IVN.us http://ivn.us Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News Fri, 29 Aug 2014 00:10:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Media Treats Romney as Top 2016 Contender after 60 People Said They’d Vote for Him http://ivn.us/2014/08/28/media-treats-romney-top-2016-contender-60-people-said-theyd-vote/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=media-treats-romney-top-2016-contender-60-people-said-theyd-vote http://ivn.us/2014/08/28/media-treats-romney-top-2016-contender-60-people-said-theyd-vote/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 18:46:26 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295649590 Media Treats Romney as Top 2016 Contender after 60 People Said They’d Vote for Him

On Thursday, August 28, Politico reported on a new USA Today/Suffolk University poll that said 35 percent of likely GOP caucus voters would vote for Mitt Romney in 2016 if he was added to the field of candidates. The poll released one day after it was reported that Mitt Romney was considering a third presidential run.

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Media Treats Romney as Top 2016 Contender after 60 People Said They’d Vote for Him

On Thursday, August 28, Politico reported on a new USA Today/Suffolk University poll that said 35 percent of likely GOP caucus voters would vote for Mitt Romney in 2016 if he was added to the field of candidates. The poll released one day after it was reported that Mitt Romney was considering a third presidential run.

By considering a third presidential run, Romney said that while he has insisted for months that he will not run, “circumstances could change.”

“In Wednesday’s survey of 170 likely caucus voters, 9 percent said they would vote for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, putting him in a distant second to Romney,” Politico reports. “New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum both came in third at 6 percent, while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul tied for fifth with 5 percent.”

"All it takes is 60 people to decide that not only is a candidate a viable 2016 presidential contender, but might as well be considered the frontrunner."Shawn M. Griffiths, Editor-in-Chief
The survey took a much broader look at elections and issues in Iowa, surveying 500 people who said they are very or somewhat likely to vote in the 2014 general election. A little over 31 percent of those polled said they are registered Republicans. Interestingly enough, registered independents made up a larger chunk of respondents at 36.8 percent (184 people).

The questions pertaining to the 2016 GOP caucus were specifically directed at registered Republicans and the independent respondents who said they will vote in the Republican caucus.

Respondents were first asked who their first choice would be among the possible field of presidential candidates. In total, 206 people answered this question. Of the choices available to respondents, more people (approximately 17%) said they currently do not know who they will be supporting while 13 percent (27 people) said they support Mike Huckabee.

Pollsters then asked respondents to give their second choice, followed by the question on Mitt Romney. In total, 170 people participated in these two questions — 60 of whom said they would vote for Mitt Romney if his name was added to the list of choices. All it takes is 60 people to decide that not only is a candidate a viable 2016 presidential contender, but might as well be considered the frontrunner.

That is, at least, how Politico is reporting it with the headline, “Poll: Mitt Romney breaks away in Iowa.”

This is the type of narrative that ends up driving the mainstream discussion about elections. We are deciding who is a viable candidate because 60 people — a number that is not even statistically significant when looking at the Iowa voting population — have decided this is the best person to represent everyone else in the country.

Photo Source: AP

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Calif. AD-64 Candidate Prophet Walker Remains Positive Despite Major Support Gap http://ivn.us/2014/08/28/calif-ad-64-candidate-prophet-walker-remains-positive-despite-major-support-gap/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=calif-ad-64-candidate-prophet-walker-remains-positive-despite-major-support-gap http://ivn.us/2014/08/28/calif-ad-64-candidate-prophet-walker-remains-positive-despite-major-support-gap/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:20:46 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295649394 Calif. AD-64 Candidate Prophet Walker Remains Positive Despite Major Support Gap

The California State Assembly race for District 64 was a four-way competition that ended with Democrats Mike Gipson, a member of the Carson City Council (2005-present), and Prophet La'omar Walker, an engineer and community advocate, advancing to the general election after the nonpartisan, top-two open primary.

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Calif. AD-64 Candidate Prophet Walker Remains Positive Despite Major Support Gap

The race in California State Assembly District 64 was a four-way competition that ended with Democrats Mike Gipson, a member of the Carson City Council (2005-present), and Prophet La’omar Walker, an engineer and community advocate, advancing to the general election after the nonpartisan, top-two open primary.

 

Check Out More Same-Party Races in California

 

Gipson, who turned his years of experience serving in the Mayword Police Department (now part of the LA County Sheriff’s Department) and Carson City Council into a campaign platform, garnered 51 percent of the vote in the primary election. Walker, a community organizer and activist, finished a distant second with 21.4 percent of the vote.

While Gipson received support from a majority of primary voters, under the top-two primary system, the top two vote-getters advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation or how much of the vote they get. This is why, under “Top-Two,” the general election cannot be simply referred to as a “runoff election.”

Gipson’s 30-point lead might have come from the many unions he has worked with: the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), where he ensured the enforcement of the contractual right of teachers, the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) Local 399, where he was the legislative and political director, Justice for Janitors (SEIU Local 1877), where he was the political director, and SEIU Local 99, where he was the business representative.

