Support Voting Reform Efforts in New York NOW

(Photo by April Sikorski from Brooklyn, USA (vote here) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

The movement for voting reform in New York State is gaining momentum – and not a moment too soon. While other states have taken measures to modernize and streamline their voting systems, New York has remained mired in rules and arbitrary deadlines that prevent thousands of residents from realizing their right to vote, leaving our state’s voter turnout rates embarrassingly low.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Right now, 37 states offer early voting, a reform that greatly eases the voting process, and a growing number offer same-day and automatic voter registration. The latter reform has been shown to have the greatest impact on increasing voter participation, particularly among young voters, new residents, and immigrants. The primary obstacle to enacting these changes here in New York is a lack of political will. But that is changing.

Last month, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman introduced the “New York Votes Act,” calling for same-day registration, automatic registration, and early voting. New York State Senator Daniel Squadron and the Senate Democratic Conference have released an official report on the barriers to voting in New York and introduced a legislative package calling for many of the same reforms. Just this Sunday, thousands of New Yorkers gathered in Battery Park to voice their support for voting reforms.

Now, all eyes are on the final budget, due on April 1. Will Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature do the right thing or will he waffle and delay as he has done before? Please join us in making sure they commit to change!

Call and email Governor Cuomo. Tell him you support his pro-voter budget proposal and want to see it funded and enacted: call 518-474-1041(press 1); email gov.cuomo@chamber.state.ny.us.

You can also find your State Senator and Assembly Member and ask them to support voting reform, including early voting and automatic or same-day registration.

Thank you so much for helping to keep the pressure on this important issue. There is everything to be gained when we stand and fight for our most basic rights, and everything to be lost when we don’t.

 

#Resist.

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In the week since Election Day, we’ve seen more than 100 years of social and economic justice advocacy and legislation threatened and the cherished diversity of American society thrown into question. Not only the Affordable Care Act, but also Medicare is under siege. A Muslim registry has been proposed. Deportation forces that are opposed by the governments and police of our largest, most vibrant cities are planned. And, most tellingly, an array of bigots, xenophobes, racists, outsourcers, climate-change deniers, and just brutish and incompetent people is lining up to lead our nation at home and abroad.

Many of you have joined in protest. You’ve said #NotMyPresident, loud and clear. We urge you to continue, but also to resist the gradual “normalization” of this administration-in-waiting. There is nothing “normal” or “American” about what is being proposed.

What to do, right now? Here are three suggestions:

  • Read–and learn. Congressman Jerry Nadler has just come out with a must-read primer demonstrating how to use existing government as a tool of resistance.
  • Organize. Join one or more of the meetings taking place across New York to plot our collective way forward. There’s one called Rise Up Together: The American Majority Against Trump this Sunday, November 20th, from 6 to 8 pm at The Center at 208 West 13th Street, Manhattan.
  • Help. Support the neediest and most vulnerable–those who are immediately threatened. We’ll be making more suggestions, but you can start by supporting and empowering the Muslim community; defending reproductive choice and the right to free or affordable contraception; informing and protecting our immigrant neighbors and families; and standing up for the right to health care by using the hashtag #IfILoseCoverage.

If there was ever time for solidarity, it’s NOWWe’re partners in the campaign to #CLOSErikers. Join us for a vigil outside Gracie Mansion on Sunday afternoon, December 4th

Let’s flip Long Island Blue!

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Organizer Dale in front of Sen. Kaminsky’s office. Our volunteers helped make it happen!

While we’re on the ground in Pennsylvania, there’s work to be done in New York. Democrats have three terrific, progressive candidates in key districts in Long Island’s Nassau County, which has long been dominated by GOP elected officials far out of touch with today’s constituencies:

  • District 7 (North Shore): Adam Haber has a good shot at this seat, but turnout will be key.
  • District 9 (South Shore): Todd Kaminsky won the Special Election in April by running an effective ground game, with the help of ourvolunteers! Now the state GOP is propping up the same opponent.
  • District 6 (Mid-Island): Ryan Cronin can edge out the incumbent this year!

Campaign 2016 Kickoff

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Throughout the year, you’ve helped others secure a living wage and affordable housing, expanding access to health care, limiting discrimination and disenfranchisement on the basis of color or gender, and ensuring a fairer, more ethical, more participatory democracy and government that work for us all.
This fall, all those issues and more are on the line. That’s why we’re asking you to join us in knocking on doors, making phone calls, and encouraging people to vote, participate–and move the ball forward toward a better future.
GNYCFC volunteers will be traveling to Pennsylvania to help keep that battleground state Blue and to neighborhoods in Long Island and the Hudson Valley to elect a progressive majority in the New York State Senate. It’s fun, and it’s the best way to ensure that you won’t wake up on November 9th wishing you’d done more.

SIGN UP TO VOLUNTEER FOR HILLARY AND FEDERAL ELECTION CANDIDATES IN PENNSYLVANIA: Pennsylvania is a swing state on the presidential level, and we have a chance to elect the state’s first woman senator ever in Katie McGinty. In 2012, KeepPABlue helped move the election dial a few points forward to re-elect President Barack Obama; this year, buses will leave and return to Union Square every Saturday and all GOTV days starting September 17th. No prior canvassing experience is necessary.
SIGN UP TO VOLUNTEER TO FLIP THE NEW YORK STATE SENATE: Our state senate races receive less media attention than the Presidential race, but much of the dysfunction in our state is a result of the continued Republican control of the State Senate. This year we have a real chance to win back the State Senate, and you can help. There will be phone banks in Manhattan and day canvassing trips to key senate districts outside the city to campaign for great progressive candidates. Free transportation is provided, and no prior canvassing or calling experience is needed.
Let’s work together this fall. We can win this, together!

