Tag Archives: jon tester

Democrats Working to Increase Participation in Democracy

(California Young Democrat leaders have begun organizing for AB 1819 on Facebook! – promoted by Bob Brigham)

While the California Republican Party is busy defending tax breaks for yacht owners, Democrats are busy working to decrease barriers to voting and increase participation in democracy. The California Democratic Party Platform even talks about increasing participation:

To promote honest leadership and open government, California Democrats will:


  • Increase voter participation by advocating for extended voting hours and/or days, scheduling elections on weekends, or by declaring Election Day a holiday

While I agree that would be great, the current perspective of the CDP Platform is to seek increases in the percentage of participation among registered voters. Yet there is even greater potential to increase voter participation by reforming barriers to voter registration. This is the premise behind recent national legislation by Democrats in Congress and a bill by Assemblyman Curren Price for California.

These are two pieces of legislation that deserve to be followed closely, which means you’ll probably need to follow on the blogs as so far both reforms have been largely ignored by traditional media.

Federal Election Day Registration Legislation

If you want to increase participation in democracy and provide a crucial check on GOP efforts to disenfranchise voters, the most common sense reform available has already been proven effective:

Election Day Registration (EDR), also known as “Same Day Registration,” permits eligible citizens to register and vote on Election Day. Currently, eight states have EDR. A ninth, North Carolina, allows for Same Day Registration at early voting sites. EDR states typically boast voter turnout rates that are generally 10-12 percent higher than states without EDR, and report few problems with fraud, costs or administrative complexity. EDR significantly increases the opportunity to cast a vote and participate in American democracy.

This really is common sense. In the 2006 midterms, 40% of election news stories were aired in the final week — after the registration deadline in 42 states. Not only does EDR help new voters, but prevents disenfranchisement by allowing an easy remedy for voters who arrive at the polls only to find out there was a problem with their registration (the solution to Katherine Harris purges). Furthermore, this reform is more secure than mailed registration as the registrant is there in person and significantly reduces the volume of staff intensive provisional ballots.

Our friends at Progressive States (disclosure: I helped incubate the organization a few years ago) have been promoting EDR at the state level, but as much as I appreciate lateral redeployment of progress from state-to-state, we need to move forward nationally as all Americans deserve the benefits of such reform. That is why I was delighted to see that the day after the Bush Supreme Court ruled in favor of GOP disenfranchising voter identification laws, Democrats in Washington introduced federal Election Day Registration legislation:

U.S. Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) are introducing legislation to help more Americans register to vote by allowing Election Day registration at polling places for all federal elections. The Election Day Registration Act addresses chronic problems with the American electoral process – low voter turnout and archaic voter registration laws. Election Day registration is also seen as preferable to advance registration since voters are actually present when they register, reducing opportunities for fraud. The bill’s introduction comes days after the Supreme Court upheld an Indiana voter ID law that seriously impedes the ability of elderly and low-income Americans to vote. Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Jon Tester (D-MT), who represent states that recently enacted Election Day registration, are also cosponsors of the bill.

“The right to vote is at the heart of our democracy, and we should constantly be looking for ways to make it easier for Americans to exercise that right,” Feingold said. “Election Day registration has worked well in Wisconsin for more than 30 years and is a major reason why Wisconsin is a national leader in voter turnout. By allowing people to register in person on Election Day, we can bring more people into the process, which only strengthens our democracy.”

“For over 33 years, Minnesota’s same day registration law has helped produce the highest voter turnout of any state,” said Klobuchar. “Same day registration works, it encourages people to be engaged and interested in the issues facing our country – this bill gives a voice to every American who wants to vote.”

Indeed, Senator Klobuchar is correct in the results and the comparison between states’ differing approaches to unnecessary voter registration deadlines is stark.

From Future Majority PAC’s EDR page

This is important federal legislation and is well worth spending a few minutes to contact your representative and our Senators to politely ask that they co-sponsor this legislation. Please leave a comment with any progress on this front as I’ll be keeping a list to mark progress in getting the entire California delegation to join up. This is a “no brainer” in the words of Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.

California Assembly Bill 1819 to Expand Pre-Registration

In California, Assemblyman Curren Price is lowering barriers to participation at the other end of the registration window. His AB 1819 is an extremely forward thinking bill that could bring the youth organizing energy we’ve seen the last few cycles on college campuses into our high schools.

Progressive legislation, authored by Assemblymember Curren Price (D- Inglewood), that will allow young Californians to “pre-register” to vote at the age of 16 passed through the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee.

