Tag: local election

Women’s March participant wins Urbana, Illinois mayoral primary

On January 21 of this year, millions of women in the United States and around the world participated in a series of Women’s Marches in protest of the horrendous policies of President Donald Trump.

Last night, the Women’s March scored its first major electoral victory in a Democratic primary for Mayor of Urbana, Illinois:

An eight-year Urbana city councilwoman who campaigned on the promise of improving economic development in Urbana is one step closer to becoming mayor.

Diane Marlin took the Democratic mayoral nomination by a landslide in Tuesday’s primary — piling up 2,427 votes to 12-year incumbent Laurel Prussing’s 1,510 and Evelyn Underwood’s 316.

Next up: An April 4 date with Republican Rex Bradfield in the consolidated general election.

Diane Marlin was a participant in the Champaign-Urbana, Illinois Women’s March, and now she has defeated a longtime incumbent mayor of one of Illinois’s most progressive cities. I live in another municipality in Illinois, but I wish Diane well in the general election in her city!

How to fix America’s antiquated electoral process

Granted, it would require amendment(s) to the U.S. Constitution and massive changes in federal and state laws, but America needs a massive overhaul of its election system.

Below are some of my own ideas for fixing America’s antiquated electoral system:

  • Drastically increase the size of the U.S. House – There should be one U.S. Representative for every 100,000 residents of the fifty states, rounded up, plus one U.S. Representative with full voting rights each for the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories. This would result in a U.S. House size of 3,086, but it would be more representative of the country than a 435-member House.
  • Give the District of Columbia and each U.S. territory one Senator with full voting rights each – This would result in a U.S. Senate size of 106.
  • Implement a national popular vote system for electing the President, the Vice President, and major-party presidential and vice-presidential nominees – The Electoral College is an antiquated relic of the 19th century, when it wasn’t easy to report election results for a nationwide race. Ideally, an instant-runoff voting system should be used, in which voters can cast first, second, and third preferences, and second and third preferences can decide an election if no candidate gets a majority of first preferences. For party nominations for president and vice-president, a nationwide semi-partisan primary should be conducted, in which those registered with a political party would be able to choose between candidates running for their party’s nomination and unaffiliated candidates, but those not registered with a party can vote for candidates of any party affiliation, as well as unaffiliated candidates. Political parties that get 1% of the total primary vote send their top vote-getter (instant-runoff would be conducted within each party) to the general election, and any independent candidate who receives 1% of the total primary vote makes the general election ballot. Furthermore, presidential and vice-presidential candidates run as a ticket in both the primary and the general election. In the event that a presidential candidate or a vice-presidential candidate seeking a party nomination lacked a running mate, but won his or her primary, he or she would be paired with the candidate for the other office whose ticket got more votes within the party than any other ticket with a candidate for said other office
  • Standardize the electoral calendar nationwide – Here’s how I’d set up the election calendar for regularly-scheduled elections in a two-year electoral cycle:
    • Tuesday after first Monday in May of odd-numbered year – Political party leadership elections (closed to party members) and some judicial elections (open to all voters, officially non-partisan)
    • Tuesday after the first Monday in November of odd-numbered year – County, municipal, and other local elections for the entire country (open to all voters, officially non-partisan)
    • Tuesday after the first Monday in May of even-numbered year – Some judicial elections (open to all votes, officially non-partisan)
    • Tuesday after the first Monday in September of even-numbered year – Partisan primaries for, depending on the year, President, Vice President, U.S. Congress, state executive positions, and/or state legislature (semi-partisan primary system in place)
    • Tuesday after the first Monday of November of even-numbered year – General elections for offices in which nominees were selected in the September primaries
  • Use hand-counted paper ballots for all elections, everywhere – Even when an online system is used for some absentee ballots (see below), a printout of the online absentee ballot would be hand-counted at the precinct after the polls close.
  • Speed up the absentee and military voting process with an ad hoc, closed-circuit internet system not part of the World Wide Web – If it’s not possible for an absentee or military absentee ballot to be physically sent to the voter’s home polling place on Election Day, set up an ad hoc, closed-circuit internet system not connected to the World Wide Web or any other existing infrastructure in order to allow the ballots to be scanned, uploaded to the electronic system, and printed out at the polling place so that it can be hand-counted on Election Night.
  • There should never be more than 1,000 people per polling place – It is absolutely unacceptable to cram several thousand voters into a single voting place, forcing them to wait in line for several hours.
  • Make federal judicial posts directly-elected – For federal district court judgeships, each federal district court would have at least four judgeships, with at least one seat being up for election every year. For federal circuit court appellate judgeships, a similar model to the district courts would be followed. For the U.S. Supreme Court, three associate judgeships would be up for election in years ending in “2”, two associate judgeships in years ending in “5”, three associate judgeships in years ending in “8”, and the Chief Justice’s seat in years ending in “0”.

These are just a few of my own suggestions for making America’s electoral process more efficient.

