Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Bloomberg Should Pay Fines of Florida Citizens with Prior Felony Convictions So They Can Vote in November


Sign the MoveOn Petition Here!

The Biden and Trump campaigns are focusing on Florida, the state so evenly divided that elections are often won by a few thousand or even a few hundred votes. 

It was a big setback when in September a Federal appeals court dominated by Trump nominees ruled that over 700,000 former felons, many of whom lean Democratic, would not be able to vote unless they paid all their court fees. 

In 2019, Florida voters passed an amendment to the state constitution that restored voting rights to those with felony convictions who had completed “all terms” of their sentences.  The Republican state legislature decided that “all terms” also requires payment of fines and fees, overturning the will of the voters.

Their decision was initially struck down in Federal court.  A judge found that the overwhelming majority of former felons would be too poor to pay the amounts owed, if they could find out what they owed, saying that the law had created an “administrative nightmare” and was effectively an unconstitutional tax on voting. The amount of fees, and the completion of their payments, can only be determined by officials of the county in which the violations have occurred.  That’s the system that the Federal appeals court just reaffirmed.

Fortunately, returning citizens can turn to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition to navigate this process.  FRRC has also taken donations of $3 million so far to help them pay off fines. 

Of the total number of Florida’s returning citizens at least 85,000 have already registered to vote.   It’s unclear how much fines those citizens owe, or the procedures for paying off a majority of them rapidly. Since most such fees are considered unlikely to be paid off, county officials may be open to negotiation for part payment of back fees, according to the Fines and Fees Justice Center.  A $5 or $10 million donation to FRRC right now could be pivotal to the presidential race.  It’s a hypothetical question until a large donor contacts FRRC.   

There are quite a few extremely wealthy Americans who could easily put that up, but the most likely candidate is Michael Bloomberg.  

Forbes magazine ranked him as one of the richest people in the world, with a net worth of $60 billion.  Tom Steyer, whose presidential campaign also folded quickly, has a net worth of only $1.6 billion.  Bloomberg could donate Steyer’s entire net worth to 2020 campaigns and would hardly notice it.

Bloomberg spent $935 million dollars of his own money on his brief presidential run.  That sum exceeded the $748 million Barack Obama raised from donors in the 2008 election. After he ended his campaign, Democrats were relieved to hear him promise a “massive spending blitz,”  in which he would donate whatever it took to beat Trump. 

As of late July, Bloomberg had given $18 million to the Democratic National Committee and $11 million to the House Majority PAC.  He had also spent $331 million on efforts to combat Covid-19. 

In August he pledged $60 million more to Democratic House races. In September, he committed to spending $100 million to the Biden campaign in Florida.  These recent donations are laudable, but insufficient. Given our dire circumstances and Bloomberg’s immense resources, we urge him to step up his support for Democratic campaigns immediately. 

On September 17, the Miami Herald Editorial Board agreed, calling Bloomberg the last hope for these potential voters, as October 5 is the last day to register. ("Write a big old check, Mr. Bloomberg, and help Florida's ex-felons vote in November.")

On September 21, the New York Times published an op ed, "This is How Bloomberg Can Help Biden Win Florida," with the same request.

Mr. Bloomberg, please contact FRRC and determine how best to pay the fees and secure the voting rights for the largest number of Florida’s returning citizens in time for this election. 

And next, please make good on your promise to donate whatever it takes to beat Trump. Your investments are at risk. All the previous good works of Bloomberg Philanthropies - on the arts, education, the environment, good government, and public health – will be in dire peril unless Democrats take the White House and Senate.  At stake is America remaining a nation of laws, not an authoritarian regime, and our capacity to respond to the virus and the climate crisis.  Everything is on the line.  Please do as much as you can right now. 


