Monday, November 30, 2009

Arcata Anti-Panhandling Ordinance to be introduced‏

Following the rude treatment of city staff in agreeing to meet with Redwood ACLU vice chair Christina Allbright, then reneging on this meeting, City Attorney Nancy Diamond, City Manager/Police Chief Randy Mendosa and Mayor Mark Wheetley have introduced their Anti-Panhandling Ordinance without any consultation with the ACLU or anyone else in the local civil rights community.

As you can read at the above link, this proposed law would seek to completely ban constitutionally-protected solicitation activity in wide swaths of the city, basically anywhere near any supermarket, any retail facility, the HSU footbridge, and more. While "aggressive" behavior and physical assault is already unlawful, these scare stories are being used to foist upon Arcata a law designed to further criminalize the homeless and punish them for continuing to exist in Arcata.

The City Council meets Wednesday night (Dec. 2) at 6 p.m., although the ordinance's introduction is under "new business" and will be rather late in the agenda, so showing up an hour or two into the meeting is probably a safe move. If you can make it to speak out on this matter, whether you live in Arcata or just visit, please do so.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Redwood ACLU Nominating Committee Tuesday November 24 12:00 p.m.

The first and only meeting of the year for the Nominating Committee of the Redwood Chapter, ACLU will meet on Tuesday, November 24 at 12:00 p.m at our office at 917 Third Street in Eureka.

The members of the Nominating Committee include three current Boardmembers and two at-large ACLU members who are not currently on the Chapter Board: Greg Allen, Christina Allbright, Charles Douglas, Xandra Manns, Jamie Rose.

This committee is charged with developing a slate of up to seven [7] candidates for consideration by the Chapter Board for new two-year terms on the Board. The Chapter Board will then adopt this slate, with or without amendment, to be presented to the Redwood Chapter membership to stand for election to the next Chapter Board at the Annual Meeting on January 25th.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Redwood ACLU Board Meeting Tuesday Nov 17th Noon

The Board of Directors of the Redwood Chapter, ACLU will meet Tuesday, November 17th at 12:00 p.m. at the ACLU office at 917 Third Street, Suite Q (between J & K Streets) in Eureka.

The agenda will include a review of preparations for the Annual Meeting on Jan. 25; a review of the recent Chapter Newsletter and consideration of items for the next issue; an update on the investigation into the election irregularities at HSU; a review of election reform efforts; analysis of the anti-panhandling ordinance under consideration by City of Arcata officials; reports from Chapter officers and committees; and consideration of other items which Boardmembers or at-large members may bring up.

Board meetings are open to all ACLU members in good standing. Please call 442-4419 or drop by our office for more information or to request the inclusion of a new item on the meeting agenda.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Redwood ACLU Policy On Local Election Reform

Adopted on July 21, 2009

The local, state and national ACLU has long recognized efforts to protect fair representation in government. The Redwood Chapter affirms the relationship between the rights of citizens and the opportunity to cast a meaningful and effective vote. This policy falls within the scope of policies established by the National ACLU and the ACLU of Northern California.

We appreciate the good work of Humboldt County Clerk/Recorder Carolyn Crnich and the Election Advisory Committee to increase vote-counting transparency and encourage electoral reform, which led to their 2007 Patriot Award selection in October. However, our local Board expresses deep concern with local election conditions, as referenced in a 2007 Voter Confidence Committee report. Additional revelations concerning the “lost ballots” in the general election of 2008, only discovered after the election results were certified, have shaken the confidence of voters in the vote-counting process.

Therefore, the Redwood Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union calls upon election officials and elected leaders to consider the following reforms:

- The County must phase-out of the current electronic vote-counting systems due to issues of inaccuracy, secrecy and privatized control and avoid replacing them with any similar privatized, secret systems. Hand-counted paper ballots are one method which could prove to be more verifiable and less subject to tampering, data corruption and other errors. All voting systems must be subject to rigorous verification.

- The County should set as a priority the right to cast a secret ballot, in an accessible polling place, with the option but not requirement to vote by mail. All efforts must be made to ensure the secret ballot so that no ballot may be traced to or associated with any individual. Greater effort should be made to identify potential polling places and bring them into compliance with disabled access requirements.

- Voided ballots should be immediately marked “VOID” and retained for later audit, and voters must also be provided with the traditional curtain system of voting booth to ensure voter privacy.

- Any memory cards or hard drives used in voting or vote-counting systems must be retained and not be deleted or erased for the full 22 months required by federal law.

- Hotlines, whether by land line or by cellular or Voice Over Internet Protocol system, should be maintained between each and every polling place and the central Elections Office during elections. Sufficient staffing should be in place to readily answer incoming calls.

- The shipment of ballot boxes from local police or sheriff’s stations to County Elections via transportation supervised by only one county employee does not provide sufficient security against tampering, theft or loss. Ballots should never be in the possession of only one person at a time.

- The lack of a comprehensive system of voting methods enabling the use of Ranked Choice Voting is an impediment to electoral reform and acts to compromise the ability of many groups to share in the exercise of political power as well as to reduce the diversity of representation. This dilution of political representation violates the spirit of the US Constitution.

- Poll workers and elections office staff must have improved training to better serve voters and reduce the incidences where voters are dissuaded or prevented from casting a ballot, and be paid to attend such training. Election systems must be run simply and conveniently with poll workers and staff behaving in a consistent and reliable manner. The time for training provided to poll workers should be expanded, to include more “hands on” experiential training in simulated election situations and the provision of electronic training materials workers can review outside of training sessions.

- The maintenance of politically diverse precinct-level poll worker boards should be vigorously enforced, regardless of the residency of any particular active poll worker or potential poll worker; as a partial solution, enhanced recruitment efforts, particularly towards young people, may be expanded and county officials could consider more adequate compensation for poll workers.

- District elections, such as those used to elect members of the Eureka City Council, should be accountable directly to the voters of each of the several districts, and not used solely to determine the residency of the district representative. A “true ward” system where only the voters of any particular ward would vote for their own representative is preferable to the current city-wide system, although ward boundaries must be assessed to avoid gerrymandered districts.

- Poll workers and elections office staff should be specifically reminded of the legal right of any voter to observe any and all stages of the election process. However, prohibitions on “crowding” polling places with politically-motivated agents of any campaign should be better enforced to protect polling place accessibility, including the publication of guidelines for election observers.

- The program initiated by Crnich and the EAC, known as the Humboldt County Election Transparency Project, should be made permanent under county ordinance and utilized prior to the certification of election results to allow for vote totals to be reliably and independently audited to verify accuracy.

- In contrast to the invalidated and admittedly unconstitutional Measure T of 2006, campaign finance reform measures must respect freedom of speech and protect minority candidates. Any limitations on candidate campaign contributions must be sufficiently high enough to permit effective communication with the electorate. Public financing of public candidate elections is the best possible solution to allow equitable access to the electorate, so long as the qualifications to access such funds do not discriminate between major party, minor party and independent candidates.