Friday, November 26, 2021

Voting Rights - an Important Part of Systemic Racism and Social Justice

 This is a copy of a blog I follow. The issue of voting rights is something we can't ignore. During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, people put their lives on the line to win the right to vote. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was supposed to take care of the issue. We need to be sure our state laws don't set us back on this issue. 

Differences Between the Senate’s Freedom to Vote Act  and the House’s For the People Act

I have been advocating for support of the For the People Act, H.R. 1 (FTPA), a major success for voting rights and anti-corruption legislation related to voting, such as banning both parties from gerrymandering and transparency in electoral giving, that was passed by the House in March 2021. The Senate has come up with a compromise bill, the Freedom to Vote Act (FTVA), S.R. 2747. It makes some compromises to satisfy senators such as Joe Manchin of WV, but also state election officials. In other ways it is stronger than FTPA. I recommend supporting FTVA, but check out the differences below as highlighted by the Brennan Center for Justice or read the full act itself at www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/2747/text.

 Feel free to skim this if you wish and go to the links for some entertaining ways of looking at the FTVA!!

 The following information is primarily from these 2 websites, www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/key-differences-between-people-act-and-freedom-vote-act (BCJ) and the Senate website, www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/2747/text (SEN).

 The following Senators are the original sponsors of FTVA: Ms. Klobuchar, MN, Mr. Kaine, VA, Mr. King, ME, Mr. Manchin, WV, Mr. Merkley, OR, Mr. Padilla, CA, Mr. Tester, MT, and Mr. Warnock, GA.

  1. New Protections Against Voter Suppression and Attempts to Undermine the Electoral Process (Title III, Subtitles A, B, D, E & H), which FTPA did not address. These include: “restricting the removal of election officials without cause, imposing stronger protections for federal election records, protecting the vote tabulation process from interference and intimidation, prohibiting mishandling of ballots and other sensitive materials, restricting states from banning the distribution of food and water to those waiting in line to vote, and allowing voters to go to court and challenge burdens on the right to vote, including the right to have your vote appropriately counted and certified.”BCJ
  2. Election Day as a Legal Public Holiday (Title I, Subtitle A, Part 2). Although part of the original H.R. 1. it was deleted from the bill submitted to the Senate. FTVA reinstates it.Automatic Voter Registration (Title I, Subtitle A, Part 1) limits this only to the DMV agency, whereas the FTPA included several agencies. Nevertheless, “the FTVA provides funding to states that wantto expand automatic voter registration to other agencies, such as housing or health agencies.” BCJ
  3. Early Voting (Title I, Subtitle C). The FTVA also requires the uniform two-week early voting period as outlined in the FTPA but includes exceptions for vote-by-mail jurisdictions and small jurisdictions. Jurisdictions that send every registered voter a mail ballot are not required to provide two weeks of early voting, so long as they provide reasonable early voting opportunities during election officials’ regular business hours and at least one weekend of early voting. Small jurisdictions, including counties with fewer than 3,000 registered voters and certain small towns and cities that administer their own elections, are only required to offer early voting during the regular business hours of their election office and on at least one weekend
  4. Voting by Mail (Title I, Subtitle D). The FTVA retains the requirements that all states allow no-excuse mail voting and offer multiple ways to return ballots. It omits the FTPA requirement that election officials distribute mail ballot applications to all registered voters (although states cannot prohibit them from doing so) and allows for mail ballot voter ID requirements that are not more restrictive than a state’s in-person ID requirements.
  5. Voter ID (Title I, Subtitle I). The FTVA adopts a different approach. It requires any state that has a voter ID requirement to accept the many forms of ID accepted in West Virginia, including utility bills and bank statements. Voters without such identification would have to vote provisionally, subject to their identity being verified through a process similar to the process in West Virginia. [I didn’t check WV laws, but this is what FTVA states: “If a State or local jurisdiction has a voter identification requirement, the State or local jurisdiction—“(A) shall treat any applicable identifying document as meeting such voter identification requirement;“(B) notwithstanding the failure to present an applicable identifying document, shall treat an individual desiring to vote in person in an election for Federal office as meeting such voter identification requirement if—“(i) the individual presents the appropriate State or local election official with a sworn written statement, signed in the presence of the official by an adult who has known the individual for at least six months under penalty of perjury, attesting to the individual’s identity.” ]SEN
  6. Voter List Maintenance (Title I, Subtitle J). the FTVA slims down the restrictions on voter list maintenance. The bill allows states to mark voters as ineligible based on objective and reliable evidence, such as a death certificate or change of address form. The restrictions on some faulty methods remain, such as removing a voter from the rolls for failing to vote in an election or failing to respond to election mail. And like the FTPA, the FTVA requires states to provide purged voters with notice and an opportunity to show their eligibility.
  7. Provisional Ballots (Title III, Subtitle K). The FTVA contains a narrower requirement that states count provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct only if cast in the correct county. It also includes new language prohibiting states from imposing any further restrictions on out-of-precinct provisional ballots.
  8. Nonpartisan Redistricting Reform (Title V). The FTVA does not include the independent commission requirement, but it retains and strengthens the general ban on partisan gerrymandering with specific court-enforceable standards, including a requirement that states use computer modeling to assess the partisan fairness of maps, and adds stronger protections for communities of color, and new requirements to ensure the redistricting process is more open and transparent. In a change from the For the People Act, partisan gerrymandering claims would have to be litigated in Washington D.C., and all redistricting appeals would go to the D.C. Circuit rather than directly to the Supreme Court.
  9. Campaign Finance Oversight (Title VII). The FTVA significantly scales back changes to the FEC, but the remaining reforms would still be a marked improvement to the status quo. The FTVA maintains the FEC’s existing evenly divided structure but overhauls enforcement procedures at the commission so that partisan gridlock cannot be used to block investigations of alleged violations of the law.
  10. Citizen Empowerment (Title VIII). The small donor matching system in the FTVA is significantly scaled back (and still does not rely on taxpayer funds). It would only be available for House elections, and only in states that choose to opt into the program. States that do not participate would be able to use the money for other purposes, such as upgrading voting systems.Campaign Finance Transparency (Title VI). The FTVA adopts a more streamlined approach, paring back the campaign finance disclosure provisions in the FTPA to key priorities such as the DISCLOSE and Honest Ads Acts. It also omits the ethics titles, which are likely to be advanced through separate legislation.

