2014 Midterms: Where to Vote, What’s On Your Ballot, What You Need to Bring to the Polls

November 04, 2014 By: seeta Category: 2014 Mid-term Elections, Civil Rights, Voting Rights, What People are Doing to Change the World

Government For Good: The Wellstone! Way

October 25, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: 2014 Mid-term Elections, Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Economic Development, Education, Government for Good, Housing, Immigration, Intersectionality, Poverty, What People are Doing to Change the World

wellstone 2

“Politics is not about power. Politics is not about money. Politics is not about winning for the sake of winning. Politics is about the improvement of people’s lives.”

~ Senator Paul Wellstone ((July 21, 1944 – October 25, 2002)

wellstone 2

In era where government is so vilified, we at Critical Mass Progress would like to consider Government for Good. Collective governance – past present and future –  can work to defend/secure rights, distribute social and economic goods, provide legal recognition, jobs, healthcare and more., create opportunities via public schools, public works, and public policy that centers everyday people.


In this recurring feature,, we will highlight the many ways that government has worked for the common good. It is a call too to imagine what more can be done – locally, at the state level, and nationally to reclaim the idea — the reality too – that government can work to “improve people’s lives.”

Perhaps there is no better recent role model here than the late Senator Paul Wellstone, who died along with  his wife Sheila, daughter Marcia and five others, in that fateful plane crash 11 years ago today. His legacy and his words speak for themselves, and remind us, always,  of what  government for good can do. Please check the links below for more.

The Conscience of the Senate .

Thank you Paul, this one’s for you.

Wellstone’s Revenge: How Minnesota Democrats Took Their State Back

MPR, Memorials Keep Paul Wellstone’s Memory Alive

Al Franken, Paul Wellstone’s Legacy, 10 Years Later

Wellstone Action


Steve Heitzeg has put together a bench memorial to Paul Wellstone. On the bench is a photograph of a smiling Wellstone, along with a Wellstone quote about social justice. (MPR Photo/ Mark Zdechlik)

Steve Heitzeg has put together a bench memorial to Paul Wellstone. On the bench is a photograph of a smiling Wellstone, along with a Wellstone quote about social justice. (MPR Photo/ Mark Zdechlik)


LISTEN: This Week’s Oral Arguments in Shelby County v. Holder (Audio/Transcript)

March 03, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Voting Rights

From The Oyez Project:

The Fourteenth Amendment protects every person’s right to due process of law. The Fifteenth Amendment protects citizens from having their right to vote abridged or denied due to “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The Tenth Amendment reserves all rights not expressly granted to the federal government to the individual states. Article Four of the Constitution guarantees the right of self-government for each state.

The Civil Rights Act of 1965 was enacted as a response to the nearly century-long history of voting discrimination. Section 5 prohibits eligible districts from enacting changes to their election laws and procedures without gaining official authorization. Section 4(b) defines the eligible districts as ones that had a voting test in place as of November 1, 1964 and less than 50% turnout for the 1964 presidential election. Such districts must prove to the Attorney General or a three-judge panel of a Washington, D.C. district court that the change “neither has the purpose nor will have the effect” of negatively impacting any individual’s right to vote based on race or minority status. Section 5 was originally enacted for five years, but has been continually renewed since that time.

Shelby County, Alabama, filed suit in district court and sought both a declaratory judgment that Section 5 and Section 4(b) are unconstitutional and a permanent injunction against their enforcement. The district court upheld the constitutionality of the Sections and granted summary judgment for the Attorney General. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that Congress did not exceed its powers by reauthorizing Section 5 and that Section 4(b) is still relevant to the issue of voting discrimination.

Does the renewal of Section 5 of the Voter Rights Act under the constraints of Section 4(b) exceed Congress’ authority under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, and therefore violate the Tenth Amendment and Article Four of the Constitution?


Chief Justice John G. Roberts: We’ll hear argument first this morning in Case 12-96, Shelby County v. Holder.

Mr. Rein?

Bert W Rein: Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

Almost 4 years ago, eight Justices of the Court agreed the 2005 25-year extension of Voting Rights Act Section 5’s preclearance obligation, uniquely applicable to jurisdictions reached by Section 4(b)’s antiquated coverage formula, raised a serious constitutional question.

Those Justices recognized that the record before the Congress in 2005 made it unmistakable that the South had changed.

They questioned whether current remedial needs justified the extraordinary federalism and cost burdens of preclearance.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor: May I ask you a question?

Assuming I accept your premise, and there’s some question about that, that some portions of the South have changed, your county pretty much hasn’t.

Bert W Rein: Well, I–

Justice Sonia Sotomayor: In — in the period we’re talking about, it has many more discriminating — 240 discriminatory voting laws that were blocked by Section 5 objections.

There were numerous remedied by Section 2 litigation.

You may be the wrong party bringing this.