"Under 'Top-Two,' the top two vote-getters move on to the general election regardless of party affiliation or how much primary support they had."
Gipson also likely got a significant boost from Carson City constituents, who first elected him to the city council in 2005. He was re-elected in 2009 and 2013, suggesting that he still has voter support.

Trailing by such a huge margin, Prophet Walker faces a major challenge heading into November. However, the candidate remains positive.

His determination is a theme seen throughout the personal story of resilience and triumph he has shared during his campaign.

When he was just an infant, Walker lost his mother to drugs. He was tried as an adult at 16 for robbery and great bodily injury and sentenced to 6 years in prison. It is not an uncommon story in his district, but what he got out of it is the inspiring element that has driven his campaign.

While in prison, Walker helped start a program that gives incarcerated minors the ability to earn a two-year college degree, and became the program’s first graduate. He went on to attend Loyola Marymount University and graduated with a degree in engineering — all before he turned 22.

Since then, more than 100 minors have graduated from Walker’s program and later enrolled in 4-year college programs. Walker has since become a successful engineer and continues to develop and head community betterment programs.

Walker’s story, leadership, and commitment have earned him admiration from hundreds of people from all walks of life, including the young people he has supported, education and foundation leaders, and even his former prison guards and probation officer.

His campaign has gotten so much attention that it has been financially supported or endorsed by actor Matt Damon, TV pioneer Norman Lear, and Compton Mayor Aja Brown.

While Gipson maintains his strong lead, Walker remains driven.

“The primary campaign was kind of introducing me to voters,” he said. “But now I think we’ll be able to make a great comparative argument as to why we’re the better candidates.”

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Improving Elections: Which Voting Method Do You Support? http://ivn.us/2014/08/28/improving-elections-voting-method-support/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=improving-elections-voting-method-support http://ivn.us/2014/08/28/improving-elections-voting-method-support/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 13:44:43 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295648093 Improving Elections: Which Voting Method Do You Support?

While our current laws and norms reinforce an electoral system that naturally produces two parties, nothing in the Constitution mandates this arrangement -- a fact that is underscored by the scholarship and warnings of the founders who drafted it. Though some state constitutions are less flexible than others, there is nothing an amendment cannot alter.

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Improving Elections: Which Voting Method Do You Support?

One of the fundamental laws of psephology (the study of elections) is Duverger’s Law. This “law” affirms that in single-member districts, where the winner is whoever wins the most votes (plurality voting), the system will produce two major parties.

The presence of third parties naturally encourages strategic voting, in which a voter will not choose his or her favorite candidate in order to avoid a “worse” outcome, such as the victory of his or her least preferred candidate.

Though this law has its exceptions (the Liberal Democrats in the U.K. hold 57 seats in the House of Commons), it largely explains the predominance of a political duopoly in the United States and the poor electoral performance of third-party and independent candidates.

However, neither of these ingredients — plurality voting or single-member districts — is constitutionally mandated. Modulating either or both of these features could incentivize different kinds of voting behaviors and outcomes that could reduce the grip of both parties, minimize strategic voting, and yield greater representation for individual voters and the public.

Beyond Plurality Voting in Single-Member Districts

While the plurality voting system, in which each voter selects one candidate and the candidate with the most votes wins, has been the historical norm in the United States, there have been — and still are — other ways to elect government officials.

Our country’s founders, including Franklin, Jefferson, and Madison, were quite familiar with the works of (and academic feud between) Marquis de Condorcet and Jean-Charles de Borda — both of whom proposed alternative voting methods for determining which candidate would win an election.

  • In the Condorcet method, rather than selecting one candidate, voters rank all (or a limited number) of the candidates listed on the ballot (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.). Then, each candidate is paired in a head-to-head contest against each of the other candidates to determine who fares best overall. However, because of the complexity of its various counting techniques and its costliness, the system is unpopular in electoral politics.
  • Borda counting, like the Condorcet method, begins with voters ranking the candidates on a ballot. Then, points are assigned in reverse order. For instance, assuming there are 5 candidates on a ballot, the candidate ranked first would be assigned 5 points, the candidate ranked second would be assigned 4 points, etc. The candidate who receives the most points overall is the winner.
  • Similar to Borda counting is range voting. However, rather than ranking the candidates in an ordinal fashion, voters assign each candidate a raw score (such as 0-9, or 0-99), and the candidate with the highest overall score is the winner. A species of range voting is approval voting, in which voters are allowed to vote for multiple candidates, though in a simple binary (0 – 1, “yes” or “no”) fashion.
  • A more complex preferential voting method is the instant-runoff vote (IRV) or, as it is called and practiced in Australia, the alternative vote (AV). Under this method, voters rank their preferences (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) for the candidates. Next, all ballots are examined to determine the number of “first” choices. If there is no outright majority, the candidate with the fewest “first” choices is eliminated, and the second-ranked candidates from these ballots are assigned to the remaining ones. This process continues until one candidate receives a majority.