Five-way primary for Mayor of Madison, Wisconsin on Tuesday

Two days from now, five candidates will be running for two general election spots in the officially non-partisan race for Mayor of Madison, Wisconsin. The candidates are incumbent Paul Soglin and challengers Bridget Maniaci, Scott Resnick, Christopher Daly, and Richard Brown.

Carousel Bayrd, the Vice-Chairwoman of the Dane County, Wisconsin Board of Supervisors and one of several hosts of the Madison-area local political talk show A Current Affair on Madison-based community radio station WORT-FM, interviewed all five of the candidates over a three-week period, and I’m including the links to all of Bayrd’s interviews for the convenience of voters in Wisconsin’s second-largest city:

The two candidates with the most votes in Tuesday’s primary will advance to the April 7 general election, even if one candidate gets a majority of the vote in the primary.

The Progressive Response to the State of the State of Illinois Address

Earlier today, Bruce Rauner, the Republican governor of our state that we instinctively know as Illinois, outlined his plan to drive down wages, infringe on the rights of Illinois workers, and destroy an already weak Illinois economy.

Prior to giving his State of the State address, Rauner went around the state using PowerPoint slides to publicly bash our state’s public employees, whine about public employees being, in his view, overpaid, spread lies about worker’s rights and public employee pay, and blame public employees for our state’s fiscal problems. Additionally, it was reported yesterday that Rauner strongly hinted that he wants to eliminate collective bargaining rights for our state’s public employees. Given that Rauner has given his top administration officials pay raises and appointed a $100,000/year chief of staff to his wife despite the fact that his wife has no official duties whatsoever, for Rauner to give his cronies pay raises while wanting to drive down public employee salaries is blatantly hypocritical.

In his State of the State address, Rauner called for gutting our state’s workers’ compensation system, lowering property taxes while our state and local governments have billions of dollars in unpaid bills, allowing local governments and/or voters to bust unions at the local level, prohibiting project labor agreements, eliminating prevailing wage laws, and privatizing public education to benefit his political cronies. Rauner did have a few good ideas that he talked about in his address to the people of Illinois, such as banning trial lawyer donations to judicial campaigns, merging the offices of state comptroller and state treasurer, and increasing funding for early childhood education.

While there is no disputing the fact that our state is in a fiscal mess for a large number of reasons, the primary reason why our state is in such a fiscal mess is because the wealthiest Illinoisans, such as Rauner himself, don’t pay enough state income taxes thanks to an ridiculous provision in the Illinois Constitution that prohibits the General Assembly from passing legislation to tax the incomes of wealthier Illinoisans at a higher rate than the incomes of poorer Illinoisans. The flat tax requirement in the Illinois Constitution prohibits our state from raising the revenues that would be needed to pay off our state’s unpaid bills and put our state on solid financial footing. I would strongly support a proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution to allow the General Assembly to levy a progressive state income tax in order to raise income taxes on the wealthiest Illinoisans, cut income taxes for the poorest Illinoisans, and put our state’s finances back on track. Additionally, I would strongly support eliminating all tax breaks for businesses, such as the ridiculous tax break that Sears and CME Group received a few years ago, as this would also bring in more revenue to the state that can be used to pay off unpaid bills.

Regarding public employee pensions, another reason why our state is in a fiscal mess, I would strongly support a pension reform proposal that would phase out the current public employee pension systems in our state, but still allow public employees who have paid into the current pension systems to still receive the benefits they’ve earned once they retire, and require all new state and local elected officials, appointed officials, and hired public employees who receive a full-time salary but had not previously paid anything into the current public employee pension systems in our state to pay into a newly-created public employee pension system that is designed to be fully-funded and provide our state’s future elected officials, political appointees, and public employees with a steady retirement income once they retire. Make no mistake about it, I will strongly oppose any pension reform proposal that cuts benefits for those who have currently paid into the pension systems, creates a 401(k) system for public employees, and/or turns an existing pension system into a 401(k) system.

Regarding cutting spending, I would support an audit of the entire state government and every single county, township, city, town, village, and other type of local government entity in our state in order to find actual wasteful spending and propose common-sense solutions to cut actual wasteful spending and help save the state money in both the short term and the long term. Make no mistake about it, I will strongly oppose cuts to public education, social services, and other government services that reduce the quality of service by our state and local government agencies.

Regarding strengthening our state’s economy, I strongly support raising the state minimum wage here in Illinois to $15/hour and indexing automatic, annual minimum wage increases to productivity. Additionally, I strongly support creating a North Dakota-style economic development bank here in Illinois to issue and/our guarantee loans to factories, farms, small businesses, and other types of businesses that have to be repaid in full with interest. These two proposals would lift thousands of Illinoisans out of poverty, establish a minimum wage that values work, and help entrepreneurs start up new businesses and create jobs without pocketing government benefits to simply pad profits. Busting unions and driving down wages is something I strongly oppose because those policies would do absolutely nothing to strengthen our state’s economy or empower Illinoisans.

