This week, we have five regular action items for you, plus a special item on the situation in Aleppo, Syria. We hope you do as many as you can! Please encourage your friends to take the solidarity pledge as well!
- 1) Avert the Muslim registry by revoking NSEERS
- 2) Support financial interest disclosure for cabinet nominees
- 3) Help people get voter ID
- 4) Educate yourself about redistricting and gerrymandering
- 5) Pledge to keep voting!
Please also answer this one-question survey so we can better understand what’s working, what needs work, and what our priorities should be. Please take 30 seconds right now to help us be more effective. Thank you!
We’re also looking for people to help us run the Solidarity Pledge! The work is very granular, and even 1-2 hours a week of help would be very welcome. We’re particularly looking for people with good writing/editing skills, webmasters, or news junkies. Contact us at email@example.com if you’d like to help! Non-MIT people welcome too!
There will also be an open meeting of SolidarityMIT, the organizers of the Solidarity Pledge (and much more), on MIT campus, this Friday at 2pm in E40-175 (Martin Trust Center). All are welcome!
SPECIAL: In light of the atrocities in Aleppo, Syria on Dec 12, we’d like to highlight some organizations working within Syria and for the Syrian people that could use an extra boost of donations: Karam Foundation – supporting a variety of programs supporting Syrian children since 2007
Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) – medical relief nonprofit working on the frontlines
Ananias Mission – Aiding Syrian refugees in the resettlement process in the US and Canada
White Helmets (Syrian Civil Defence) – volunteer search and rescue workers in Syria
Hand in Hand for Syria – Emergency humanitarian aid for civilians living within Syria
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) – International humanitarian organization supporting the few remaining medical facilities within Syria
1) Avert the Muslim registry by revoking NSEERS
Pressure Obama to “immediately revoke the regulatory framework of the Bush-era registry program called National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS)” that targets Muslims. In May 2011, NSEERS was effectively “deactivated” through the removal of the list of countries whose citizens were subject to registration, however, “Because the Secretary of Homeland Security’s authority under the NSEERS regulations is broader than the manual information flow based on country designation that has now ended, the underlying NSEERS regulation will remain in place in the event a special registration program is again needed.” According to the ACLU, “This program is not only discriminatory and dangerous — it’s completely ineffective as a security measure. In its nearly 10 years of operation, NSEERS did not produce a single terrorism conviction. Even the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security — the department’s watchdog — said the program was unreliable and a waste of taxpayers’ money.” More than 50 House Democrats have signed a letter urging President Obama to dismantle this program.
Call the White House to ask President Obama to revoke the NSEERS regulation. Scripts here.
2) Support financial interest disclosure for cabinet nominees
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) proposes “an expansion of Senate rules to require all cabinet nominees to disclose their financial interests and tax returns for three years.” However, “disclosure for proposed cabinet members would not mean public disclosure. It would just be disclosed to members of the Senate Committee that would vote on their confirmation.” He is also asking nominees to voluntarily disclose their financial information.
Without full financial disclosures, the public may not be aware of their elected officials’ potential conflicts of interest. Conflicts of interest can be dangerous: as an example, Donald Trump’s business partners, interests, and debts may impair his ability to make impartial decisions for the good of the United States, in turn posing a serious risk of corruption and even a threat to our national security; the same applies to cabinet members and congresspeople. Call Sen. Blumenthal to express support for this legislation. Scripts and contact info here.
3) Help people get voter ID
Help people get voter ID (in places where that is needed) and register to vote NOW, rather than waiting until 2018. Vote Riders is the best organization working on this issue at the moment, and they can use support and funding. On the legal side, the ACLU has been actively fighting to prevent and overturn voter ID laws. Sign the petition here, and donate to the ACLU here.
4) Educate yourself about redistricting and gerrymandering
In 2020, the US will conduct a census, which will then lead to a re-apportionment of the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives among the 50 states (more on that process here). Reapportionment leads to the creation of new districts, and subsequently redistricting (FAQ here).
This is where gerrymandering comes into play: the act of “politicians manipulating the redrawing of legislative district lines in order to help their friends and hurt their enemies. They may seek to help one party win extra seats (a partisan gerrymander), make incumbents of both parties safer (an incumbent-protection gerrymander) or target particular incumbents who have fallen out of favor.” There is a very helpful visual explanation here and a map of the most gerrymandered states here, and videos here and here and here.
Republicans dominated the redistricting process in 2010, and picked up 675 state legislative seats, gaining control of 12 more state legislatures. This overwhelmingly Republican gerrymandering directly contributed to the loss of the House in 2012 (as reported by NYtimes, NPR, PBS, Mother Jones, and the Republican leadership).
Gerrymandering will likely be a state by state battle, and we can’t afford to wait until 2020 to address it. One possible tactic is the creation of independent redistricting commissions, which are constitutional and already in place in AZ and CA.
Possible tactics to address the effects of gerrymandering include:
The National Democratic Redistricting Committee is a proposed initiative led by Obama and Eric Holder addressing gerrymandering that seeks to “coordinate campaign strategy, direct fundraising, organize ballot initiatives and put together legal challenges to state redistricting maps.” The NCRD has been fundraising, but doesn’t have a website yet.
There is an interesting right-leaning website that seeks to eliminate partisan redistricting by using an “Optimal Proximity Redistricting Algorithm” to create “hands-off redistricting.”
If you’re interested in working within the system we have now, sign up for the Sister District Project: a project “designed to target congressional districts that are red but could swing blue (or need help staying blue) and pair them each with a specific, safely blue district in close geographic proximity that will provide grassroots volunteer resources to that district. Volunteers in the blue district will coordinate with volunteers in their sister district as well as the campaign of the progressive candidate that needs support.”
5) Pledge to keep voting!
Sign a pledge to vote in every election until Donald Trump leaves office – and share with your friends! http://dothepledge.com/
That’s all for this week. Thank you for dedicating real time and effort to working for real progress. And don’t forget to share your commitment and actions with friends, both online and in person!
If you have questions or suggestions, or would like to get more involved, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We especially welcome suggestions for potential action items!
Until next week,