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The Seeds Were Sown in 2010

October 1, 2013

As of midnight today, the most recent continuing resolution to fund the government ran out, and the government shut down for the first time in 17 years. The Republican Party is refusing to fund the government unless the Affordable Care Act is defunded or delayed. This runs counter to the past five years of government, during which Obamacare was passed by both houses of Congress, signed by President Obama, upheld by the Supreme Court, and then upheld by the American people in the 2012 elections. In other words, we tell the Republicans that elections matter.

What the last three years should teach us, though, is that elections matter–all elections, that is. 2010 was a disastrous midterm election for Democrats, allowing for the rise of the Tea Party, the Republican takeover of the House, and Republican takeovers of state legislatures across the country. The 2010 midterms marked the first time the Republican Party held both houses of the North Carolina General Assembly since Reconstruction. The 2014 election is still over a year away, but with the entire House, one-third of the Senate (including NC Senator Kay Hagan), and the North Carolina General Assembly up for re-election, it’s an election we need to win. We can’t have another 2010.

Update on the NC Voting Law

September 30, 2013

North Carolina will be the next state to be sued by the federal Department of Justice over its voting law, which was signed by Governor Pat McCrory in August. The federal lawsuit accuses the state of racial discrimination, since minorities of North Carolina are less likely to have the proper forms of ID than white people of the state. We’re not the first state to be targeted by the Justice Department since the Shelby case took the teeth out of the mouth of the Voting Rights Act (Texas has also been sued), and we’re among several southern states that have passed voter ID laws that are aimed squarely at our right to vote.

This WRAL article provides a comprehensive list of the changes coming to your right to vote where you go to school and go to sleep most nights of the year. Some of the highlights are as follows: You need an ID to vote. It has to be a driver’s license, a passport, a military or veteran’s card, or a tribal enrollment card. Many students don’t have any of these IDs thanks to Duke’s and Durham’s public transportation networks. Student IDs are not considered valid voter IDs, even if that ID is issued by a state university. In other words, the state won’t recognize its own ID.

The law cuts early voting by a week–in the last several elections, Duke has had an early voting site on campus, but the Election Day site has been off campus. You can no longer register and vote on the same day at an early voting site like you could in past years. In addition, if you vote in the wrong precinct, your entire ballot is thrown out instead of just the local votes that are actually ineligible. All that means is we need to be a little bit more aware, since East Campus is not in the same precinct as West and Central Campuses are.

But it all must be worth it in order to prevent the epidemic of voter fraud that’s sweeping the nation at a rate of 10 cases of voter impersonation since 2000.

Double Trouble

September 24, 2013

As of this moment, freshman Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is leading a sort of filibuster on the Senate floor. As the current continuing resolution that funds the government dwindles down to its final week, some members of the Republican Party are threatening to refuse to pass a new continuing resolution unless the Affordable Care Act is defunded. The House has already voted to take this course of action, but Republicans in the Senate are split. Make no mistake, the Affordable Care Act will be fully funded. The Senate version of the continuing resolution will include funding. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) both declared their intent to avoid a shutdown, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has made it clear that any CR that doesn’t include funding for Obamacare is “dead on arrival.”

 

The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. It was passed by both houses of Congress, signed by President Obama, upheld by John Roberts’s Supreme Court. Since its approval by all three branches of government, it was further upheld by the American people as President Obama won a second term and the Democratic Party gained seats in the Senate. It is a law that will grant access to affordable insurance to millions of Americans who wouldn’t have had it. It gives young people like us the ability to stay on our parents’ insurance until age 26, which is one less financial concern at a time in our lives where we’re most financially vulnerable. It stops insurance companies from denying you coverage if you have a pre-existing condition, and they cannot charge you more for being a woman. It allows states to expand Medicaid to give low-income Americans access to our health care system. And if Senator Cruz had his way, all of this progress would be torn down.

 

This is the first of two budget showdowns in the upcoming month. Assuming that a continuing resolution is passed and the government is fully funded, we are once again brushing our heads on the debt ceiling. If nothing changes, we will be unable to borrow money in mid-October. We’ve been down this road before, and it’s cost the nation its AAA credit rating. The debt ceiling fight in 2011 led to the infamous (and ongoing) sequester, and we can’t keep crippling our government by starving vital programs like Medicare and furloughing hard-working public employees. We need both parties to come together to meet what shouldn’t be a challenge in the first place: We need to enact a clean raise of the debt ceiling, and we need to keep the government fully funded.

How voter suppression laws will impact Duke students

April 17, 2013

On April 17th, Duke Democrats stands with student organizations across the state against voter suppression

All Americans have the right to vote.  We strongly oppose laws that create new obstacles for those wishing to exercise their democratic rights.

All Americans have the right to vote. We strongly oppose laws that create new obstacles for those wishing to exercise their democratic rights.

The North Carolina General Assembly has introduced a barrage of legislation that will pose significant obstacles for North Carolina voters, especially students, the elderly, women, transgender individuals, and the poor.

North Carolina is trying to replicate the voting laws of Florida, which led to long lines, confusion, and widespread discontent in the 2012 election; they should be a model of what we don’t want in our elections!

