NVRI: National Voting Rights Institute

NVRI E-News Update - March 9, 2005

Friends,

Much to tell you about this month - the effort to fix American democratic systems is moving full steam ahead:
Fixing American Democracy - New Legislative Initiatives.
In addition to NVRI's work on the Ohio recount and other lawsuits, friends and allies across the country are doing important and powerful work. Among the major developments are two pieces of legislation, which we urge you to review and support. In January, Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) introduced the VOTER Act of 2005 (H.R. 533). And in February, Senators Hilary Clinton (D-NY) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), introduced the Count Every Vote Act of 2005 (S.R. 850 - also introduced in the House as H.R. 450). NVRI has endorsed both bills, which address many of the critical problems that surfaced in the Ohio recount work, and in data gathered in Election Day last November. Among the issues are long lines, provisions for early voting, partisan election officials, and the need for time off for voting. While NVRI continues to press the Ohio recount, and entertain new litigation options, we must press Congress to address these problems, too. We urge you to contact your elected officials in the House and Senate and ask them to endorse these bills. To read the legislation, http://thomas.loc.gov/, and type in the legislation number.

Constitutional Amendment for the Right to Vote.
Last week, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL), with over 50 co-sponsors, introduced a proposed Constitutional Amendment for the Right to Vote. Surprisingly, the U.S. Constitution does not provide a guaranteed right to vote. And while voting rights advocates have through the years achieved tremendous successes, the continuing lack of a specific Constitutional right to vote hampers all of our work. Of the 119 nations in the world that elect their representatives to all levels of government, the U.S. is one of only eleven that do not have an explicit right to vote in their Constitutions. Both Afghanistan's Constitution and Iraq's interim legal document - inspired by the U.S. - contain a right to vote. Yet the states' rights nature of U.S. elections continues to lead to thousands of complaints and problems every year. NVRI is working with allies such as Rainbow/PUSH, the Center for Voting and Democracy, and others to move this agenda forward. We will provide more information on this effort in coming weeks and months. In the meantime, to read this simple bill, click here.

Spending Limits to the Supreme Court?
While we could not convince the Supreme Court to reconsider campaign spending limits last fall, the case from Vermont looks more and more like the once-in-a-generation chance for the court to get it right on spending limits. As regular readers of our e-news know, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals last August ruled spending limits can be constitutional -- the first time a federal appeals court has ever said this. Early in February, the Appeals Court denied a request from the plaintiffs to reconsider their ruling. And just 10 days ago, the plaintiffs said they will appeal directly to the Supreme Court. Because the Court now faces an opinion that challenges their 1976 Buckley v. Valeo ruling, we remain optimistic that we'll be able to make the case that it's time for a change in the money and politics world. We had dozens of supporters of our effort before, and expect them to join us again in this effort. To read about the case, click here.

Conference on Law, Corporations and Social Justice.
One of NVRI's long-time partner organizations is the Equal Justice Society. In April, EJS is hosting an interesting and important conference about misuses of corporate law. The conference, entitled "New Strategies for Justice: Linking Corporate Law with Progressive Social Movements," will be held at the UCLA school of law. For information, click here.

Voting Rights Act Reauthorization.
This week is the 40th anniversary of Bloody Sunday and the Selma to Montgomery march, one of the milestones in the civil rights movement in this country. It's a good moment to reflect on the changes we've seen, and where we're headed. One of the big voting rights issues in our near future is the need for Congress to reauthorize the voting rights amendment. NVRI is working with ally organizations to do what we can to ensure that the act continues to be a useful tool in voting rights work. To read about the act, click here.

NVRI Web site Changes.
Take a look at our website and you'll note a number of changes. While the home page has not changed, the rest of the site is - we think - more user friendly. Let us know what you think.

As always, please send your comments and questions. Share this e-mail with your friends. And because our work requires financial support, too, please make a contribution if you can.

Best Regards,
Stu

Stuart Comstock-Gay
Executive Director
National Voting Rights Institute
617-624-3900 ext.16
scg@nvri.org
www.nvri.org