“Research shows that early involvement in politics leads to lifelong involvement,” said Assemblymember Price.  “Facilitating participation by younger voters empowers and engages our youth and ultimately strengthens our entire political process.”

According to the Secretary of State, more than 7.2 million eligible voters in California are not registered to vote – nearly one-third of California’s eligible voters.  Among young voters, participation is even lower – according to the most recent data available from the U.S. Census, more than 45 percent of eligible voters in California between 18 and 24 years of age were not registered to vote in 2004.  Furthermore, while participation by younger voters has increased in the last few elections, California ranks 36th in the nation for turnout among young voters.

As currently written, the bill would go into effect on January 1, 2010 and while I anticipate it would increase interest in that year’s midterm elections, the long-term effects of facilitating an expectation of participation in our high schools would be a boom for democracy. It is great to see AB 1819 co-sponsored by incoming Democratic Party leaders Karen Bass and Darrell Steinberg as I believe it is safe to assume California Republicans will throw a tantrum at the thought of expanding the pre-registration period from current law which allows pre-registration for those turning 18 prior to the next election. In fact, the bill was passed out of the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee on a party-line vote, with Republicans apparently having a problem with this:

Research shows that people who get involved in the political process at a young age are much more likely to become lifelong voters, so facilitating participation by younger voters can have positive long term effects on overall voter participation.


AB 1819 does not change the voting age, but by allowing 16 and 17 year olds to register to vote when they go to the DMV to get their first driver’s licenses, or when they are taking civics and government classes in high school, it will help those individuals take the first steps towards a lifetime of participation in our democracy.

I applaud Assemblyman Price’s focus on facilitating participatory democracy. With the Millennial generation the largest in our country’s history, such a focus will be felt decades down the road.

While we are lucky this cycle to have Barack Obama’s National Voter Registration Drive (beginning next Saturday with events in California from San Diego to Ukiah), it is legislation like this that will institutionalize increased participation regardless of the dynamics of a particular election.

And as long as Republican remains a slur, having more people vote will decrease the voice of yacht owners voting for tax loopholes. Which is why the GOP is fighting the idea of more people (who despise them) voting instead of reversing the actions that created the loathing. Until such an unlikely coming to terms with reality, removing barriers to voter registration will disproportionately benefit Democrats.

A near-term game changer for Democrats and a long-term game changer for democracy.

One More Lesson for Steve Westly

Over at CA Majority Report, former gubernatorial wannabe Steve Westly looks at what he calls the, “three key lessons from this year’s midterm election.” Setting aside the fact that you should never take advice from anyone who hired Garry South, the biggest problem is what Westly failed to learn.

The defining characteristic of this year’s campaigns was the wholesale rejection of the Democratic Leadership Council. Westly was DLC and lost to a candidate who asked the DLC to take his name off their list. In CA-11, the DLC route Steve Filson took resulted in him being stomped by 24% points.

That same day in Montana, Jon Tester scored a 26% point victory over a DLC candidate with far more money. Two months later, former DLC Chair Joe Lieberman lost his primary.

This is a trend, the biggest primary in 2008 is against former DLC Vice Chair Ellen Tauscher.

We are seeing the same dynamic in the 2008 presidential primary. The first two major candidates to pull out, Mark Warner and Evan Bayh, are both prominent DLC members and current Chair Tom Vilsack is expected to follow suit shortly. That will leave Hillary Clinton as the only remaining DLC candidate and her campaign is imploding.

This might be a painful lesson for Westly, but it is the lesson that should be drawn from the midterms. That, and never hire Garry South.

Monitor Senator Max Baucus

With Democrats only enjoying a one seat majority in the U.S. senate, a single Democratic defection would allow Vice President Dick Cheney to cast a tie-breaking vote. For Republicans, the number one target to undermine Harry Reid’s leadership is Senator Max Baucus (D-MT). Even the conservative New Republic wrote, “What Baucus does is use his influence as the top Democrat on the Finance Committee to systematically undercut his party and enable George W. Bush’s most egregious domestic legislation.”

Yesterday’s Washington Post has a story, Democrats to Push Pocketbook Issues where Sen. Baucus hinted at siding with big corporations to undermine incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

Many in the party want to change Medicare’s new drug benefit so the government can negotiate prices directly with pharmaceutical companies. Incoming Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) remains unsure. “We need to be very honest in getting the facts” about whether such a switch would be helpful, he said.

Would lowering prescription drug prices be helpful? For you and I, yes. But Max Baucus is wondering whether triangulating against Democrats will help his re-election campaign.