Political scientists who study the trade-offs that come with each method recognize their flaws, but generally agree that they can reduce — but do not eliminate — the occurrence of strategic voting. In other words, one may keep single-member districts but eliminate the first-past-the-post method and allow voters to more honestly express their political preferences.

How We Ended Up with Single-Member Districts

As IVN contributor David Yee explained in his overview of America’s voting system, states have not always divided themselves into congressional districts. Indeed, before an 1842 law mandating single-member districts, many states utilized at-large elections.

Parties preferred this method for a simple reason: whichever party received the most votes statewide won all of the state’s House seats.

Rob Richie and Andrew Spencer cite the case of Alabama: in 1839, the state used single-member districts in its congressional elections, and the Democrats won 3 seats to the Whigs’ 2. To dominate the delegation, the state switched to an at-large approach, and in 1841, Democrats won the most votes in the state overall and thus sent 5 Democrats to the House.

States, especially those in the South, also used at-large elections rather than single-member districts to keep blacks from winning even a single House seat.

Despite the 1842 federal law, several states, such as Hawaii and New Mexico, flouted the mandate and still used the at-large method. However, Congress intervened again following court cases out of states such as Illinois, Indiana, and Tennessee, when residents complained that their states’ congressional districts were unfairly drawn.

Fearing that the Supreme Court would intervene and impose at-large elections, Congress reinstated the use of single-member districts in 1967.

Some members of Congress recognized a selfish motive behind this law. Sen. Hiram Fong of Hawaii, for instance – aware of how politicians are able to manipulate the redistricting process to secure their own partisan advantage – commented:

“This bill, as I see it, is framed only for States such as Indiana; under court order to elect their Representatives at-large. This bill would relieve these states of this necessity, so that the bill really is drawn to benefit them, and not the state of Hawaii.”

This long history of electoral reform reveals a persistent problem: Originally, parties in some states preferred the at-large method because it allowed them to dominate their states’ delegations. Nevertheless, following the mandate and regularization of single-member districts, politicians still found a way to manipulate the process through techniques like gerrymandering to reduce political competition and thus retain partisan hegemony.

In other words, the switch from at-large elections to single-member districts did not represent a solution to the problem of partisan dominance and control – only its miniaturization.

Beyond Single-Member Districts

Just as electoral reform could replace the plurality method, changes to current law could allow for the replacement of single-member districts.

FairVote advocates creating fewer congressional districts with 3-5 members each, allowing for proportional representation. For instance, if a third-party candidate wins 20 percent of the vote in a “super district” with 5 members, that candidate would be sent to the House.

According to FairVote’s analysis, a combination of multi-member districts and the single transferable vote (STV, here called “choice voting,” is the use of the alternative vote in multiple-member districts) would greatly improve the political representation of all ideological groups – centrist, moderate, and extreme. 

Another possibility is to repeal the single-member district mandate and return to at-large congressional elections. However, instead of making these elections winner-take-all (as was the case with Alabama in 1841) and thus benefiting each state’s political majority, representatives could be allocated using proportional representation (using, for example, the Jefferson method, originally devised by Thomas Jefferson to allocate House seats among the states).

Conclusion

While our current laws and norms reinforce an electoral system that naturally produces two parties, nothing in the Constitution mandates this arrangement — a fact that is underscored by the scholarship and warnings of the founders who drafted it. Though some state constitutions are less flexible than others, there is nothing an amendment cannot alter.

Besides plurality voting, which strongly encourages strategic voting, there is a multitude of ways to select a politician without voters having to compromise, misrepresent, or distort their preferences so egregiously. Borda counting and the alternative vote have been successfully applied domestically and internationally, and they — in addition to range voting — have strong support from academia because of the options they provide voters.

Moreover, at the national level, single-member districts are not irreplaceable. They may be replaced by multiple-member districts that allow for proportional representation, or they can be dissolved all together and replaced with statewide, at-large elections that use proportional representation rather than a winner-take-all method of seat allocation.

Which voting method do you prefer? How would you redesign the electoral system to reduce strategic voting and increase representation?

Photo Credit: Rob Crandall / Shutterstock.com

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CNN’s Motto: If You Ain’t First, You’re Last http://ivn.us/2014/08/27/cnns-motto-aint-first-youre-last/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cnns-motto-aint-first-youre-last http://ivn.us/2014/08/27/cnns-motto-aint-first-youre-last/#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 20:18:05 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295649484 CNN’s Motto: If You Ain’t First, You’re Last

On Tuesday, August 26, CNN reported on new audio that may or may not help investigators looking into the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. At the time of the initial report, the audio was unauthenticated (it still is), but CNN reported on it anyway. It wasn't even confirmed with investigators that the audio could help at all.

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CNN’s Motto: If You Ain’t First, You’re Last

There is an old rule of journalism that many organizations at least used to adhere to. This rule requires journalists to confirm a story with two legitimate sources before moving forward with it. Anyone who has seen the HBO show The Newsroom may be familiar with this rule, but what they may not have known was that it is an actual thing.

