Viewing entries tagged
elections reform

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Grosso FY2019 Budget Victories

Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, celebrated investments in his budget priorities included in the fiscal year 2019 budget for the District of Columbia, which was given final approval by the D.C. Council on May 29, 2018.

“This budget comes before us during a tumultuous time in the public education sector, but I believe the funding we have approved move us forward in education reform and toward closing the achievement gap,” Grosso said. “It makes new investments that put students in the best position to succeed by creating positive school climates, bolstering community schools, and expanding access to multilingual education in D.C.”

The Council’s full budget largely preserves or increases investments approved by the Committee on Education in Grosso’s education priorities and makes investments in other areas of focus for the councilmember:

  • Prioritizes students’ right to learn by reducing the use of exclusionary discipline: $3.4 million to fund the Student Fair Access to School Act to protect students’ right to an education, close the achievement gap, and foster positive school climates, including an increase to the at-risk weight of the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula.
  • Improves educational outcomes by meeting students’ non-academic needs: An increase of $1.4 million for a total investment of nearly $3 million to expand community schools, which set students up for academic success by addressing their academic, health, and social needs through community partnerships.
  • Invests in the mental and physical health of our students: Provides $3 million at the Department of Behavioral Health for school-based clinicians and $4.4 million at the Department of Health for school-based nurses.
  • Increases access to multilingual education in the District: $367,000 to establish the Office of Multilingual Education in OSSE, with dedicated personnel whose mission is to increase cross-sector access to high-quality multilingual education across the city.
  • Supports students with special education needs: Fully implements the Enhanced Special Education Services Act and includes $350,000 in new funding for teacher training in special education.
  • Creates a world-class central library: $1.5 million for opening day collections at the newly-modernized Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library, set to re-open in 2020.
  • Preserves our local history for future generations: $500,000 for the D.C. Oral History project, a collaboration of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., Humanities DC, and the D.C. Public Library, over the next four years.
  • Provides resources to combat residency fraud: Provides four full-time staffers and $300,000 to OSSE to aid its mission of investigating and reporting residency fraud in D.C. schools.
  • Expands equitable, high-quality out-of-school learning opportunities: Provides over $20 million for after-school and summer programming for students—more than double the current level of grant-funding for community-based organizations and unthinkable under the former D.C. Trust.
  • Supports early childhood education: Includes a new tax credit for families to offset the high cost of raising a child in D.C. and increased the reimbursement rate for subsidized childcare.
  • Continued investment in early literacy interventions: $1.6 million in continuing investments in the successful early literacy intervention program that gets students at or above reading level by third grade. 
  • Invests in Fair Elections: Fully funds Grosso's legislation that establishes a strong public financing system for campaigns in D.C., weakening the influence of large donors and corporations in our elections.
  • Fights homelessness and housing insecurity, especially for vulnerable populations: $15.6 million to combat homelessness including $1.6 million to fully fund the Interagency Council on Homelessness Youth Plan in 2019, with $300,000 from the Committee on Education to provide wraparound services at a new 24-hour drop-in center and additional youth beds.

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Grosso's Fair Elections Act becomes law

For Immediate Release:
March 13, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso's Fair Elections Act becomes law

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) on the signing into law of the Fair Elections Act of 2017, the third version of a public campaign finance bill he has introduced since 2013:

"I want to thank Mayor Bowser for signing into law the Fair Elections Act of 2017, which the Council unanimously passed last month. Further, I applaud her commitment to fund the legislation in her fiscal year 2019 budget proposal.

"Fair Elections establishes a strong public campaign finance system for our local elections, amplifies the voices of everyday D.C. residents, and combats the corrupting influence of outsized campaign spending. This public financing system incentivizes candidates to spend more time meeting with residents and constituents, empowers residents of ordinary means to have a meaningful ability to compete for elected office, reshapes our donor class to be more inclusive and representative of the entire population of the District of Columbia, and combats the perception of pay-to-play politics.

"I would also like to thank Councilmember Charles Allen and his staff, who worked tirelessly to shepherd this legislation through the Council and Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, who has been an original co-introducer of this legislation with me since 2013. I would also like to thank the Fair Elections Coalition, which organized events throughout D.C. to mobilize people to support public financing of campaigns, including at the mayor's budget engagement forums in recent weeks. Their commitment to ending the perception of pay-to-play politics and restoring faith in our local democracy is truly admirable and what got this effort across the finish line."

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Council Unanimously Approves Grosso's Fair Elections Act On Final Vote

For Immediate Release:
February 6, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

 

Council Unanimously Approves Grosso's Fair Elections Act On Final Vote

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) on the D.C. Council's unanimous final passage of the Fair Elections Act of 2017, which he introduced in March 2017:

"I am extremely pleased that the Council has again spoken with a unanimous voice and passed my legislation to establish a strong public campaign finance system for our local elections.

"Fair Elections is about amplifying the voices of everyday D.C. residents and combating the corrupting influence of outsized campaign spending. This public financing system incentivizes candidates to spend more time meeting with residents and constituents, empowers residents of ordinary means to have a meaningful ability to compete for elected office, reshapes our donor class to be more inclusive and representative of the entire population of the District of Columbia, and combats the perception of pay-to-play politics. 

