend electoral board meetings in your area. Get to know who holds influence over them. Submit written questions beforehand to give time to address your issues with solid, thoughtful answers instead of reacting defensively or incompletely. Follow up if you're not satisfied.
posted by ezust at 10:29 AM on November 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I know a lot of NY Dems are looking at getting early voting in NY and expanding ballot access to people in prison or with a felony conviction. Current(ish) bills under consideration include:

NY A07634
Relates to voting and registration for voting by convicted felons; provides such convicted felons may vote if such person's maximum sentence of imprisonment has expired, or such person is serving a term of parole, presumptive release, conditional release or post-release supervision.

NY A08582
Relates to early voting; provides that beginning the eighth day prior to any election and ending on and including the second day prior to the election a person duly registered and eligible to vote shall be permitted to vote.

NY A10370
Enacts the "Voter Enfranchisement Modernization Act of 2016"; relates to establishing the electronic personal voter registration process; provides for online voter registration.

There aren't any current bills that I can find that would give voting rights to people currently in prison, but two other states have that option, so it's not completely off the table. Prison voting would change a bunch of deep-red districts to purple or blue in NYS. There are also bills though that require strict voter ID and other suppression tactics, so make sure you're opposing the things that need to be opposed in addition to supporting the good stuff.

-Call your state senator and assembly member, call Cuomo, call the heads of the committees that review these bills. You can leave a simple comment with their staff ("I live in [town] and would like [person] to support [bill]/ was wondering what [person's] position is on [bill/issue].") or ask questions, or express why you support it, etc. Call back to follow up -- even every day if you want, keep track of the staffer's name who you talk to as they'll probably be answering the phone tomorrow. Request that the Rep respond in writing (email or snail mail). To paraphrase someone from one of the election threads: it's not enough to know your representatives' names, they need to know your name.

-Write letters to the editor of your local and regional papers in support of these bills.

-Get your friends and neighbors to make calls and write letters.

-Find organizations supporting these bills and see what help they need.
posted by melissasaurus at 3:18 PM on November 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd also recommend looking into this org, that was just highlighted by President Obama:

Mentioned here on Real Time with Bill Maher (starts at 5:21):
posted by hampanda at 8:27 PM on November 16, 2016

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