This rule — more like a guideline — is designed to ensure that trust is established and maintained between news organizations and their audience. In theory, it should avoid speculative journalism and reporting… in theory.

On Tuesday, August 26, CNN reported on new audio that may or may not help investigators looking into the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. At the time of the initial report, the audio was unauthenticated (it still is), but CNN reported on it anyway. It wasn’t even confirmed with investigators that the audio could help at all.

But, in the ongoing effort to boost ratings, CNN has built a reputation of relying on pure speculation if it means it can be the first to report on a story. It is something that has increasingly become fodder for late night shows like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report.

"The goal is no longer to establish and maintain the trust of viewers by reporting on the most accurate information available."Shawn M. Griffiths, IVN Editor-in-Chief
In the audio, a man is talking to a friend or girlfriend or someone and what sounds like shots can be heard in the background. First, there are 5 or 6 shots, a pause, and then 3 or 4 more shots. It is hard to distinguish what is a shot and what may be an echo. However, the fact that there was a pause was enough to start the speculation.

CNN anchors, personalities, guest commentators, and analysts have spent a considerable amount of time discussing what exactly that pause could mean. What viewers should ultimately take away from everything discussed is that it could be anything. No one knows what happened or what the pause could have meant.

The tape itself may not help investigators at all as it is still being analyzed by the FBI, but speculation over it can help fuel outrage that already exists on both sides of the debate over whether police officer Darren Wilson is guilty of murder or was merely defending himself from an aggressive assailant.

However, the goal is no longer to establish and maintain the trust of viewers by reporting on the most accurate information available. The goal is to be able to say, “First reported on CNN…” Think about how many times anchors and CNN personalities have said those words. It doesn’t matter if they butcher the story because they were the first to report on it.

The hope, of course, is that this will boost ratings, and for 5 nights straight it worked. CNN was able to beat its biggest cable news rival, Fox News, in key demographics as Anderson Cooper reported live from Ferguson, interviewing anyone who wanted face time and reporting on unverified information and speculative theories.

CNN has thrown away their long-standing motto of being “The Most Trusted Name in News,” and has taken a lesson from Ricky Bobby: “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”

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Calif. Senator Hueso: Geothermal Energy Good for Job Creation, Renewable Energy http://ivn.us/2014/08/27/calif-senator-hueso-geothermal-energy-good-job-creation-renewable-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=calif-senator-hueso-geothermal-energy-good-job-creation-renewable-energy http://ivn.us/2014/08/27/calif-senator-hueso-geothermal-energy-good-job-creation-renewable-energy/#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 18:09:36 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295648960 Calif. Senator Hueso: Geothermal Energy Good for Job Creation, Renewable Energy

The Imperial Valley is home to the Salton Sea, a landmark known for its 1,700 megawatts of unused geothermal resources, according to the Imperial Irrigation District. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that there is an additional 2,500 MW of discovered geothermal power resources in California and 11,000 MW undiscovered.

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Calif. Senator Hueso: Geothermal Energy Good for Job Creation, Renewable Energy

In August, the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) held its annual National Geothermal Summit in Reno, Nevada. The event brought together energy companies, policymakers, and industry leaders to discuss the energy challenges facing the nation and the trade.

Among those in attendance was California State Senator Ben Hueso (D-Logan Heights), author of Senate Bill 1139, a major focal point of the summit’s debates.

California and neighboring states are trying to attract Tesla’s plans to build a “Gigafactory,” a lithium ion battery factory, which purportedly would include almost 7,000 new jobs. Hueso’s SB 1139 may be California’s new appeal for such investors. The bill would require retail sellers of electricity to procure 500 megawatts (MW) of electricity from base load geothermal power plants by 2024.

It is important to promote a policy that will assist the state’s RPS to ensure that the procurement process creates a more level playing field and evaluates all new and existing renewable resources accurately and fairly. The result will be a more diverse and cost-effective portfolio of renewable energy resources, which will help to balance the grid and maintain reliability while keeping consumer electric rates affordable. – Sen. Ben Hueso

Hueso represents California Senate District 40, which includes Imperial County, lower Riverside County, and large portions of San Diego County — an area with significant geothermal potential.

The Imperial Valley is home to the Salton Sea, a landmark known for its 1,700 megawatts of unused geothermal resources, according to the Imperial Irrigation District. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that there is an additional 2,500 MW of discovered geothermal power resources in California and 11,000 MW undiscovered.

These resources would be ideal for Tesla’s Gigafactory since the company depends on lithium, which can be harvested from geothermal power plants.

Reports have confirmed that the geothermal project would bring an “estimated $150 million in local property tax revenues and $2 million annually in lease payments to local governments and private landowners.” Estimates of the bill’s impact on other green sources of energy have not been released.

According to Hueso:

“Development of geothermal resources at the Salton Sea and at the Geysers will create thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of permanent jobs along with other important benefits.”

Hueso isn’t just looking out for his constituents. Instead, his bill has the potential to affect all Californians.