Regarding campaign finance, ethics, and government reform, while a federal constitutional amendment to repeal the Citizens United v. FEC U.S. Supreme Court decision that helped Rauner and his cronies buy the last gubernatorial election would be required to allow Illinois to enact meaningful campaign finance reform, I strongly support eliminating the conflicts of interest that are currently allowed by our state’s campaign finance system, such as a couple of conflicts of interest that Rauner mentioned, prohibiting unions from donating to candidates for public office that they’d have to collectively bargain with if said candidates are elected and prohibiting trial lawyers from donating to judicial candidates, and one that Rauner did not mention because he’s effectively opposed to it, prohibiting business owners and managers from donating to candidates for public office that could use the public office in question to directly benefit said business owners and managers if elected. Additionally, I would support setting the maximum campaign contribution for a statewide office here in Illinois at $250 and enacting even lower limits for state legislative and local offices. Additionally, I strongly support implementing a pair of public campaign finance systems, one for judicial elections and one for other non-federal elections. The judicial public campaign finance system would prohibit judicial candidates from receiving campaign contributions from other people and/or funding their own campaigns, require that all judicial candidates receive a set amount of campaign funds from the state, and require that judicial candidates receive the same amount of campaign funds from the state that their opponents receive. The public campaign finance system for other offices would allow candidates for those offices to receive $4 of state funding for every $1 they receive in contributions and/or self-fund their campaigns with. Additionally, I would support enacting what I like to call the Bruce Rauner Rule, which would outright prohibit candidates for statewide office here in Illinois from donating or loaning more than $100,000 of their own wealth to their campaign, and set even lower self-funding limits for other offices. On term limits, I would support limiting the offices of governor and lieutenant governor to one elected term, limiting the other state executive offices to two elected terms, limiting state senators to five elected terms, and limiting state representatives to eight elected terms, and anything stricter than that would receive my opposition. Some other government reform ideas I support include allowing Illinois voters to recall all non-federal elected officials, converting the Illinois General Assembly into an unicameral legislature with at least 177 members via a state constitutional amendment, and amending the Illinois Constitution to establish a truly non-partisan redistricting process for congressional and state legislative districts.

Regarding reforming the criminal justice system, I strongly support legalizing, taxing, and regulating recreational marijuana, which would reduce the incarceration rate in our state and provide our state with much-needed tax revenue. Additionally, I’m open to various ideas to reform the criminal justice system in order to make our prison system more about rehabilitating convicted criminals instead of simply punishing them and make our criminal justice system more fair. For example, one idea that I strongly support would be requiring independent investigations of deaths that occur in the hands of state and local police here in Illinois.

Regarding education, I strongly oppose implementing school voucher programs here in Illinois, expanding charter schools, or any other school privatization scheme. I strongly support repealing Common Core State Standards and replacing them well-rounded, developmentally appropriate K-12 academic standards developed by the state and are held accountable by measures other than assessments and standardized tests. Additionally, I strongly support getting rid of the emphasis on career preparation in K-12 education, since I believe that career preparation should be the responsibility of higher education institutions, not the K-12 system. Also, I strongly support increasing funding for public schools in our state and making our state’s K-12 school funding system fairer to poorer school districts.

Illinoisans are worth more than speeches, political buzzwords, and PowerPoint presentations about driving down wages, busting unions, and making our state’s economy even weaker than it currently is, and Illinoisans are certainly worth more than Bruce Rauner’s far-right policies to drive down wages, bust unions, and destroy our state’s economy. It’s time for Illinoisans to push for progressive policies to protect workers’ rights, strengthen our state’s economy, put more money into the pockets of poor and working-class Illinoisans, provide a world-class education system for our state’s K-12 and college students, and provide for a more perfect Illinois.

ENDORSEMENT: Rebecca Kemble for Madison (WI) Common Council District 18

Most of my attention on the Spring 2015 elections in Illinois and Wisconsin has been on the Chicago, Illinois mayoral race for obvious reasons, but I’m going to briefly talk about a race for a seat on the Madison, Wisconsin Common Council (“common council” is a Wisconsin term for the legislative branch of a city) in the northern part of that city.

The race I’m refering to is the District 18 Madison Common Council race between Rebecca Kemble, a columnist for The Progressive magazine and a worker-owner at Madison’s Union Cab Cooperative, and Peng Her, an assistant director at the Center for Resilient Cities. I’m endorsing Kemble in this race, and you can listen to WORT-FM’s interview of Kemble here.

Kemble has a long track record of standing up for progressive values. She’s been a fierce critic of Scott Walker and his Republican allies in the Wisconsin Legislature, and she has strongly supported progressive ideals, especially when it comes to workers’ rights and protecting the environment. More recently, Kemble has been one of the most vocal critics of ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft, companies that, among other things, don’t insure the cars their drivers use (ridesharing drivers are required to provide for their own insurance, and most car insurance policies don’t insure commercial activity, such as ridesharing), don’t provide workers’ compensation to their drivers, don’t provide rides for disabled people, and, especially in the case of Uber, bully anyone who dares to criticize them.

Make no mistake about it, Rebecca Kemble is a tough-as-nails progressive, and we need more people like her in elected office in this country.