Monday, September 29, 2008

Protecting The Vote

By Laura Flanders

Voter registration deadlines are just over a week away in many states. Polls open in just over a month. In an election that could well be decided by new voters, voter registration efforts are in overdrive. But signing people up might be the easy part: after that, there's voting. As the last two elections have shown, just showing up at the polls isn't a guarantee of a smooth ride to the ballot box.

In 2000 and 2004, all across the country, thousands of voters were removed from the rolls, without their knowledge, in official purges of voter lists. On Election Day in 2004, boxes of registrations remained unprocessed in at least two cities we know about -- Cleveland and Toledo, Ohio. On the radio that election night, I received calls from Columbus voters who had stood for hours in line because of a shortage of voting machines in the inner city, even as, in nearby wealthy suburbs, voters were able to cast their votes in a matter of minutes. As one caller put it, "Jim Crow isn't dead."

By Sam Oliker-Friedland

I need to confess a shameful secret; a sin of omission from last year that I’ve regretted ever since. I didn’t vote.

By most measures, I am a politically engaged college student. I read the news and political blogs every day. Since I was in high school, I’ve organized voter registration drives to help other students vote, and can sit for hours discussing policy and politics with friends and family. But on April 1, 2008, when Wisconsin chose its swing Supreme Court Justice, I was not a part of that decision.

It’s not that I didn’t care -- I probably had a stronger opinion about those two candidates than I’ve had in most elections. I wasn’t distracted by an important trip, nor was I refusing to participate in a broken election system. I was away at school. Between term papers and the less academic portion of the college experience, I forgot to send in an application to get my absentee ballot.


By Jay Travis and Diane Doherty

Eulonda Cooper is in the eye of the storm. A spirited, hard-working mother of four who lives in an affordable rental unit in the Kenwood Oakland community, she is being denied the safety and security that any hard-working American deserves. She sits on the local school council of two elementary schools and is a member of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization.

In a community that has rapidly gentrified since the mid-90s, she is concerned about the impact the Olympics would have on the price of housing in her neighborhood. Many of the people she knew in the neighborhood are gone; priced out due to escalating rents or moved out due to the CHA Plan for Transformation, which resulted in the loss of over 3,000 rental units. "The Olympics cannot be used as a tool to finally push all of us out. I want my children to live in stable, quality housing in this neighborhood." For her, the fear that the Olympics could mean very real.

By Scott McCown

When a child isn’t safe living with a parent because of abuse or neglect, Child Protective Services tries to find a loving relative to take the child. When there is no appropriate relative, CPS asks foster parents to care for the child, but foster care is always supposed to be temporary.

Even the best foster homes are seldom the ideal place to grow up. Even more seldom do they serve as a lifelong family. After all, over the course of their work, one set of foster parents may provide temporary refuge to hundreds of children, and they can’t all come back for Christmas!

For a growing number of children, however, foster care becomes permanent by default, with children drifting in foster care until they “age out.” Once they turn 18, the state sends them into life on their own, too often with no place to live and no one to care. As a judge hearing foster-care cases, I saw this all too often.

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By Friedrike Merck

Sarah Palin and I have a lot in common. We were athletes and both became hockey Moms, we have held public office in small towns, we like to fish, (I am proud of my marksmanship skills but just can't seem to rustle up what it takes to shoot for sport one of God's creatures), we both have a can-do attitude and serious spiritual lives but we disagree when it comes to matters of privacy and family planning.

Maybe it's my independent New England roots or the tolerant Quaker in me that planted the simple belief that personal choices across a range of important life decisions, like when to have children, are absolutely a private family matter. The choices other people make about the size and timing of their family is never anyone else's business to talk about. Where I come from that’s called gossip. Neither is it anyone else's business how a family chooses to cope with the issues of dignity in dying, that's morbid prying. It is no one's right, in this country at least, to insist that there is only one way to believe in or to name a Higher Power, that there is only one way to honor the sanctity of life, that's the kind of holier than thou attitude that drove our ancestors from distant lands to this place of hope for individual liberty.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Art Drives the Vote in Missouri


By Sue McCollum

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a giant squid?

When you look up in the sky while driving Missouri’s highways during the next few weeks, don’t be surprised if you see something unusual. You won’t catch a glimpse of Superman, but you may encounter a giant squid brandishing gas pump nozzles like a six shooter, Captain America or a field of sunflowers--all super-sized images with one central message: to encourage Missourians to register and vote in this November’s election.

Featuring the work of eight contemporary artists, 70 billboards with the language, “Vote: Your Future Depends On It” and, began appearing across Missouri in the beginning of September. Look for the billboards on major highways across the state and in urban areas like Kansas City, Springfield, Cape Girardeau, Hannibal, St. Louis, Kirksville and Columbia. The billboards are sponsored by Art the Vote, an initiative of the Missouri Billboard Project, which is using art to inspire voter registration and voting in this November’s election.

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