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Check Out AV President Greg Speed's Latest Post, "No, It's Not Too Soon To Think About Redistricting"

In his latest post, No, It's Not Too Soon To Think About Redistricting, America Votes President Greg Speed argues that post-2010 partisan gerrymandering in states controlled by extreme conservative governors and legislatures has proven to be one of the single largest roadblocks for the progressive movement today. The decade-long effects of redistricting cannot be ignored, and progressives must make it a priority in our long-term strategy. 

"The importance of who controls redistricting still cannot be overstated. We need to be ready to play a long game focused on incremental gains, and six years out from the next census is certainly not too early to prepare for it."

We can't wait until the 2020 to start thinking about how electoral outcomes will affect our ability to advance the progressive issues we care about most like protecting working families, women's health choices, our enviornment and voter access to the ballot. We must begin our work in 2014 to have an impact in 2020 and beyond. 

"What happens over several election cycles leading up to the decennial census typically shapes the redistricting process...Every decade presents just five opportunities to elect state legislative majorities, and this November will be our second out of five plays to inch closer to the post-2020 end zone."

To read the full post, check out The Huffington Post

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After the Dust Has Settled: Where We Stand with the Affordable Care Act

Even in states represented by such staunchly anti-ACA representatives, people
clamored for a chance to be able to meet their medical needs. Now ani-Obamacare lawmakers must contend with the sheer number of their newly insured constituents.

One week removed from the final push before the registration
deadline, only 15.6%
of American adults
are uninsured, the lowest figure since 2008, according
to Gallup. New insurance markets, made available through the ACA,
brought in 7.1 million new registrants, eclipsing the White House’s goal of 7 million before the deadline.

President Obama made several public appearances in support
of the rollout, and enlisted the support of prominent figures in politics and
entertainment across the county. Some right-leaning pundits came out against
this, decrying his appearances as “un-presidential.” But in the wake of these
appearances in the lead up to the deadline, healthcare advocates in states like
Ohio
had a great deal of success registering people over the phone and in one-on-one
meetings.

Additionally, Minnesota’s rollout, through state program, MNsure
was declared a “stable, secure
and successful
” endeavor by its interim CEO, despite initial struggles.

A 57-year-old new registrant
from TX
, Cynthia Donnell, said “I can go rest easy tonight and get some
good night sleep knowing that I have insurance and can go to my own private
doctor and get the care that I need.” Even in a state represented by such
staunchly anti-ACA representatives, people clamored for a chance to be able to
meet their medical needs.  

Now lawmakers who tried to stand as roadblocks
between their constituents and the healthcare they needed, are backed into a
corner by the facts and deny
the success of the rollout.

Much has been written about the Obamacare rollout and the
obstacles that it has overcome. But at the end of the day, the numbers don’t
lie: 7.1 million Americans now have access to medical care that they could not
have gotten otherwise, due in part to those willing to kick up a little dust. 

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Recent Movements to Protect Undocumented Immigrants

All too often, undocumented immigrants are told that they are welcome in the U.S. as long as they work the types of jobs that those of us with social security cards don't want. Across the nation, activists and lawmakers alike are working to help make the American dream accessible to everyone.

Undocumented
people, even those who have been in this country for generations and consider
America to be their home, have been a target for many on the right for years. But
the DREAMers and their allies have not been silenced. Here are some recent
stories of movements to protect undocumented immigrants:

  • Tennessee: A
    group of University of Tennessee students and leaders of the Tuition Equality
    Now campaign assembled at 6 a.m. on March 11 to paint their campus's
    iconic rock, pushing lawmakers to approve legislation admitting undocumented
    students to Tennessee's public universities and be charged in-state tuition. The
    proposal states that if someone is not a legal U.S. citizen but has graduated
    from high school, has an ACT score of 21 or higher and a 3.0 GPA, they would be
    eligible for in-state tuition. As of now, schools in the University of
    Tennessee system do not knowingly accept undocumented students, and Tennessee
    law does not speak to the issue.
  • Oregon: Oregon Rep. Mark Johnson supports
    granting driver cards to Oregonians who
    can't prove they're here legally. Johnson says that
    lawmakers could pass the same bill next session if voters reject the measure in
    November.
  • New Jersey: A
    new effort is underway in the
    New Jersey state legislature to
    allow undocumented immigrants to legally drive in New Jersey. Individuals would
    have to prove that they lived in New Jersey to apply.

 

 

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Marriage Equality and the Arc of the Moral Universe

Marriage equality has been called the landmark civil rights issue of our time. Here is a roundup of some of the latest roadblocks in states.

Marriage equality has been called the landmark civil rights issue of our time. At its core, the debate is about the basic human right of two consenting adult individuals to publicly declare their love for one another in a state-recognized relationship. Over the years, it has been shifted and contorted into a religious freedom argument and an argument over states' rights, but as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King once said "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."