A Tight Trump-Biden Race in Florida: Here’s the State of Play,” NYT,

“Court upholds Florida law requiring felons to pay fines, fees before they can vote,” The Hill,

“Supreme Court Deals Major Blow to Ex-Felon’s Right to Vote in Florida,” NPR,

“Federal appeals court blocks Florida's felons from voting until fees and fines are paid,” USA Today,

Florida Rights Restoration Coalition,

“Felons Have the Potential to Swing Close 2020 Races,” Politico,

“Bloomberg Gave Almost $1 Billion to his Presidential Campaign,” Bloomberg,

“Bloomberg Plots Spending Blitz to Support Joe Biden’s Run for President,” CNBC,

“Bloomberg Vowed to Spend Whatever It Takes to Beat Trump. Democrats Are Still Waiting,” NPR,

“Bloomberg Promised to Spend Big Against Trump.  What Happened?” NY1,

“Mike Bloomberg gives $60 Million to help Democrats in November as former campaign aides turn against him,” Guardian,

“Mike Bloomberg to Commit at Least $100 Million to Help Biden Campaign in Florida,” Time,

“Bloomberg Philanthropies Unveil Website and Priorities,” Chronicle of Philanthropy,

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Encouraging Sierra Club's NY State Chapter to get involved with the election

How Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter can prevent Trump’s reelection

(Here's my pitch to the Sierra Club NY State Chapter leadership. We'll see if anyone writes back.)

While early July polling shows that Biden has a lead over Trump in many states, it would be extremely dangerous to assume that Biden’s victory is assured.  Don’t forget that Republicans are certainly planning to cheat in many ways (see links below).  It’s of crucial importance that Democratic candidates win by large enough margins, ideally landslides, to overcome dirty tricks.  Obviously, a Trump re-election would be apocalyptic.  All environmentalists and progressives should put their current campaigns on hold, put aside any complacency, and immediately join existing get out the vote efforts. 

Fortunately for Sierra Club chapters and members, there is an excellent electoral campaign already up and running through Sierra Club Independent Action.  I have personally been volunteering through their texting program.  Phone calling and letter writing are also available at The SCIA plan includes supporting all 64 Sierra Club chapters across the country as they work to elect pro-climate candidates up and down the ballot. After the election, the organizing and new volunteers recruited will pivot toward advocacy.

I urge the Atlantic Chapter to recognize that we are in a five-alarm fire state of emergency, immediately coordinate with National staff, and recruit all Sierra Club members and friends in the Chapter to plug in to the SCIA electoral campaign.  An Atlantic Chapter effort could tip tight state races from red to blue this November.  Looking forward, this organizing could recruit new members and expand chapter conservation efforts.  I look forward to your reply. 


Dan Miner

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Beyond the virus: building the blue wave

These are extremely challenging times, but there is a single crucial intervention that will turn our fortunes around.  Whether you're motivated by a progressive cause, whether you value the rule of law and competent government that respects facts, or whether you simply want to survive: the Democrats must take back the White House and Senate this November.  A massive organizing effort is already underway to identify and catalyze Democratic voters.  The more people get involved, the greater the chances of its success.  

Failure is not an option. The Reagan and Bush administrations were bad, but since the Republican Party's takeover by a confederation of criminal enterprises with Trump at the center, the magnitude of its evil has grown to previously unimaginable levels.

Remember, it's not Trump alone.  The entire Republican Party is complicit.  The progression of demographic trends, If there were repression-free elections, and districts not twisted by gerrymandering, would have already shrunk the Republicans into a minority party. But as we've already seen, they will use every illegitimate means at their disposal to stay in power. If Trump is reelected and the Senate remains under Republican control in November, they will complete their quest for right wing, authoritarian tyranny.

However, if Democrats regain control, we can begin repairing the damage of the last few years, and implement progressive plans for a better future.

The strategy is straightforwardly partisan.  Political scientist Rachel Bitecofer, who predicted the 2018 midterm election results almost exactly, says the old focus on pursuing middle of the road swing voters is outdated. The millions of Americans brainwashed by right wing propaganda and cults probably can't be deprogrammed, but they are a
 minority of the electorate and can be outvoted

The parties are coalitions of demographic groups and factions, encompassing hard-core loyalists and those who lean in that direction. What binds them together is negative partisanship: shared hatred of the other point of view.  To win, Democratic campaigns have to identify and target districts with a potential majority of anti-Trump voters, and fire them up to vote, in person or by mail.

