Common Cause 2016 Year-end Report: Win and Keep Winning

Common Cause 2016 Year-end Report: Win and Keep Winning

The 2016 election, no matter your political perspective, had twists and turns that continue to provide shocks, and real challenges to our democracy. At Common Cause, as we look over 2016 for lessons learned and prepare for the challenges and opportunities ahead, our motivating thought is to, “Win and keep winning.” That’s what we did in 2016 thanks to your support. You are an integral part of each and every victory outlined in this year-end review – and that’s just a sampling. Thank you for standing up for democracy and with Common Cause in this critical moment in our history.

Accessible and Secure Voting: Automatic and Online Voter Registration, Early Voting, and Election Protection 

  • Connecticut: Adopted Automatic Voter Registration administratively with a Memorandum of Understanding between the Secretary of State and the Department of Motor Vehicles. Once fully implemented, the state will automatically register more than 400,000 currently unregistered voters.
  • California: Passed legislation to create vote centers, following Colorado’s lead in 2013 to create one of the most comprehensive electoral packages in the country
  • Delaware: Eliminated requirements that citizens returning from prison have to pay all fees and fines before voting (this is seen by some as a modern poll tax given other voters are not required to pay similar fees owed to the state prior to voting).
  • Maryland: Updated the state’s voter registration laws expanding the “motor voter” model to extend beyond the Dept. of Motor Vehicles increasing the state agencies that can register voters. Maryland now has the most agencies actively registering voters and the most agencies doing so electronically.
  • Maryland: Overrides Gov. Hogan’s veto to pass Common Cause-supported felon re-enfranchisement bill to provide 40,000+ more Marylanders with the right to vote.
  • Massachusetts: Led a coalition campaign to implement early voting, resulting in record breaking voter turnout.
  • New Mexico: Implemented its new law allowing 17 year olds to vote in primary elections if they will be 18 by the general election.
  • Ohio: Won online voter registration, which will be implemented in January 2017, making registration more convenient.
  • Oregon: Implemented successfully the nation’s first Automatic Voter Registration law contributing to a record turnout of more than two million voters.
  • Rhode Island: Passed Online Voter Registration, becoming the 31st state to do so.
  • National Election Protection: Recruited more than 5,000 volunteers and led statewide Election Protection efforts in 20 states, directly assisting voters and rooting out intimidation, and identifying problems in the election process that inform our year round reform agenda.

Open, Accountable, and Fair Elections: Reducing the influence of big money in politics

  • California: Won passage of SB 1107, removing a ban on public financing for all California jurisdictions with bipartisan support and a two-thirds margin, opening up the largest state to bold and aggressive reforms.  We also won Fair Elections at the ballot for voters in Berkeley.
  • Maryland: Won the Howard County Fair Elections ballot initiative in 2016 as well as secured full funding the Montgomery County Fair Elections Act.
  • New York: Initiated investigation into New York City mayor’s fund-raising for advocacy organization he set up, leading to the closure of the organization and the passage of a first-in-the-nation city law setting limits for contributions to nonprofits set up by elected officials.
  • Oregon: Won a Portland City Council vote to secure Open and Accountable Elections.

Fair Districts and More Competitive Elections: Encourage consensus and collaboration across the aisle by ending gerrymandering

  • California: Won a city-wide independent redistricting ballot initiative for the citizens of Sacramento.
  • Florida: Court-ordered redistricting to remedy gerrymandering saw the adoption of our maps, which led to Florida being one of the most competitive states this election cycle.
  • Hawaii: Blocked Charter Amendment #19, which would have allowed members of the Apportionment Commission to all come from the same party, instead of the current limit of five of the nine members coming from the majority party. Blocking this bill is seen as preventing gerrymandering on Oahu as it retains the bi-partisan nature of the commission.

Higher Ethical Standards: Reducing conflicts of interest, improving transparency, reforming lobbying, prioritizing ethics

  • Connecticut: Gained independence for state watchdog agencies: State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC), Freedom of Information Commission (FOIC) and Office of State Ethics (OSE), an important step toward stronger enforcement of good government laws.
  • Connecticut: Initiated ethics investigation into state Insurance Commissioner’s conflicts of interest in mega-insurance merger (she recused herself after call for investigation and hearings).
  • Massachusetts: Overhauled the state’s Freedom of Information Act, improving transparency.
  • New Mexico: Required lobbying data filed with the state to be kept in a format that is easily searchable; requires lobbyists to report each expenditure of $75 or more; and requires lobbyist’s reports to reflect whether contributions came from the lobbyist’s employer or from the lobbyist.
  • New Mexico: Won legislation to archive the House committee and floor hearings online, making that information more accessible to the public.
  • Ohio: Passed a mediation process for those being denied public records.
  • Rhode Island: Won a ballot initiative on Ethics Reform that was seven years in the making. The new law amends the state’s Speech and Debate Clause for the first time in history, restoring oversight of the General Assembly to the Ethics Commission’s authority.
  • Rhode Island: Won a complete overhaul of lobbying laws.
  • South Carolina: Passed a bill to create an independent investigation commission on ethics to oversee and investigate lawmaker conduct.  Passed a bill to require lawmakers to disclose their outside income in order to understand potential conflicts of interest.

Access to Information and Media, Essential for an Informed Electorate

  • National: Lifeline Modernization to extend broadband to low-income households voted in March 2016, rolled out on December 1, 2016.

Preventing Constitutional Crisis

  • Delaware: Rescinded all calls for a “Convention of the States” as outlined in Article V of the Constitution. With no clear ways to limit such a convention or rules of how delegates would be chosen, Common Cause believes this is a dangerous path that could put decades of progress on civil rights and many other issues at risk.