The following bills will have a significant impact on Duke students:

House Bill 451:

  • Eliminates same-day voter registration.  Because Duke students change precincts at least twice, and often up to four times in their time as students, same-day registration, which lets students update their address as they move from East to West or Central Campus, is especially important.
  • Cuts early voting by one week.  In the 2012 and 2008 elections, an Early Vote site on Duke’s campus made voting helped Duke students, staff and faculty vote conveniently.  In 2010, while there was no Early Vote site on campus, the Early Vote site at the Durham Board of Elections was accessible by public transit.  If students wait to election day to vote, they often encounter serious difficulties making it to their voting location.  The W.I. Patterson Center, where East and West Campus residents vote on Election Day is a 25 minute walk from the Duke Chapel on West Campus, at a 29 minute walk from the Central Campus Oreogn apartments.
  • Makes judicial election partisan
  • Changes the order of candidates on the ballot, so candidates from the Governor’s party always appear first
  • Forbids counties from conducting early voting on Sundays.  Current N.C. law does not require counties to conduct Sunday early voting, but permits it.   Restricting Sunday voting will have a serious impact on minority voter turnout.  Across the country, Sunday early voting is disproportionally popular among African Americans and Latinos.  As reported by the American Constitution Society, in 2008, for example, African Americans represented 13% of the total voters, and 22% of the early voters, but 31% of the total voters on the final Sunday; Hispanic citizens represented 11% of the total voters, and 11% of the early voters, but 22% of the total voters on the final Sunday. Notably, the pattern is similar in 2010: African Americans represented 12% of the total voters, and 13% of the early voters, but 23% of the voters on the final Sunday; Hispanics represented 9% of the total voters, and 8% of the early voters, but 16% of the voters on the final Sunday.

Senate Bill 666 & 667:

  • Strips parents of the up-to-$2,500 tax exemption for a dependent child if that child registers to vote anywhere but at home

    Adrienne Harreveld and Jordan DeLoatch, both Duke 2014, on the first day of 2012 Early Voting.

    Adrienne Harreveld and Jordan DeLoatch, both Duke 2014, on the first day of 2012 Early Voting.  If SB666 goes into effect, Jordan’s parents would pay $2,000 more in taxes because he cast his ballot on campus.

  • Restricts Early Voting to a maximum of one location per county.   Duke students would no longer be able to vote on campus.
  • In the words of Jordan DeLoatch, a Duke sophomore from Cary, North Carolina: “As a North Carolinian student myself, I would have to vote at home instead of participating in the elections that will have a direct impact on me for the majority of the year.”
  • In his defense of the bill, sponsor Senator Bill Cook, a Republican from Beaufort county said [college students’ don’t pay squat in taxes … They skew the results of elections in local areas …but they don’t have any skin in the game.” Elena Botella, a Duke senior from Charlotte, North Carolina points out how patently ridiculous this claim is: “Duke students, and students across the state of North Carolina, pay sales tax.  A huge proportion work jobs on or off campus — they pay income tax.  Students living off campus are paying property tax.  While any given student might be living in a city for just four years, the student community is permanent.  The voices of students need to be heard in the communities in which they live.”

NC House Bill 589:

Requires North Carolina voters to show ID.

  • Unlike some states with strict voter ID laws, North Carolina would not accept the school IDs of private universities.
  • Unlike some states with strict voter ID laws, North Carolina would not accept driver’s licenses issues by other states
  • Unlike some states with strict voter ID laws, North Carolina would not provide free IDs to those without them, unless voters sign an affidavit affirming financial hardship, under penalty of perjury.   In the words of Durham-based civil rights attorney Anita Earls: “How is somebody going to know they are signing an affidavit that is going to open them up to possible perjury convictions?”
  • As reported by The Nation: “Over 7 percent of registered voters in North Carolina, 481,109 to be exact, don’t have a driver’s license or a state-issued photo ID, according to the state’s own data. Fifty-five percent of registered voters without photo ID are Democrats. African-Americans make up 22 percent of registered voters in the state, but a third of all registered voters without ID. Exit polling conducted by Southern Coalition for Social Justice in six counties in 2012 found that 8.8 percent of voters had no form of photo ID and that a majority of those who lacked any photo ID were African-American.

Also of note are the following two pending pieces of legislation; while these laws would impact a smaller proportion of Duke students, they nevertheless represent an unconscionable restriction of the franchise.

Senate Bill 721:

  • Creates a five-year wait period before ex-felons have their voting rights restored after completing their sentence.  Getting their right to vote reinstated would require  the unanimous consent of local board of elections members and two affidavits from local voters about the individual’s “upstanding moral character.”

Senate Bill 668:  

  • A ban on voting by persons adjudicated “incompetent” –  even if the person’s mental health issues have nothing to do with their abilities to understand voting.

What you can do:

  • Tweet and use social media today with the hashtag #saveourvote
  • Join Duke Democrats at the East Campus bridge at 6pm (near Gilbert Addoms) for a group photo of those who oppose the voter suppression laws
  • We want to share your story — we especially want to talk to Duke students who don’t have driver’s licenses or who work and/or volunteer off-campus.  How would these laws impact you?  Post in the comments or email Elena at edb10@duke.edu

Today, we stand with our peers from campuses across the state, like Louis, Ian, and Anne.  Learn more about their efforts and the statewide efforts of College Democrats at this link.