Policy experts agree that Senator Max Baucus deserves most of the blame for the Medicare disaster. Almost three years ago, Matthew Yglesias wrote an article for the American Prospect on Max Baucus and Medicare, titled Bad Max:

Fellow Democrats were even more aggrieved, however, by Baucus’ behavior during the Medicare battle with which Congress closed last year’s session. The Senate initially passed a compromise bill with support from Republicans and some liberal Democrats like Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), while the House put forward a much more partisan piece of legislation on a narrow vote. A conference committee composed of members of both chambers was convened, but the Republican leadership, in a sharp break from precedent, said that though Democrats could be officially appointed to the committee, none would be invited to the meetings where the substantive negotiations would take place and the actual bill be written. None, that is, except for Baucus and the similarly cooperative John Breaux of Louisiana, who will retire at the end of the year.

By lending this farce a veneer of bipartisan credibility, Baucus and Breaux essentially denied the Democrats what was not only their best chance of defeating the bill in question but the party’s last hope of putting a stop to a long string of Republican provocations aimed at reducing the minority party to window-dressing status.

As Norman Ornstein, a congressional analyst at the conservative American Enterprise Institute told The Washington Post in December, Democratic senators with any concern for the viability of the party would have said, “[I]f you don’t let in Tom Daschle [D-S.D.] — our leader, elected by the Senate to be in the room — then we’re not going in the room” and insisted that the Republicans at least abide by the rules.

Notably, Baucus’ behavior has drawn condemnation not just from liberals but from centrist Democrats outside of government who can normally be found extolling the virtues of such willingness to work across party lines.

That last line is key. It is The New Republic calling for Max Baucus to be stripped of seniority on the finance committee. It is Montana Democratic leaders who are having the conversations about a 2008 primary campaign to hopefully at least hold Baucus on major votes and if not be positioned for a change. Sirota explained:

For years, the grassroots in Montana has felt compelled to keep quiet about Baucus no matter what he has done on any issue. But things are different now. The successful Schweitzer 2004 and Tester 2006 campaigns have people in a proactive mood, meaning they are ready to strongly support Baucus if he’s serious about working-class issues, and  ready to voice opposition if he becomes Senator K Street in the new Congress.

Indeed, Montana Democrats chose populist Jon Tester over DLC Baucus wannabe John Morrison by a 26 pt landslide in this year’s primary. But the real problem for Baucus is comparing the primary election results for US Senate in the 2002 and 2006 primary.

2002 Midterm: Max Baucus, incumbent Senator, unopposed: 66,713 votes
2006 Midterm: Jon Tester, grossly outspent: 65,757

That is less than a thousand vote difference which speaks volumes about the lack of energy for Baucus and the clear preference for populist candidates in Montana. And Baucus has been simply awful on ecomonic issues, as William Greider wrote about Max Baucus in a piece titled, Senator Sellout

Yet leading the rush to appeasement is Senator Max Baucus of Montana, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee and the party’s number-one Quisling. Baucus tips over easily to outrageous deals with Republican tax-cutters. Back in 2001, he sold out on Bush’s reactionary tax reduction package. Now he is working to organize a rump group of Democratic senators for “compromise” on the estate tax. That is, give the Republican sponsors most of what they seek and, in the process, cripple possibilities for the future. […]

The second great task for grassroots Dems is to confront the party leaders on their own cowardly acquiescence. Why do they allow this one disloyal rogue to undercut the party’s position and yet escape any punitive consequences? If Democrats should win back Senate control this year, Baucus will become Finance Committee Chairman again–free do more outrageous tax favors for his wealthy pals.

MyDD political analyst Chris Bowers chronicled:

Here is some history on Max Baucus:
*Energy Bill: Yea
*Bankruptcy Bill: Yea
*Medicare Bill: Yea
*War Vote: Yea
*2001 Tax Cuts: Yea

When the chips are down, and it is time for all those who are not complicit with the radical conservative agenda in this country to be counted, almost every single time Max Baucus has chosen not to be counted. On the majority of the most egregiously foul pieces of Bush-led legislation over the past four years, Max Baucus has been complicit with the incompetence, deception, and destructive force that is modern conservatism (otherwise known as whatever George Bush did today). He only came back into line on Social Security after extensively cajoling. Today, he has outdone himself, by undercutting his own caucus leader by stating he would vote to confirm Roberts only hours after Harry Reid said he would not.