"I remain fully committed to ensuring the success of this program and will work with the mayor and my colleagues through the fiscal year 2019 budget process to make a strong investment in our local democracy by funding this legislation.

"I would also like to thank Councilmember Charles Allen and his staff, who worked to move this legislation out of the Judiciary Committee; Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, who has been an original co-introducer of this legislation with me since 2013; as well as the Fair Elections Coalition, which organized events throughout D.C. to mobilize people to support public financing of campaigns."

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First round results of graduation investigation highlight need for continued scrutiny

For Immediate Release:
January 16, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

 

First round results of graduation investigation highlight need for continued scrutiny

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, regarding the first report of the independent investigation of graduation and attendance at public high schools in the District of Columbia:

“Today, the Committee on Education received the results of phase one of the investigation into attendance and graduation at Ballou High School and internal procedure of District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), as conducted by independent contractor Alvarez & Marsal through the Office of the State Superintendent for Education (OSSE).  Additionally, we have received OSSE’s own report on citywide attendance of DCPS high schools and the oversight and review of the Public Charter School Board (PCSB) methodology.

“The results are extremely troubling. I am deeply concerned with the findings of inappropriate use of credit recovery courses, intentionally misleading attendance coding, and the pressure exerted by administration to pass students with failing grades. It was the hope of the community that these allegations were isolated or inflated, but the first wave of reports tells a much more harrowing tale. We still await the internal investigation being conducted by DCPS and on the remaining portions of the independent investigation to understand the full scope of the issues. I have spoken with State Superintendent Hanseul Kang and Chancellor Antwan Wilson about their initial reactions to the reports and expressed my grave concerns.

“On February 8, 2018 I will reconvene the public roundtable that began on December 15, 2017 to publicly review the findings of the Chancellor’s internal report on DCPS high schools and OSSE’s independent investigation. I will be looking to government leadership to present their findings as well as offer immediate and long-term solutions that address the systemic issues we are facing in our neighborhood high schools.

“I continue to encourage the public to build on the testimony we received over the course of the last month by submitting testimony to the Committee on Education. Testimony will be compiled as part of a formal Committee Report and anonymity or redaction will be granted upon request.

“I encourage the public to review the initial reports and provide comments here  and sign up to testify for Committee on Education performance oversight hearings for DCPS, OSSE, PCSB, and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education this February and March. 

“It is heartbreaking that we have failed these students. In all likelihood, their senior year was not the first time they struggled with school related subject matter or with attendance. Therefore, as a city, we must all come together to find immediate solutions that move us forward and rapidly away from these unethical practices.” 
 

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Grosso celebrates unanimous first vote for Fair Elections Act

For Immediate Release:
January 9, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

 

Grosso celebrates unanimous first vote for Fair Elections Act

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) on the unanimous D.C. Council first vote on the Fair Elections Act of 2017, which he introduced in March 2017:

“Today, the Council of the District of Columbia gave resounding, unanimous approval to establish a strong public campaign finance system for our local elections.

“I believe strongly that public financing of elections is one of the most vital tools to combat the corrupting influence of outsized campaign spending. Public financing of campaigns was among the first bills I introduced when I joined the Council five years ago, and I have introduced some version of this bill in every Council period since.

“This public financing system incentivizes candidates to spend more time meeting with residents and constituents, empowers residents of ordinary means to have a meaningful ability to compete for elected office, reshapes our donor class to be more inclusive and representative of the entire population of the District of Columbia, and combats the perception of pay-to-play politics.

“Fair Elections is about amplifying the voices of everyday D.C. residents.

“I look forward to final passage at the Council’s next legislative meeting. Furthermore, I remain fully committed to ensuring the success of this program when it becomes law and will work with the mayor and my colleagues through the annual budget process to make a strong investment in our local democracy by funding this legislation.

“I would also like to thank Councilmember Charles Allen and his staff, who worked tirelessly to shepherd this legislation through the Council; Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, who has been an original co-introducer of this legislation with me since 2013; as well as the Fair Elections Coalition, which organized events throughout D.C. to mobilize people to support public financing of campaigns.”

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Grosso sends letter to Mayor Bowser outlining budget priorities for FY2019

Today, Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, sent a letter to Mayor Bowser outlining his budget priorities for the Mayor to consider for inclusion in her FY2019 budget proposal.

Ensuring that our students are in the best position to succeed remains Grosso's number one priority as the Chairperson of the Committee on Education.  Fully supporting our students, teachers, and school communities means providing the necessary resources.  For FY2019, Grosso asked the Mayor to:

1.       Meet the non-academic needs of our students through increased investment in the Department of Behavioral Health’s School-Based Mental Health program.

2.      Invest in the successful early literacy intervention program that gets students at or above reading level by third grade.

3.       Give our teachers the tools to educate all our students by funding school-based special education teacher training.

4.      Support the expansion of vital out-of-school time programs with increased funding for the Office of Out of School Time and Youth Outcomes.

5.      Continue equitable investment in community based organizations who are providing care to at-risk pre-kindergarten children.