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Obama plays losing hand in budget negotiations

April 8, 2013

President Barack Obama’s annual budget — which he will send to Capitol Hill Wednesday — includes a cut to Social Security called chained CPI. “CPI” stands for consumer price index; the United States has always adjusted Social Security benefits to inflation. Essentially, this policy presumes that seniors will change their buying habits as prices go up. Obama’s upcoming budget will mark the first time that he is formally proposing to reduce future Social Security benefits.

Of course, Obama has said that he will only agree to this cut in Social Security benefits if Republicans agree to tax increases on the wealthy and some corporations. And Obama’s advisers no doubt believe that if he debunks the Republican talking point that “he isn’t serious about entitlement reform” the public will side with him and push their representatives to back Obama’s budget.

Here’s the problem. Obama’s budget proposal essentially mirrors his final compromise offer to Speaker John Boehner last winter. By putting chained CPI in his formal budget, Republicans feel that Obama will give even more on cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid later in the negotiation process. Boehner already dismissed Obama’s budget because he says that tax hikes are holding “modest entitlement savings” hostage.

As is often the case today, one tweet perfectly crystallizes the Republicans’ perspective on budget negotiations. Senator Marco Rubio tweeted Dec. 30, 2012 during the fiscal cliff debate, “Report that #GOP insisting on changes to social security as part of #fiscalcliff false. BTW those changes are supported by @barackobama.” Republicans don’t want to explicitly propose cuts to Social Security; their base relies heavily on seniors. But they do believe those cuts are needed, and attacking Obama for proposing them stands as an added bonus. Instead of including chained CPI in his budget, Obama should have forced the Republicans to offer those unpopular cuts and isolated them politically. Yet again, Republicans have slapped away Obama’s hand at an attempt for compromise. When will he learn not to play directly in their hands?

Blue Devils Against SB 666

April 3, 2013

We may be Blue Devils, but Senate Bill 666, filed yesterday in the North Carolina General Assembly, is a threat to our voting rights. The first page of this bill contains the following text: “The taxpayer is allowed an exemption amount for each qualifying child, as provided by section 151(c) of the Code for the taxable year, unless the qualifying child has changed their principal place of abode from that of the taxpayer as indicated by the qualifying child’s voter registration.”

Senate Bill 667 is similar in spirit: “The following additions to taxable income shall be made in calculating North Carolina taxable income, to the extent each item is not included in taxable income: … (16) Any personal exemption allowed for a child if that child is registered to vote at an address other than that of the person claiming the exemption and the child does not cancel the child’s voter registration within 30 days of receiving a letter of notification under G.S. 163-82.7(c1).”

What both of these bills have in common is that they seek to limit the right of students to vote at college by putting a financial penalty on their families–and creating financial incentives to vote in a certain manner is dangerous in itself. As a North Carolinian student myself, I would have to vote at home instead of participating in the elections that will have a direct impact on me for the majority of the year.

Regardless of whether this kind of bill passes, this is not the first effort by the General Assembly to limit your right to vote on campus, nor will it be the last.

Recent findings show need for immigration reform

March 24, 2013

The New York Times posted two brilliant articles on immigration in the past week. One revealed a positive (and unintentional) consequence of President Barack Obama’s immigration policies, and the other showed a negative ramification. But they both highlight the urgent need for immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship.

Angy Rivera, an undocumented immigrant, was sexually assaulted by her mother’s boyfriend. Many undocumented immigrants are fearful of reporting crime to law enforcement because of the possibility of deportation. But Obama’s policy of deferred action — allowing young undocumented immigrants to apply for the right to temporarily remain in the country and work under certain conditions — allowed Rivera to apply for a visa for victims of crimes. Unfortunately, though, deferred action only amounts to a stopgap solution because it only lasts for two years.

The other article centered on immigrants held in solitary confinement. The Obama administration has increased the immigration detention population, and undocumented immigrants are typically given sentences without end dates and stay in confinement until they sign deportation papers. This article contains many harrowing anecdotes of people subject to the unimaginable anguish of losing all human contact. Delfino Quiroz was placed in solitary confinement for four months “for his own protection” because he is gay, for example.

These two articles epitomize the need for immigration reform including a pathway to citizenship. As Voto Latino President and CEO Maria Teresa Kumar said on Real Time with Bill Maher March 22, anything short of a path to citizenship would create two classes of people in America: citizens and those who work for citizens. The United States has already lived that history, and we need to confront this issue as one of civil rights. Creating a permanent underclass in America is immoral and does little to address the issues faced by immigrants who find themselves in confinement for civil (not criminal) infractions or for those who are victims of violence. Nearly two-thirds of all Americans — and a majority of Republicans — now support a pathway to citizenship. Leaders across party lines must pass a bill that includes a path to citizenship as soon as possible to bring these victims out of the shadows and into full-fledged American life.

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