Even setting aside for as moment whether or not confirming Roberts is the right thing to do, why would Baucus issue a press release only hours after Reid’s? Is he intentionally trying to undercut the Democratic Party, and make us all as complicit as him? I think so. For that matter, why would he release a press statement at all? Baucus is not on the judiciary committee, he is not running for re-election in 2006, he has no national profile, he is not a member of the Gang and he will never run for President. What does the nation care what Baucus will do on Roberts? Why would he release this statement now, unless he was intentionally trying to undermine Reid? Why couldn’t he just vote however he wanted and shut up?

But TNR Editors go even further:

If you look closely enough at recent domestic policy debacles, you’ll invariably see his fingerprints. Facing George W. Bush’s massive tax-cut proposal in 2001, Baucus undermined the Senate Democrats’ strategy of forcing concessions by maintaining a united front. In private negotiations with his GOP counterpart, Chuck Grassley, Baucus produced a bill that handed the White House virtually all of its top priorities. Afterward, he boasted that he’d done Democrats a favor, since they “would have been in trouble in 2002 just saying no to every one of the president’s proposals.” We shudder to think what might have happened had the Democrats been labeled “obstructionist.”

Then there was the 2003 Medicare debate. Baucus, true to his method, agreed to a set of procedural conditions that undermined Democratic unity and preordained a disastrous outcome. Then he used the little authority he retained to–how to put it?–give away the store. In addition to agreeing to Health Savings Accounts–a gambit that he had once condemned as irresponsible–Baucus assented to a provision preventing Medicare from negotiating discounts with pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Baucus and his defenders–alternately known as his press office–make two arguments on his behalf. The first is that Baucus is simply doing what he needs to do to get reelected. (This argument usually masquerades behind the mantra of doing what’s best for the “people of Montana.”) But, unless the way to get ahead in Montana is to insist on overcharging Medicare patients by billions of dollars, the senator has been going far above and beyond the call of duty.

Baucus’s second argument is that Democrats get substantively better legislation when he engages Republicans on their behalf. But this argument assumes the Bush administration has the votes to pass legislation without Democratic support. Often, it’s Baucus who provides the margin of victory–either with his own vote or by crafting pseudo-compromises that provide cover for a small number of Democratic defectors. Indeed, the Democrats’ only real victory of the last five years–stuffing the administration on Social Security–came after Harry Reid cautioned Baucus against freelancing with the White House.

Even in the minority Republicans can still rule the senate, all they need is Max Baucus.

Photostream from “a beer with Jon Tester” fundraiser 7/17/2006

x-posted to mydd and dkos

In continuing my role as amateur documentarian, a role I accidentally (but gladly) was saddled with in yearlykos, I took my trusty Canon SD400 camera down to see Jon Tester. Moreover, as I was acting boss of my department, I took off work early to go get some retail politicing/fundraising/drinking done with our boy the next Senator from Montana… Jon Tester!

Tester said it was the kind of fundraiser he liked and could afford. I agree with that! After some engaging Q&A and engaging beer drinking, we headed over to drinking liberally at Zeitgeist… where we proceeded to do exactly that.

As always, there’s more, and if you like what you see, feel free to reco.
You can also see the whole gallery here.

Me and the next Senator from Montana, Jon Tester.
He’s a tall guy.
Also, guess where i’m from?

The next Senator from Montana, with the daughter of the Next Senator from Nevada, Sarah R. Carter.

Jon, chatting with the people, connecting, etc.

My two new pals visiting from NY. We talked about the difference between NY and CA politics, various races, etc.
Good folks!

I had just been singing the praises of Sarah R. Carter, when she walked in the door… that is serendipity friends!

Tack and his mustache, (the mustache didn’t have to pay)

believe it or not this was the best picture i could get of Markos, since he was pretty much constantly wrestling Aristotle. Sorry Kos!

Tester speaking with the people, his manner is easy and natural.

There was a Q&A period. I was impressed.

I asked “Jon, what are you going to do about Net Neutrality”, despite his protests and humbless, he knocked it straight out of the park, no two tier system, no pay to play, the net is our most valuable asset and it should stay that way.

The look he gave Burns when he was talking trash about his flattop.

Sarah R. Carter and sfjen!

Sarah and Bob Brigham!

Sarah, Tack and Jen… on our way to drinking liberally.

Jen gives drinking liberally a thumbs up.

mixed reaction.

thumbs down to (something? something to do with Villagarosa v. Angelides that I felt very adamant about at the time…)

Tack and Sarah R. Carter (the last of the good pictures before the demon alcohol took away my camera skills)