Sometimes the polite way doesn’t work. Then we take to the streets.

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On June 12th, 49 LGBT club-goers were slaughtered and 53 more injured with an assault weapon in Orlando, FL. The US Congress had no response besides the usual prayers and a strangely deafening moment of silence. That’s why Gays Against Guns is replacing moments of silence with moments of action to make our elected representatives pass sensible gun reforms.
Two weeks after the Orlando massacre, and just days after Congressman John Lewis’s sit-in on the House floor highlighting Congressional inaction on gun safety, hundreds of GAGers marched in the NYC Pride Parade, 49 of them shrouded in white veils and carrying signs with the names and faces of each Orlando victim.
In early July, GAG “named, shamed, and blamed” NRA puppet Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-LI) with a demonstration in his district and a puppet in his likeness. GAG members demonstrated outside Trump Tower on the opening night of the Republican National Convention. They staged “die-ins” outside two New York City Reebok Crossfit stores after learning that the winner of an annual fitness contest would receive a Glock handgun–the same gun used against Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and 19 others in Tucson, AZ in 2011. New GAG chapters are sprouting up across the nation, with actions to shame politicians in the NRA’s pockets this election season.
We’re in. Greater NYC for Change has long fought for sensible gun safety laws–laws supported by 90% of Americans and a large majority of NRA members.
We’ve seen the massacres, but also the daily gun violence that kills 33,000 Americans each year. Other nations–the UK, Canada, and Australia among them–have responded to crisis with life-saving gun regulations. Here at home, we increasingly recognize the futility of polite lobbying of politicians. Constituents need to know who is working for them, and who is working for the gun industry.
There’s more: Gun violence disproportionately affects minority and vulnerable communities–children at Sandy Hook, worshipers at a Charleston prayer group, young Black men, and the LGBT community, itself the target of an estimated 20% of all hate crimes. Trans women and LGBT people of color are at greatest peril. But as the direct actions led by ACT UP and others in the fight against HIV-AIDS and for Marriage Equality demonstrate, the LGBT community knows how to fight–and get results.

YOU can join us. Email gagnyoutreach@gmail.com and “like” GAG  on Facebook. You don’t need to be gay to join GAG. All you need is a healthy disgust at politicians who won’t do their most fundamental job: ensuring our safety and protecting us from danger.

This could be it — the tipping point.

One day, we may look back on this summer as the time when our nation resolved it would no longer tolerate racialized policing. The time when we took the first concrete action to change the way law enforcement agencies engage communities of color. When we reminisce, perhaps we will scratch our heads and wonder what took so long for us to even acknowledge the problem.

Many of us will be proud to say that we were there and helped do it. Together.

No matter what the coming days hold, let us never forget the lives lost to one of the most horrific manifestations of institutionalized racism. Dear Ally for Justice, step back and allow space for people affected by discriminatory policing to grasp and discuss the real possibility that they, too, could become a hashtag one day. Let’s listen openly and refrain from derailing these dialogues by centering other policy agendas.

Most importantly, let’s be mindful. Black Lives Matter is an affirmation of equality, not a demand for supremacy. This outcry is not preceded by an invisible “only,” nor does it exclude other, unspoken lives. If you’re tired of hearing and seeing Black Lives Matter, be thankful that your survival does not depend on this pledge becoming a reality.

  I N   M E M O R I A M  

Philando Castile, 32, had worked for the St. Paul, MN public school system since the age of 19. Recently promoted to a supervisory position in Nutrition Services, he was working as a cafeteria manager at the J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School at the time of his murder.

The kids called him “Mr. Phil.” In the words of a co-worker, “Kids loved him. He was smart, overqualified, … quiet, respectful, and kind. I knew him as warm and funny; he called me his ‘wing man.’”

On the news of his death, a parent wrote, “Every day he fist-bumped my kids, even when they were acting up. He knew every single [student] by name, pushed extra food in them like a grandma, and sneaked extra graham crackers into my son’s bag because [he] got a kick out of it. My borderline autistic son hugged him every day….This was a good man.”

Alton Sterling, 37, was raised by his aunt, Sandra Sterling, who called the large, jovial man a “generous giant.” The father of five children, he had his own struggles with law enforcement, but was respected, kind, and deeply loved by his family. At the time of his fatal encounter with police, he was living in a shelter run by a church group in Baton Rouge, LA and making his living selling music CDs. He was widely known as a “people person” and called “Big A” by his customers.

His cousin, Elliott Sterling, said, “If somebody asked for blues or country music, he’d know it all. He couldn’t make it in a regular job, but he could make it selling CDs. He could converse with everybody.”

An aunt, Regina Adams, remembered: “When he was little, I used to always tell him to go home. I wish I could tell him to go home now.”

TAKE THE #M4BL PLEDGE, and share widely to help end the systemic violence that visits Black communities every day.

GNYCfC SUPPORTS CAMPAIGN ZERO to end police violence in America by limiting police interventions, improving community interactions, and ensuring accountability. Its ongoing review of police union contracts is available here.