“The recent closure of the San Onofre Generating Station (SONGS), and other older inland gas plants, creates added pressure on the grid and increases energy vulnerability in Southern California,” he argues. “Geothermal, and other base load renewable resources, provide important grid reliability benefits, including inertia and system balancing with low integration cost.”

Various sources around California have publicly supported Hueso and SB 1139, including Sierra Club California, the State Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO, and the California Labor Federation. Hueso claims reasons for support vary from job creation to greenhouse gas reduction.

Many are in favor of the bill because it promotes an underutilized, clean, renewable resource that essentially would be an investment in the state’s clean energy future. Some energy-based companies, like Cal Energy, favor the bill because it promotes ratepayer protection from energy market volatility.

However, not all are in favor of the bill. Some argue that this legislation will detract from California meeting its renewable energy goals.

Hueso responded to this criticism:

“SB 1139 creates an infrastructure plan to move our state beyond its 33% RPS goals by 2020. In addition, this bill starts addressing GHG reductions and supports the goals of AB 32. Lithium is a byproduct of geothermal production and a necessary element for building batteries for electric cars. Therefore, this bill not only helps reduce greenhouse gases from electricity production, but also from vehicle emissions, which currently stands as the largest GHG contributor.”


Read the bill below:

Photo Credit: kabby / shutterstock.com

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Iraq, Obamacare, and Deficits: 3 Issues Slipping off the Public’s Radar http://ivn.us/2014/08/27/iraq-obamacare-deficits-3-issues-slipping-publics-radar/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=iraq-obamacare-deficits-3-issues-slipping-publics-radar http://ivn.us/2014/08/27/iraq-obamacare-deficits-3-issues-slipping-publics-radar/#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 13:46:18 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295649442 Iraq, Obamacare, and Deficits: 3 Issues Slipping off the Public’s Radar

Media attention moves at crazy speeds in today's world. One moment, the focus is on Ebola scares around the world; the next, a new Nicki Minaj video. However, America's policies don't move that fast, and many issues are becoming yesterday's news before they've reached anything approaching a resolution...

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Iraq, Obamacare, and Deficits: 3 Issues Slipping off the Public’s Radar

Media attention moves at crazy speeds in today’s world. One moment, the focus is on Ebola scares around the world; the next, a new Nicki Minaj video.

However, America’s policies don’t move that fast, and many issues are becoming yesterday’s news before they’ve reached anything approaching a resolution, according to Stephen Farnsworth, professor of Political Science and International Affairs at the University of Mary Washington.

“You end up with a situation where lots of really big issues — in terms of what America focuses on and spends money on — don’t get discussed very much,” he said.

One issue Farnsworth highlighted was America’s foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East.

“We aren’t getting nearly enough discussion on what’s going on in Iraq and Iran with ISIS,” he said. “We could be looking at a movement that is more dangerous and more violent than al-Qaeda and the Taliban combined.”

When issues of foreign policy get short-changed in the national spotlight, Farnsworth suggested, it can lead to disastrous results.

“We didn’t know much about Iraq before the U.S. invaded, and it turned out to be quite a bit different than the Bush administration said it would be,” he said.

Data released by Pew in July showed that 55 percent of Americans say the U.S. has no responsibility to do something about violence in Iraq, while 39 percent say the U.S. does have a responsibility.

It’s not just foreign policy that Americans lose interest in after a while.

Jake Haselswerdt, a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of Michigan, pointed to the ongoing implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as something that has slipped from the public eye.

“It might actually be a good thing,” he said. “Having the law be the primary ideological and partisan battleground for years doesn’t seem to have been very productive for health policy.”

A Gallup report in May showed the ACA holding steady with a 43 percent approval rate. Pew data from the same month showed 41 percent approval.

It’s important to keep the public aware of the issue, Haselswerdt said, because some states still oppose the law.

“In order for the more stubborn states to move forward with implementation and expanding care, there may need to be some continued pressure,” he said. “That’s going to require the media to pay attention to the big disparities that are emerging between states that tried to implement the law and those that resisted.”

Finally, Farnsworth pointed to the federal deficit as the biggest domestic issue America needs to focus on.

“We really have not had a serious conversation in this country about the level of government we want to pay for,” he said. He also critiqued news organizations for shaping national conversation in a way that focuses on visuals and drama.

"We really have not had a serious conversation in this country about the level of government we want to pay for."Stephen Farnsworth, professor at the University of Mary Washington
“When you have police in riot gear in St. Louis, that’s compelling television,” he said. “Because [the deficit] doesn’t lend itself to these images, we don’t have a serious conversation about the level of government we’re willing to pay for.”

“As time goes on, the attention span shrinks,” he added. “It used to be, we had at least 90 seconds to talk about a policy issue. Now, we have 140 characters. As trivial as television was, compared to Twitter it’s Tolstoy.”

Haselswerdt disagreed, however, pointing out that increased media attention does not necessarily result in better policies.

“I don’t think the deficit needs any additional attention, particularly if attention means more shutdowns or debt ceiling crises,” he said. “If there was some kind of basis for bipartisan compromise on improving the long-term fiscal picture, great — but there isn’t.”

