democracy

The Reports of Unions' Death Are Greatly Exaggerated

By Stephen Herzenberg, Third and State

There's a good deal of crowing in conservative circles this week about the new 2012 numbers on union membership. Union membership nationally fell by about 400,000, to 14.4 million. Union membership in Pennsylvania declined 45,000, including 59,000 in the private sector.

Of course, for anyone who cares about, say, the American Dream, democracy, and rising living standards, the newest numbers are bad news. A simple chart put together by the Center for American Progress shows that unions are vital to the middle class. As unions have weakened, so has the share of income going to middle-income workers — and the gap between the 1% and the 99% has mushroomed.

Confused About Voter ID? You’re Not Alone

By Sharon Ward, Third and State

The eyes of the nation are truly turned to Pennsylvania as the ACLU is back in court today challenging Pennsylvania’s strictest-in-the-nation Voter ID Law. The Commonwealth Court is hearing evidence to determine whether the new Department of State voter ID will do the trick to ensure that anyone who needs an ID can get one, for free, in time to vote in November. If the state fails to make that case, the judge could issue an injunction to prevent the law from taking effect.

Early evidence seems to indicate that could happen. As Capitolwire.com has reported (subscription), Judge Simpson indicated Tuesday he will consider an injunction and has asked lawyers to be prepared to provide input on its scope and force. 

On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center released a report on this topic exactly. The report, Moving Target: Pennsylvania’s Flawed Implementation of the Voter ID Law, asks the question: "How is PennDOT handling the new Department of State ID?" The answer, in layman’s terms, is simple: Not so good.

Chaos at the PennDOT

By Sharon Ward, Third and State

Now that Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson has given the green light to Pennsylvania’s strictest in-the-nation Voter ID Law, tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians will have to make their way to their local PennDOT office to get a photo ID. We can tell you, it won’t be easy.

This summer, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center recruited volunteers to visit PennDOT offices across the Commonwealth and tell us about their experiences trying to obtain free photo ID under the new law. The results of that survey are in our new report, Pennsylvania’s Identity Crisis: Rushed Implementation of Voter ID Law Puts Voting Rights at Risk.

Volunteers visited 43 PennDOT centers in 27 counties across the commonwealth, representing three-quarters of the state’s population. They completed a survey that looked at very simple things: whether there was signage, if forms were available, if there was information that the IDs could be available for free, if volunteers got accurate information. We were surprised just how difficult it was for our volunteers to get the right information and the right forms — and they knew exactly what to ask for. 

The report finds that voters are likely to be frustrated in their attempts to secure a free ID from PennDOT. Some volunteers found the offices weren’t open the first time they visited and they had to return another time. There was no signage and limited information in half the sites, and the forms needed to secure a free ID were not available most of the time. In almost half the cases, voters received information that proved to be incomplete or inaccurate from staff at the centers. Problems were as likely to occur in Franklin and Luzerne counties as in Philadelphia or Allegheny County.

Providing a free ID to anyone who needs it is one of the key constitutional tests of the validity of a state’s voter ID law, and we found Pennsylvania is not making the grade. Most volunteers were not told they could have an ID for free, and in 30% of the visits, they were told incorrectly they had to pay.

Few Informed that Voter ID Could Be Obtained at No Cost

We report on a man who took 16 people from his church to the PennDOT at 8th and Arch Street in Philadelphia, where they were told incorrectly they had to pay for a photo ID. Twelve of the 16 didn’t have the money with them and left empty-handed.  

The Department of State is rolling out a new Commonwealth ID next week, which may end up creating more problems than solutions. 

The bottom line is that the Commonwealth isn’t ready to get an ID to everyone who needs it for the November election, and unless we put on the brakes, people will be disenfranchised. They sure ain’t making it easy. 

YOU can Prevent the Vote Stealing

You all know what's going on; the GOP is trying to take us all back to the 18th century, to have a country that literally is governed in the image of the founding fathers. Justice Scalia will fill in the details. To make it happen, they have to be sure the women, the people of color and the young, don't vote.

You don't like that idea? Then you have to keep reading. . .

