What you can do to protect your right to vote in hard times

Josh Israel

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

Marc Solomon is a long-time political strategist who literally wrote the book on the campaign to bring marriage equality to America. So when he moved to New Jersey, registering to vote was an important priority for him. The state’s arcane law requires handwritten voter registration applications, and the registrar’s office in his county incorrectly read his last name as “Soloman.” Trouble ensued.

When he attempted to obtain a vote-by-mail ballot, his request was rejected because the registrar could not match his Social Security number with his (incorrectly spelled) name. While this administrative error was likely inadvertent and may be rectifiable before Election Day — unlike many of the obstacles American citizens can face in their effort to exercise their right to vote — Solomon is hardly alone in finding his participation in Election 2018 may take some extra effort.

And while the battle to make sure that no citizen is disenfranchised will play out now and in the future at the ballot box, in the courts, and in legislatures, Common Cause National Campaigns and Digital Director Jesse Littlewood told ThinkProgress, that there are several steps everyone can take to make sure their vote counts in the November 6 elections.

The first four steps, he said, are the most important:

  1. Have a plan to vote. “Research has shown people who have a plan to go to their polling place are much more likely to vote,” he said. “And that could be early, absentee, or going on November 6. Part of that plan is knowing your polling place. And knowing your fall-back options certainly helps.”
  2. Double-check your voter registration status now. “A number of tools online, like Common Cause, Rock the Vote, or your [state’s] Secretary of State,” he noted, can help you make sure you are registered to vote. “If it doesn’t pull up the way you’re expecting, you should contact your Secretary of State.  Sometimes it’s that you registered but haven’t entered into the database on time.” And if you’re not registered, that may not be the end of the world. North Dakota does not have voter registration at all and several states let you register on Election Day.
  3. Know the laws for your state and community.  The non-partisan Election Protection Coalition has a hotline (866-OUR-VOTE or 866-687-8683) and a website, Littlewood notes, with all the information a voter should need to know, including what identification you’ll need and what early voting opportunities are in each state.
  4. If something seems off, ask for help immediately. The 866-OUR-VOTE hotline is already open and will be Monday through Friday until the election is over. They can connect you with trained volunteers who are familiar with the voting laws in your state and can help resolve issues that might arise. Alternately, you can text “ELECTIONPROTECTION” to 97779 and get questions answered that way. If English is not your primary language, the same coalitions are operating a Spanish-language hotline (888-VE-Y-VOTA or 888-839-8682); a hotline for speakers of Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Bengali, Hindi, Urdu, and Tagalog (888-API-VOTE or 888-274-8683); an Arabic-language hotline (844-YALLA-US or 844-925-5287) and a video-call number for American Sign Language (301-818-VOTE or 301-818-8683).

Beyond sharing this information with family, friends, and anyone else you met, anyone interested in helping with voter protection can volunteer as a non-partisan poll monitor in their community.

Finally, if ensuring the right to vote is important to you, he notes that Common Cause has surveyed hundreds of candidates about where they stand on issues about democracy, voting rights, and ballot access. That information is available on their Democracy 2018 site.

There are not two sides to birthright citizenship. Reporters who say so are committing malpractice.

As for Solomon, Littlewood said, he “should call 866-OUR-VOTE. He will be connected to a volunteer trained about the specifics of New Jersey election law. Many are legal professionals, lawyers, paralegals and law students. They’re they best and fastest,” to help him “solve this kind of challenge.”

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Reposted from Think Progress

Josh Israel is a senior investigative reporter for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Previously, he was a reporter and oversaw money-in-politics reporting at the Center for Public Integrity, was chief researcher for Nick Kotz’s acclaimed 2005 book Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Laws that Changed America, and was president of the Virginia Partisans Gay & Lesbian Democratic Club. A New England-native, Josh received a B.A. in politics from Brandeis University and graduated from the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia, in 2004. He has appeared on CNBC, Bloomberg, Fox News, Current TV, and many radio shows across the country.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Federal Minimum Wage Reaches Disappointing Milestone

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

A disgraceful milestone occurred last Sunday, June 16.

That date officially marked the longest period that the United States has gone without increasing federal the minimum wage.

That means Congress has denied raises for a decade to 1.8 million American workers, that is, those workers who earn $7.25 an hour or less. These 1.8 million Americans have watched in frustration as Congress not only denied them wages increases, but used their tax dollars to raise Congressional pay. They continued to watch in disappointment as the Trump administration failed to keep its promise that the 2017 tax cut law would increase every worker’s pay by $4,000 per year.

More than 12 years ago, in May 2007, Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. It took effect two years later. Congress has failed to act since then, so it has, in effect, now imposed a decade-long wage freeze on the nation’s lowest income workers.

To combat this unjust situation, minimum wage workers could rally and call their lawmakers to demand action, but they’re typically working more than one job just to get by, so few have the energy or patience.

The Economic Policy Institute points out in a recent report on the federal minimum wage that as the cost of living rose over the past 10 years, Congress’ inaction cut the take-home pay of working families.  

At the current dismal rate, full-time workers receiving minimum wage earn $15,080 a year. It was virtually impossible to scrape by on $15,080 a decade ago, let alone support a family. But with the cost of living having risen 18% over that time, the situation now is far worse for the working poor. The current federal minimum wage is not a living wage. And no full-time worker should live in poverty.

While ignoring the needs of low-income workers, members of Congress, who taxpayers pay at least $174,000 a year, are scheduled to receive an automatic $4,500 cost-of-living raise this year. Congress increased its own pay from $169,300 to $174,000 in 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession when low income people across the country were out of work and losing their homes. While Congress has frozen its own pay since then, that’s little consolation to minimum wage workers who take home less than a tenth of Congressional salaries.

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