He also argued that focusing attention on the deficit can lead to reactionary policies.

“There’s been some modest progress on this front in the last few years, buoyed by a slowly improving economy,” he said. “In any case, it’s not clear to me that deficits are an urgent policy problem that needs to be solved in the near term. The consequences of government by crisis appear much more dire than the consequences of deficits.”

A Pew report in January showed that reducing the federal deficit had declined on the public’s list of priorities for the first time since President Obama was elected in 2008.

Photo Credit: Iculig / shutterstock.com

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Court Ruling in Military Sexual Assault Case Creates Slippery Slope http://ivn.us/2014/08/27/court-ruling-military-sexual-assault-case-creates-slippery-slope/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=court-ruling-military-sexual-assault-case-creates-slippery-slope http://ivn.us/2014/08/27/court-ruling-military-sexual-assault-case-creates-slippery-slope/#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 12:00:16 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295648443 Court Ruling in Military Sexual Assault Case Creates Slippery Slope

In July, an appeals court upheld an earlier ruling from a lower court that said military commanders ultimately were not responsible for the actions of their subordinates in regards to sexual assaults, even if those actions directly rob a service member of their basic civil rights.

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Court Ruling in Military Sexual Assault Case Creates Slippery Slope

In July, an appeals court upheld an earlier ruling from a lower court that said military commanders ultimately were not responsible for the actions of their subordinates in regards to sexual assaults, even if those actions directly rob a service member of their basic civil rights.

This is just one more example of service members being denied the same court protections as civilians. In the future, this could affect retention and morale within the services.

In 2012, a group of 12 former Navy and Marine Corps service members filed a lawsuit against former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the secretary of the Navy, the Marine Corps Commandant, and various other secretaries alleging that these “military leaders failed to institute policies protecting subordinates in sexual assault cases.”

The sticking point is that the plaintiffs in the case are trying to hold the secretaries personally liable for the actions of those far below them and collect monetary recompense.

On July 18, a three-judge panel representing the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Court handed down their final ruling on the case. The judges upheld a lower court’s ruling which found that service secretaries and other senior military leaders are not personally liable for their management decisions — including the decisions made by those lower in the chain of command — about the supervision and discipline of service members.

"We are disappointed that the federal courts are not allowing service members access to the court to protect their constitutional rights."Susan L. Burke
“[This] appeal is both difficult and easy. Difficult, because it involves shocking allegations that members of this nation’s armed forces who put themselves at risk to protect our liberties were abused in such a vile and callous manner. Easy, because plaintiffs seek relief under a legal theory that is patently deficient,” wrote Judge Thomas Griffith in the ruling.

The “existence of grievous wrongs does not free the judiciary to authorize any and all suits that might seem just. Our authority to permit [cases like this] is narrow to start, and narrower in the military context,” Griffith added.

This is not the first time that a group of service members has sued the secretary of defense or the service secretaries for monetary damages related to military sexual trauma. In 2011, the case of Cioca v. Rumsfeld involved two former defense secretaries, Donald Rumsfeld and his successor, Robert Gates. That case was dismissed as well.

“We are disappointed that the federal courts are not allowing service members access to the court to protect their constitutional rights,” Susan L. Burke, the attorney in both cases, told the Military Times.

Much like the Feres Doctrine, it is nearly impossible for service members to sue the government for financial damages. Feres addresses medical malpractice in the military, something that is a serious problem based on recent information.

Under the law, victims are required to pursue justice within an already broken military system, forcing them to trust the very people who have already proven themselves to be untrustworthy.

Responsibility and leadership are two words that are often used in a variety of military and political situations, being tossed about in press releases and speeches. However, this ruling creates a slippery slope when it comes to responsibility and leadership.

Thomas Paine said, “A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.” His words seem somewhat prophetic given this ruling and what’s going on within the military today. If leaders can’t be held responsible, what is to stop them from abusing their leadership position?

This is something that has concerned Army leaders in recent years. A 2011 survey of Army leadership found that more than 80 percent of officers and senior enlisted leaders observed a “toxic leader” in the preceding year and that 20 percent said they worked for one. The other branches of service have similar concerns.

“The Army defined toxic leaders as commanders who put their own needs first, micro-managed subordinates, behaved in a mean-spirited manner or displayed poor decision making,” according to an article in the Washington Post.

“This may create a self-perpetuating cycle with harmful and long-lasting effects on morale, productivity and retention of quality personnel,” the survey found. “There is no indication that the toxic leadership issue will correct itself.”

It is unclear what the military is prepared to do to correct its toxic leadership problem.

Photo Credit: sergign / shutterstock.com

 

Wendy InnesIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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Who Says All Democrats Are the Same? http://ivn.us/2014/08/26/new-type-of-candidate-emerges-california-assembly-district-4/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-type-of-candidate-emerges-california-assembly-district-4 http://ivn.us/2014/08/26/new-type-of-candidate-emerges-california-assembly-district-4/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 17:24:40 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295648607 Who Says All Democrats Are the Same?