All over the nation, lawmakers are working to enact policy to reflect the ideals of their constituents and anticipate the dynamic nature of society, but even with the changing attitudes and positive steps being taken on the whole, obstacles remain. Here is a roundup of some of the latest roadblocks in states: 

Arizona: We all celebrated last week when Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed SB-1062, stating that it didn't "address a specific or present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona." Even State Senator Bob Worsely, who had supported the bill, called it a "mistake." But these victories are only a part of the incremental gains the movement must make to achieve real equality.

Michigan: In Michigan, a recent story found Attorney General Bill Schuette ordered court clerks not to allow same sex marriages back in October, when he thought federal Judge Bernard Friedman would rule on the case granting marriage equality. 

Kentucky: After Kentucky AG Jack Conway declared that the state wouldn't appeal the court decision to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, Gov. Steve Beshear said he would hire outside counsel to seek a stay on the decision and keep it from being enacted on March 20.

Texas: Similarly, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas has vowed to appeal the recent decision of Judge Orlando Garcia, which found the state's ban on marriage equality unconstitutional. 

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In Colorado, The Fight For Better Election Systems Continues

GOP lawmakers in Colorado are trying to put a two year hold on HB-1303, placing a yet another obstacle between voters and the polls. 

Remember how awesome it was when Gov. Hickenlooper signed the historic Colorado Voter Access and Modernization Election bill into law (HB 1303), which set the pace for modernizing the election systems in the state and make voting easier for Colorado citizens?

Well today, there's a hearing on SB 14-141, a GOP sponsored bill that would put an unnecessary hold on the law for two years and essentially put Colorado's election process back in the dark ages. The hearing in the Senate State Affairs Committee starts at 1:30pm MT.

2013 was a watershed year in Colorado electoral history with the passage of HB-1303, which provided a wide range of positive and comprehensive changes to the election process in the state. For example, voters now receive ballots in the mail and have the choice to vote by mail or in person, which aided a large influx in voter participation, with almost 400,000 more voters than 2011, according to the Colorado County Clerks Association. The law also made it easier for voters to change their addresses and adjust their registrations, which is an issue that impacts tens of thousands of people. Between October 15, 2013 and November 6, there were 29,155 voter registrations changes made, including 23,509 individuals who moved their addresses within their county.

HB 1303 received praise on the national level, including from conservative former commissioner and chairman of the Federal Election Commission, Trevor Potter. And based on the recent Presidential Commission on Election Administration, Colorado has already satisfied almost all of the listed "best practices": online registration, early voting, vote centers, choice of mail ballots or in-person voting, live e-poll books and others. Public policy think tank Demos made similar recommendations in their report, entitled “Millions to the Polls”, and also recommended allowing voters to vote or change their registration information through Election Day.

A two-year hold on HB-1303 would serve as a unnecessary step back and roadblock between voters and the polls. We urge the Senate State Affairs committee members to kill SB 14-141. 

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How Access Turns to Accident: America’s Struggle with Gun Control

The United States has a gun problem. Consistently a leader among in guns per capita and gun-related deaths, the crisis seems to have reached a fever pitch of late.

 

The United States has a gun problem. Consistently a leader among in guns per capita and gun-related deaths, the crisis seems to have reached a fever pitch of late. 

In Florida, Stand Your Ground policies-which essentially give gun owners free rein to use their weapons if they feel threatened-came to the forefront of the national consciousness through the Trayvon Martin case. As it turns out, the Martin case was only the beginning. According to ThinkProgress, as of February 5, 2014, at least 108 adults and 26 children and teens have died due to the vigilantism encouraged by Stand Your Ground. These destructive and negligent laws are rooted in the Castle Doctrine, which dictates that a person can defend his or her home (and sometimes their vehicle or workplace), using deadly force if threatened. More than 20 states have some form of Stand Your Ground law. These laws are made that much more impactful by the easy access so many people have to firearms.

In the wake of the devastating Newtown shootings in December 2012, President Obama assembled a task force and later introduced an ambitious set of proposals designed to stem gun violence. But it quickly became evident that despite the sympathy expressed by many on the right, they remained unwilling to change their stance on gun control. 

The NRA and the powerful gun lobby has stood in the way of progress, and thus placing Americans-often children-in harm's way. Over the course of the year following the Newtown attack, at least 194 children died in gun-related incidents. Sixty-five percent of these children were shot in their own homes. This would seem to be a clear indicator that our nation is struggling with too many guns and too much easy access to guns, but anti-gun safety Republicans in office have still chosen not to see it that way. These incidents are continually explained away and called accidents without any real plans to prevent them from happening in the future. 

Lawmakers who are beholden to the gun lobby continue to turn a blind eye to the vicious cycle they are helping to perpetuate, but a group of citizens united for gun safety has already begun to make a difference nationwide. For information on how you can help improve national gun safety, visit Americans for Responsible Solutions.

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