White Supremacy Unwilling to Die: Voting Rights Act Imperiled

March 02, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Judiciary, Intersectionality, White Privilege

The Neo-Confederate Supreme Court Gearing Up to Restore White Rule Over America, Alternet:

bloody sunday

 If white rule in the United States is to be restored and sustained, then an important first step will be the decision of the five Neo-Confederate justices on the U.S. Supreme Court to gut the Voting Rights Act, a move that many court analysts now consider likely.

The Court’s striking down Section Five of the Voting Rights Act will mean that jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting – mostly in the Old Confederacy – will be free to impose new obstacles to voting by African-Americans, Hispanics and other minorities without first having to submit the changes to a federal court…..

The Supreme Court’s apparent intention to gut the Voting Rights Act also could be viewed in the continuum of its five-to-four ruling in the Citizens United case of 2010 in which the right-wing justices freed up rich Americans to spend unlimited amounts to influence political campaigns. In other words, the Court’s majority seems intent on tilting the political playing field in favor of white plutocrats.

But the Court’s Neo-Confederate rationale was underscored mostly openly by Justice Scalia and his sneering remark about minority voting rights being a “racial entitlement” and by Justice Kennedy’s insistence that Alabama has the “independent sovereign” right to set its own voting rules without federal oversight.

CI: Forward

November 07, 2012 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: 2012 Election, Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Consumer Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Eco-Justice, Economic Development, Education, Housing, Immigration, Intersectionality, LGBTQ, Prisoner Rights, Spirituality, Voting Rights, Workers' Rights

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

Editors note: Next week we will be back on task -discussing the always on-going work of dismantling the PIC, made more possible now, by yesterday’s result. Today , we will celebrate the larger Victory!

We asked here for breathing room and yes we received it — many thanks to the millions who braved long lines, resisted efforts at voter suppression, defied the billions in dark money.

Yes You Did!

Thank you to OFA for creating the most relentlessly people-powered machine in the history of politics — you made it possible for us to get it done. Thanks also to President Bill Clinton and 538 Nate for #Arithmetic,  for keeping it real. And of course much love and so many thanks to Give “Em Hell Harry Reid – he told the truth and shamed the devil while his  Nevada operation put the state out of reach before the polls even opened on Tuesday.

More breathing room.

A special thank you too to Seeta Persaud for this inspiring space and to Kay Whitlock for her steady call to the bolder vision. I am indebted.

Thanks to all of you who regularly read CI and to those whose tireless work for justice is sometimes featured here. You know who you are..

There is always so much work to do and yes we will do it. Today, just a reminder of what we have achieved, in the form a piece i wrote last September, willing it all to be so. And it was.. Of course. much more happened between then and now — forces of nature, more enemy obfuscation, but the central theme holds nonetheless.

We were Called and We Delivered..

More Power to Us.


Praise Song/Prophecy

November 05, 2012 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: 2012 Election, Intersectionality, Spirituality, Voting Rights

Praise Song/Prophecy

commentary by nancy a heitzeg

For reasons unclear to me at the time, I re-read the 2009 Inauguration poem,

“Praise Song for the Day”.

And there it was.

Not just a poem for one day, but everyday. A poem for now. A poem for tomorrow.

Not just a poem, a prophecy.

Inauguration 2013 is on January 21 – on the National Holiday that is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

We have always said here — with Leader Pelosi – “everything is at stake.”  

And so it is — that legacy too.

But We Decide and so we have – what if the mightiest word is love?”

Dreamers Prevail .

Go Vote tomorrow with Great Joy — We still walk “forward in that light.

 “Praise Song for the Day”

written and recited by Elizabeth Alexander, for the Inauguration of President Barack Hussein Obama, January 20, 2009. Published by as provided by Graywolf Press.

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

NJ to Use Military Trucks as Polling Places

November 01, 2012 By: seeta Category: 2012 Election, Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Eco-Justice, Science/Technology, Voting Rights

From NBC News:

New Jersey state officials say they are extending the deadline for mail-in ballots and will deploy military trucks to serve as polling places on Election Day in storm-battered communities.

Republican Secretary of State and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno said Thursday county clerks’ offices have been ordered to remain open this weekend to help process mail-in ballots.

Voters will be able to go to the clerks’ offices through Tuesday to fill out mail-in ballots and hand them in.

Requests for mail-in ballots are typically accepted by mail up to a week before an election and in person until 3 p.m. the day before an election.

Guadagno says it’s unclear how many of the state’s 3,000 polling places have electricity but she will know better Friday. More than 1.7 million electric customers are without power.

Meanwhile in NY, the deadline to vote by absentee ballot has been extended:

Attention All New York State Voters:

Extension of Absentee Ballot Application Deadline. The State Board of Elections has approved an extension of the Absentee Ballot deadline for all voters in the state from October 30th to November 2nd. Therefore, for all absentee ballot applications sent by MAIL or FAX, they now must be received no later than Friday, November 2nd. The IN PERSON deadline remains Monday, November 5th.