While Democrats will likely maintain a majority in the State Capitol through 2016, newly elected candidates are coming to Sacramento with support from voters outside of a single party.

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Who Says All Democrats Are the Same?

California’s state government is changing. Since voters approved the top-two primary system in 2010, a new type of representative has a chance to make it to Sacramento.

At least, that’s what Democrat Bill Dodd says. He’s running in California’s 4th Assembly District.

“The open primary system allowed me to compete and win the election in June” said Dodd. “Never before would a moderate, business-friendly Democrat like me have been able to win in a partisan primary.”

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Source: Sunlight Foundation

California Assembly District 4 is currently represented by Democrat Mariko Yamada. She came to the State Capitol in 2008 as the representative for Assembly District 8. After new district lines were drawn in 2011, she was re-elected to represent District 4 in 2012.

In the 6 years she has spent in the legislature, Yamada became one of the top 5 most ideological Democrats in the Assembly, according to the Sunlight Foundation.

In 2014, however, she cannot seek re-election due to term limits.

Consequently, two new candidates emerged from a heated June primary: Bill Dodd, a Democrat, and Charles Schaupp, a Republican.

The two nearly tied in the primary. Dodd — now the favorite to win in November — took first with 26.4 percent and Schaupp received 26.1 percent.

Dodd’s top Democratic challenger, who was endorsed by the California Democratic Party, was Dan Wolk. He came in a close third with 23 percent of the vote.

A margin of less than 5 percent separated the top three candidates, and Dodd thinks his message of “putting people above the party” is what made the difference:

“When I said I put people above the party, that was a reference to the vitriolic partisanship that has been going on in Washington, D.C. and Sacramento… This message has been resonating. I figure most of the district is from the middle-left to the middle-right and they were the reason I finished in first place in my race.”

So what does all of this mean for the legislature?

While Democrats will likely maintain a majority in the State Capitol through 2016, newly elected candidates are coming to Sacramento with support from voters outside of a single party.

This emerging dynamic comes as the number of California voters who identify as independent has grown steadily over the last decade. According to California’s secretary of state, ‘No Party Preference’ or decline-to-state voters now comprise almost 21 percent of the electorate.

In that time, Republican and Democratic registration has decreased — down about 7.5 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively.

Editor’s note: An earlier version indicated Charles Schaupp’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication. His comments had been sent prior to publication, but technical complications delayed delivery.

Image Credit: CA Assembly Website

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Let The Voters Decide: Why I Now Support the Top-Two Primary http://ivn.us/2014/08/26/let-voters-decide-now-support-top-two-primary/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=let-voters-decide-now-support-top-two-primary http://ivn.us/2014/08/26/let-voters-decide-now-support-top-two-primary/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 13:58:55 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295649380 Let The Voters Decide: Why I Now Support the Top-Two Primary

So, if the primary is such an integral stage of the elections process, why not give every voter, regardless of party affiliation, an opportunity to decide which candidates will be on the general election ballot by letting them select from the entire field of candidates? Why not let voters, instead of parties, decide who the best candidates are?

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Let The Voters Decide: Why I Now Support the Top-Two Primary

When I first heard about the top-two primary system, I thought “Yeah, it’s alright but not all that helpful.” In fact, there might be an IVN article where I endorse it, but don’t exactly shout it from the rooftops. I had some of my own ideas and this one didn’t exactly seem impactful.

I was wrong.

While I was looking at big picture ideas on how to overhaul an obviously broken process, I simply ignored the simplest and easiest way of all.

For my site, I thought of many different ways we could redistrict, reconfigure primary calendars, and open up the primary process for more voters. Heck, I even went so far as to begin a post about redrawing state boundaries (that didn’t go too far as it’s more fitting for a doctoral thesis than a blog post).

One solution was staring me in the face even as I continued to write for IVN. However, it wasn’t until the Mississippi primary that I realized how important a top-two primary could be.

For an increasing number of elected officials, the primary election is the biggest battle. Once they win victory there, they can sit back and coast to re-election thanks to the hyperpartisan districts that have been drawn up in numerous states.

So, if the primary is such an integral stage of the elections process, why not give every voter, regardless of party affiliation, an opportunity to decide which candidates will be on the general election ballot by letting them select from the entire field of candidates? Why not let voters, instead of parties, decide who the best candidates are?

While I grew up in Michigan, I politically came of age in Iowa. In the Hawkeye State, they still believe in competitive elections; congressional seats are not usually cakewalks and races for the State House are true contests throughout the state.

Iowa employs the nonpartisan Legislative Service Agency to draw up its new maps every 10 years. While this limits the political stacking of seats, some throughout the state still lack credible challenges in the fall.

Why is this? Well, it is simply because even without using partisanship to create voting districts, some regions are simply more conservative or liberal than others due to their demographics (e.g. Texas is largely conservative while New York is much more liberal).