 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Racism Issues in our Foster Care System

 I saw this article recently in the Anti-Racism Daily by Dominique Stewart. I believe it contains important material if we care about our country's children. Please read it.


Foster care is a system meant to find and support children in need. But systemic injustices mean the very opposite can happen when a country utilizes incarceration as a solution to its own societal shortcomings. The “foster care-to-prison pipeline” shows what happens when institutions deprioritize the well-being of the children they’re designed to help. 

 

Despite being meant to provide a temporary haven to those who face abuse and neglect in their homes, the deficiencies of the foster care system leave many stuck in a cycle of instability, trauma, and imprisonment.

 

Some foster youths, specifically Black, LGBTQ+, and those with mental illnesses, are increasingly pushed from the child welfare system into the criminal justice system, known as the foster care-to-prison pipeline

 

"The relationship between a child's upbringing - or lack thereof- and the juvenile justice system explains how upwards of 90% of foster children will come into contact with the juvenile justice system before leaving child welfare" (Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice). 

 

In 2019, there were 423,997 children in the foster care system, with 19% of them entering at less than a year old (Administration for Children and Families). The primary cause of removal was neglect, a blanket term including insufficient access to food, shelter, clothing, or childcare. While intentional neglect is unmistakably child abuse, inadequate household resources are a hallmark of poverty. So families whose only mistake is being poor are at risk of being separated when the child welfare system intervenes (Texas Public Policy Foundation).

 

Unsurprisingly, this disproportionately affects Black families. On average, Black households are poorer than white families and are more likely to live in neighborhoods with heightened police presence (MST). 

 

A 2015 study found that Black children made up 38% of the foster care population despite only making up 16% of the child population. Native American children are also overrepresented in foster care (The National Council of Juvenile Family Court Judges). 

 

Overall, Black and Latinx children are three times more likely than white children to be reported to Child Protective Services, exposing them to a system “designed to punish parents” (PBS). And for Indigenous children, who were historically ripped from their families as part of a cultural genocide to "civilize" them, these forms of intervention play out like white savior cosplay

 

Once removed from their homes, children are shuffled around the system. If they cannot be successfully adopted, rehomed into a stable foster home until they age out, or are reunified with their biological parents, the path to juvenile detention and incarceration begins as they have no support system to advocate for them (Teen Vogue).

 

Often, the reasoning for the introduction has little to do with a child's actions and more to do with an overwhelmed and overcrowded system. In the absence of suitable foster parents and limited group homes, foster care children may be placed in hotels, offices, and juvenile prisons. (NBC News). The use of juvenile detention centers as housing has caused a backlash in states like Oregon and West Virginia, where the cinder-block accommodations resulted in lawsuits and calls for reform.

 

Even if foster youths aren't being moved through the juvenile system due to housing issues, they are 90% more likely to enter the justice system if they have five or more home placements. And those who remain in group homes are more than twice likely to be involved compared to those placed with foster families (Juvenile Law Center).