Extension of Absentee Ballot Receipt Deadline. The State Board of Elections has approved an extension of the deadline for absentee ballots to be received and counted from 7 days after Election Day to 13 days after Election Day. Ballots must still be postmarked no later than Monday, November 5th, however they now have until November 19th to arrive at the local Board of Elections.

For the latest information concerning the Board of Elections in the City of New York please follow this link:

County Board of Elections Poll Site Changes due to the storm.

From the NYC BOE:

The Board of Elections in the City of New York staff has been working diligently around the clock to make sure that we are prepared for Election Day. Hurricane Sandy and the loss of electricity have made our task more challenging. Our central phone bank (866 VOTE NYC) is not functioning properly and our Manhattan and Staten Island offices have been closed since Monday due to loss of power. Our offices in the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn are now open and operating between the hours of 10AM and 9PM. Since the Manhattan Borough is closed due to loss of power, temporary office has been set up in Manhattan at the Borough’s Voting Machine Facility. Our Staten Island office is closed, however, we are working closely with building management to serve the voters of Staten Island as soon as possible. The processing of absentee ballot applications has been delayed by the storm but our staff are working diligently to process all absentee ballots that will be distributed by USPS overnight mail. Other NYC agencies have assigned some of their workers to assist in our efforts and we appreciate their assistance. We will keep voters informed of developments in our Election Day operations by posting updates on our website and periodically issuing news releases. For additional information, please visit our website at www.

1780 Grand Concourse, 5 Fl
Bronx, NY 10457
Tel: 1.718.299.9017

345 Adams Street, 4 Fl
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Tel: 1.718.797.8800

126-06 Queens Boulevard
Kew Gardens, NY 11415
Tel: 1.718.730.6730

Manhattan Borough office is closed. Operations temporarily relocated to the Manhattan Voting Machine Facility
450 West 33rd Street, 10Flr
New York, NY 10001
Tel: 1.212.465.0503

Staten Island Borough office is closed until further notice.
1 Edgewater Plaza, 4 Fl
Staten Island, NY 10305
Tel: 1.718.876.0079

T-Minus 5 Days to Get Out the Vote

November 01, 2012 By: seeta Category: 2012 Election, Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Voting Rights

Make Calls or Canvass

You don’t have to leave your home to volunteer for President Obama this weekend. Supporters across the country are taking part in online phone banks right now. Many voters in battleground states are already hitting the polls and voting early, so why not give a few of them a call? Encourage folks to get out there and win this election for President Obama—he’s counting on you for the next 5 days. Sign up for a shift or start making calls right now.

Take 30 minutes today and make some calls.

Volunteer to Be a Poll Monitor on Election Day

We need your help in ensuring that all eligible voters have the opportunity to participate in this great democracy. There are many ways you can pitch in.

Election Protection – led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – is the nation’s largest non-partisan voter protection coalition. Through the 1-866-OUR-VOTE hotline and a comprehensive legal field deployment, Election Protection helps ensure eligible voters are able to participate in our democracy while collecting data for meaningful reform so that our elections are free, fair, and accessible.

Click below to view volunteer opportunities:

Organize – Being an organizer for voting rights is easy when you have online resources. Follow @866OurVote on Twitter and like us on Facebook so that you can always be up to date on the most crucial information affecting voters. Put your online organizing skills to work by retweeting, “liking”, and sharing our posts on social media—we’ll be sure to do the same.

Spread the word – It’s important to be prepared for Election Day by keeping 1-866-OUR-VOTE saved in your phone and making sure the Election Protection Smartphone App (listed as “Election Protection” in Google Play or “ElectProtect” in iTunes) is installed and working properly on your phone. After it’s on your phone, ask 10 of your friends to get the app and put the hotline number on speed dial. Have questions or problems voting? Call the hotline.

Know Your Rights! State Specific Voter Checklists

You have the right to vote—it’s the law. Use the voter’s checklist to find out the 8-10 things voters need to know before heading to the polls on Election Day.

State Specific Voter Checklists

Volunteer in a Swing State

Sign up to Poll Watch in Pennsylvania or another Swing State

1-866-OUR-VOTE Hotline

The Election Protection Hotline, 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683), is the only live nationwide voter assistance hotline. Voters can call the Hotline to receive answers to their questions – no matter how simple or complex – and report problems to be addressed by a highly trained volunteer.

Voters can call the Hotline to:

• Verify registration status
• Find out how to register to vote
• Receive information on early and absentee voting
• Find their polling location
• Receive technical assistance on voter ID acquisition
• Report voter intimidation or deceptive election practices

Check Out and Share CMP’s 2012 Election Voter Toolkit

As Election Day nears and early voting begins in a handful of states, many voters will wonder what gadgets they can take with them into the voting booth. The answer? Just about anything. Voters are permitted to consult information from within the voting booth from their smartphones or tablets.

View the rest of CMP’s 2012 Election Voter Toolkit Here

Remember as Rosa Parks once said, “You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right.”