"A top-two system would force the top two vote-getters in the primary to appeal to every voter ahead of November."Samuel Genson, IVN contributor
The northwest part of Iowa is one of the more conservative and Republican-friendly areas of the state. The southeast section leans more liberal and plays better for the Democratic Party. Therefore, even in a state where political parties are taken out of the equation in redistricting, they still have their strongholds.

So, the question on my mind is this: why not use this to create an even better situation for voters in Iowa?

A top-two system would force the top two vote-getters in the primary to appeal to every voter ahead of November, not just voters within their own party’s base. Perhaps if people were shown that their votes do matter, more voters would partake in the process.

If this idea could make voting better in Iowa, a state that prides itself on voting, couldn’t it also have an impact throughout the rest of the country as well? Why must some of the best candidates be silenced halfway through an election? Why must the most competitive elections be restricted to a small partisan few? Doesn’t this seem to be at odds with the freedoms our nation stands for?

Photo retrieved from the Public Policy Institute of California. No credit attributed.

Samuel GensonIVN.us - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

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Why Gallup May Be Wrong About Voter Turnout in 2014 http://ivn.us/2014/08/26/gallup-may-wrong-voter-turnout-2014/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gallup-may-wrong-voter-turnout-2014 http://ivn.us/2014/08/26/gallup-may-wrong-voter-turnout-2014/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 12:00:51 +0000 http://ivn.us/?p=23295649410 Why Gallup May Be Wrong About Voter Turnout in 2014

On Monday, August 25, Gallup published a report on why a historic-low congressional approval rating could result in an increase in voter turnout in November. According to Gallup, there is a correlation between lower congressional approval and higher voter turnout, looking at midterm elections dating back to 1994.

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Why Gallup May Be Wrong About Voter Turnout in 2014

On Monday, August 25, Gallup published a report on why a historic-low congressional approval rating could result in an increase in voter turnout in November. According to Gallup, there is a correlation between lower congressional approval and higher voter turnout, looking at midterm elections dating back to 1994.

Gallup currently has congressional approval at 13 percent, which would be the lowest approval rating in a midterm election. In fact, only 19 percent of Americans think most members of Congress should be re-elected. And perhaps for the first time in modern U.S. history, a plurality of Americans don’t approve of the job their own representative is doing.

If Gallup’s hypothesis about voter turnout is correct, these three things combined should boost voter turnout in the general election by a notable degree.

congressional-approval-voter-turnout

 

Between 1994 and 2010, voter turnout ranged from 38.1 percent and 41.1 percent. The highest turnout was in 1994 when Republicans took control of both chambers of Congress and congressional approval was at 23 percent. In 2002, when congressional approval was at 50 percent, nationwide turnout during the general election was 39.5 percent.

Looking at it from this perspective, Gallup certainly has numbers to support its hypothesis.

However, interestingly enough, the next highest turnout (40.9 percent) was in 2010 when Republicans once again took control of the House of Representatives (but didn’t acquire the Senate). Congressional approval at the time of the election was at 21 percent. The approval rating and voter turnout were both slightly lower than they were in 1994.

Between 1998 and 2002, both the congressional approval rating and voter turnout increased. In fact, congressional approval jumped from 44 percent to 50 percent before plummeting again ahead of the 2006 election.

Between 2006 and 2010, voter turnout rose from 40.4 percent to 40.9 percent. That isn’t much of an increase and 2010 was when conservative grassroots mobilization was at its peak with the rise of the tea party.

Gallup could just as easily make the case that voter turnout in 2014 could be higher because voter turnout in congressional elections has risen slightly every midterm election since 1998. It is another correlation between the two figures, but that is all Gallup is looking at — correlations, not causation.

To the polling group’s credit, it does acknowledge that voter turnout may not rise depending on voter perception:

“If many voters see little possibility of changing the partisan makeup of government after this fall’s elections — given that a divided government is already in place and almost certainly will be after the elections — there could be no increase in turnout this year despite Americans’ frustration with Congress.”

What happens when a majority of Americans no longer feel either major party represents America? What happens when Americans are so disenchanted by a system that has produced hyperpartisanship, they don’t believe their vote matters anymore? What happens when after several election cycles of thinking they can change government for the better, voters realize that the system is rigged to maintain the status quo?

"What happens when a majority of Americans no longer feel either major party represents America?"
Instead of examining possible correlations, we need to start asking the right questions to determine the cause of low turnout. Why, in two decades, have we not seen a voter turnout in a midterm election higher than 41.1 percent?

Gallup argues that when voters feel more empowered to change the makeup of government, they are more likely to vote in greater numbers. I believe this to be true as there is evidence to support it. In 2008, voter turnout broke records in states across the country because the masses were drawn in by the promise of “hope and change.”

The sad truth, however, is that a majority of Americans — even in the midterm elections with the highest turnouts — don’t seem to feel empowered by the current election system. Instead of looking at the 40.9 percent of the electorate who did vote in 2010, why don’t we take a closer look at the 59.1 percent who didn’t.

Photo Credit: Tanarch / shutterstock.com

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