THINGS YOU CAN DO NOW TO HELP VOTERS VOTE

1. Transport voters with the necessary documentation to PennDOT to obtain a Non-Drivers License Photo ID Card, stay with them and help them through the process and transport them back. Volunteer trainings will be scheduled at the Coalition office at 310 W. Chelten Ave. Call the Coalition office to get more info: 215-848-1283.

2. Volunteer with the Homeless Advocacy Project or the Senior Law Center (215-701-3201) clinics to help voters obtain birth certificates.

3. Take calls from voters with questions about the birth certificate process or other aspects of Voter ID requirements. Contact either of the organizations above.

4. Make calls to voters in your neighborhood to see if they have proper id. Jeff Garis of Pa. Voice is coordinating a calling blitz from 8/12-8/25 at least. Contact him at jgaris@infoservicesgroup.net or 215-694-4783.

5. Contact the NAACP to help: 8/22 (today) from 3-7 pm at a high volume location to assist with voter registration and educate about Voter ID. There will be a team leader to assist you. There will be other dates and times to do this; let Gloria Gilman (215-568-4990; gmgilman@igc.org) know what you’d like and she’ll connect with the NAACP to try to set up a group or contact them directly. Locations include Broad and Olney, Bridge & Pratt; Market East; FernRock; Frankford Transportation Center; 69th Street Terminal. NAACP coordinator is John Jordan: j715jordan@yahoo.com; 215-715-5681.

6. Canvas door to door (put on door hangers with needed info to targeted neighborhoods where it is believed that there are a lot of people without proper id); phone bank; do data entry; do packet assembly: daily. Shifts in morning, afternoon, evening, weekends daily. Call the Coalition office: 215-848-1283 or go there at 310 West Chelten Ave. It’s near the Chelten Avenue station on the Chestnut Hill line, and if you’re driving, there is free parking.

7. Get trained about Voter ID issues by the Coalition office and agree to do one or more speaking engagements. There are many unfilled requests for this. Contact Molly Morrill to arrange this: mmorrill@seventy.org; 215-557-3600. There is a lot of information and forms available online at the Committee of Seventy website: seventy.org website.

8. Check the Coalition calendar to see what’s listed: http://www.seventy.org/ElectionsVoterID.aspx

9. There is an app called the Cost of Freedom App widget detailing voter ID requirements in Pa and around the country which can be sent out to your email lists or social media contacts, especially to young people: www.costoffreedom.info or contact Faye Anderson at 215-995-5028 or costoffreedomproject@gmail.com about this.

What is Pat Toomey Doing? Inequality and America's Future

A blog post by Stephen Herzenberg, originally published at Third and State.

Let me connect three dots for you. Draw your own conclusions about the impact of Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey’s proposal in the super committee to reduce the federal deficit.

Dot Number 1 — The American middle class is shrinking: The New York Times reports this morning that the middle class is shrinking in America — based on where people live.  In 2007, the latest year studied, 44% of families lived in middle-income neighborhoods, down from 65 percent of families in 1970. A third of families lived in very high-income or poor neighborhoods now, up from just 15 percent of families in 1970. The case example used to illustrate this national trend — the Philadelphia metropolitan area.

Constitutional Convention: Building Democrcy 2,0 - $10,000 Grants for Progressive Ideas!

WE WANT YOU TO UPGRADE OUR DEMOCRACY.

Are you a social entrepreneur? Do you want to make a difference?

Tell us your idea and you could win a grant of up to $10,000 to make it happen. Submit your idea and take part at Constitutional Convention: Building Democracy 2.0, happening January 9-11,2009 at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

Visit http://www.democracyupgrade.com to register and for event details. Registration for the Constitutional Convention is FREE. Download the attached Participant Information Packet.

Mobilize.org is an all-partisan network dedicated to educating, empowering, and energizing young people to increase our civic engagement and political participation. We work to show young people how public policy impacts our lives, and more importantly – how we can impact public policy.

Taxi Driver Update: Video by Philly IMC


Image from the PhillyIMC.org website.

Public Authorities continue to be one of the best means for taking control out of the hands of voters and putting it in the hands of bureaucrats two or three or four steps removed from anyone elected. I've written about the Taxi Drivers in this space several times now, but now Philly Independent Media Center has a great new video coming out a week or so in advance of a two day taxi strike.

Check the video out here.

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