In 2016, millions didn't bother to vote, or threw their votes away on third party and write-in candidates.  The pandemic and the economic crisis should awaken many of those non-voters to the need for change. Massive campaigns to contact and organize voters are needed, and are already underway.  They beat Republican voter repression plans in the Wisconsin primary.  They can beat propaganda campaigns that aim to persuade people not to vote, or that there's no point in voting, which are a more likely threat than outright election theft.

Here's what we can do

You might be cooped up at home, and have some extra time on your hands.  You might be angry at what's going on, but don't have an outlet.  Or be afraid to go outside and deliver meals to neighbors.   If you're already doing activist work, consider redirecting it here for the next few months.  Nothing can have a larger impact on your cause than whether there is a national blue wave or not.

Texting or phoning voters in swing states

With in-person campaign methods like knocking on doors no longer an option, campaigns have gone fully digital. Technology allows volunteers to make phone calls or send texts from anywhere.  Both methods require volunteers to sign onto a software platform, follow a script, and record voter data.  Campaigns can identify supporters, send targeted information, and get them to act.  

Texting has some advantages over phoning.  Instead of making one call at a time, volunteers can send large numbers of texts quickly, and respond to those who text back.  Being able to select scripted text replies ensures you're never put on the spot or have to guess at a reply. But give phoning a try if you think you'd like it.  Here are some options.

As of early May, only Open Progress Text Troop has daily texting campaigns.  DNC, People Power and Resistance Labls have them sometimes.  Other groups are likely to start more text campaigns over time.  Most of these groups offer remote phone banking.

- Democratic National Committee
Joe Biden campaign
Swing Left
Open Progress Text Troop
Next Gen America Texting Team
- Resistance Labs Texting Team
- Grassroots Democrats
- ACLU People Power Texting Team
- Together for 2020 Texting
Tip of the hat to Eric Arnum, Climate Solutions Digest, for this list:
1] Swing Left -  host Zoom house parties, letter writing & phonebanking in 12 key states incl PA & FL

2] Turnout2020 - phonebanking to 10 swing states incl PA & FL

3] Payback Project - texting in 11 flippable Senate races

4] Reclaim My Vote - fights minority voter suppression

5] Post Cards to Voters - focused on key FL races

6] Progressive Turnout Project - senate and white house races in 16 key states incl PA & FL

7] Vote Forward -  GOTV letter writing in 8 states incl FL & MI

8] New York Census - calling or texting NY residents to fill census forms

We can't go back to normal.  We must go forward. 

Public health experts told the NY Times that lockdowns and social distancing can eventually be relaxed - but only after transmission of the virus is brought under control, that we have full testing and contact tracing capacity, and be able to treat and quarantine those who are sick.  That could be awhile  And we're still at the early stages of the economic crisis. Both matters will expose other underlying predicaments that have been steadily growing for years.

Systems analysts look at how political, economic, energy and environmental systems interact, and have a very different perspective than experts in single areas.  They've recognized that infinite financial growth is not possible on a planet with finite resources.  That because of the climate crisis, we have to move beyond our dependence on limited supplies of fossil fuels, and toward renewable energy.  That the world's financial system,
artificially pumped up with massive debt bubbles since the 2008 financial crash, is unsustainable and much more fragile than it appears. As Richard Heinberg, Nate Hagens, and Nafeez Ahmed have written, we must steer toward more resilient and economically just ways of operating.

The plans and the technologies to do this exist

Look at Project Drawdown, a collection of the top 100 scientifically validated initiatives to reverse the climate crisis, create sustainable economic growth, and restore ecosystems.  Look at Elizabeth's Warren's plans to reboot the US government.  Up to now, fundamental change has been blocked by powerful interests that have fought hard for the status quo, and have allied themselves with the Republicans.  

Biden and Obama are coming to agree with Warren and Sanders that fundamental change is needed now. The good news is that we can use this time of crisis to evolve, adapt, and build a better society.

That evolutionary leap is only possible if there is a massive enough organizing effort to produce a blue wave. We need you. Will you help? 

Besides volunteering with these campaigns, you can also help by sharing and re-posting.  Write back with any feedback.  Thanks!