6.      Aid child care providers by raising the subsidy reimbursement rates to more closely align with the cost of care.

Additionally, Grosso asked the Mayor to support funding for many of his policy priorities that have become law in the past few years:

1.       Provide financial stability for workers caring for themselves or their family by investing fully in the implementation of the Universal Paid Leave Amendment Act of 2016.

2.      Assist residents managing their educational financing by funding a separate student loan ombudsman at the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking.

3.       Support the newly established D.C. State Athletics Commission with funding for two new full-time position.

4.      Provide equitable access to vital identity documents by funding fee exemptions for low-income residents.

5.      Remove the influence of big dollar donors and promote equitable participation in our local elections by fully funding the Fair Elections Amendment Act of 2017

You can read the full letter to Mayor Bowser below.

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Instant Runoff Voting Amendment Act of 2017

Instant Runoff Voting Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: July 11, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Elissa Silverman, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh

Summary: To provide for the election of the Mayor, the Attorney General, members of Council, and members of the State Board of Education using instant runoff voting, to require that District voting systems be compatible with an instant runoff ballot system, and setting a date and conditions for implementation.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Reforming the District of Columbia’s campaigns and elections to ensure more residents are engaged in the political process and their voices are accurately reflected in government remains a high priority for me.

Earlier this year, I introduced the Fair Elections Act of 2017, which aims to reduce the influence of big money in local campaigns by establishing a strong public financing system.

This morning, along with Councilmember Nadeau, I continue that push by introducing the Instant Runoff Voting Amendment Act of 2017.

Instant Runoff Voting ensures that individuals receive a majority of the vote of the electorate, by allowing voters to rank the choices on their ballots in order of preference.

Tabulation of results proceeds in rounds. The first round eliminates the person with the fewest votes, then reallocates those votes to the voter’s second choice in the next round. This continues until one person receives a clear majority of the vote, and we can be sure that this is the preferred candidate of the electorate.

Unlike traditional runoff voting, this method does not require the expense of an additional election since it all happens on one ballot.

Many times in the District of Columbia, we have crowded primaries, open seats and special elections. These are opportunities for individuals to make an attempt at running for public office and giving back to their communities. Therefore the candidate field is often crowded, and victors emerge with less than a majority of the vote.

This will help change how we run for office, and force fields of candidates to focus on vigorous and spirited policy debates that appeal to a wide range of voters.

Instant runoff voting is currently used in San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, and San Leandro California; Minneapolis, and St. Paul Minnesota; Portland, Maine; Takoma Park, Maryland; and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Many states also use instant runoff on their military and overseas ballots.

The potential benefits to the District through instant runoff voting are immense.

We can expect higher voter turnout - as voters will be free to mark their ballot for the candidate they truly prefer without fear that their choice will help elect their least preferred candidate.

We can expect positive and more widespread campaigning - since candidates will not only be seeking to be a voters first choice but all will be asking to receive the voter’s second-choice and third-choice.

Instant runoff voting will make our elections more competitive and fair, and strengthen confidence in our electoral outcomes.

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Grosso continues elections reform push with instant run off voting

For Immediate Release: 
July 11, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Grosso continues elections reform push with instant run off voting

Washington, D.C. – Today, Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced legislation that ensures that elected officials have the support of a majority of voters by changing the way votes are counted in local elections.

The Instant Runoff Voting Amendment Act of 2017 would provide a method of casting and tabulating votes whereby a candidate for office must secure a majority of the votes cast before being declared the winner.

In the District of Columbia, primaries, open seats, and special elections result in crowded fields, as these provide opportunities for residents to give back to their communities by seeking public office.  However, victors often emerge with less than a majority of the vote.  Instant run off, or ranked choice, voting would ensure that voters’ preferences are more accurately reflected in the results.

"It is extremely troubling that candidates can be elected to public office with as little as 30 percent of the vote," said Grosso.  "This important legislation will increase voter turnout as voters will be free to mark their ballot for the candidate that they truly prefer without fear that their choice will help elect their least preferred candidate. More importantly, instant runoff voting ensures that the elected candidate has true majority support.”

When tabulating the results, the Board of Elections would proceed in rounds.  The first round eliminates the person with the fewest votes and then reallocates those votes to the voter’s second choice in the next round.  This continues until one person receives a clear majority of the vote.

“Instant runoff voting will help change how we run for office, and force fields of candidates to focus on vigorous and spirited policy debates that appeal to a wide range of voters,” said Grosso.  “In short, it will make our elections more competitive and fair, and strengthen confidence in our electoral outcomes.”

Reforming the District of Columbia’s campaigns and elections, and ensuring more residents are engaged in the political process, remains a high priority for Grosso.  Earlier this year, he introduced the Fair Elections Act of 2017, which reduces the influence of big money in local campaigns by establishing a strong public financing system, and the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2017, which qualifies permanent residents to vote in local elections.

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Grosso introduces bill to promote individual power in local elections

For Immediate Release: 
March 22, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Grosso introduces bill to promote individual power in local elections

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso today introduced legislation to encourage greater participation in District of Columbia elections by providing for public financing for campaigns, shifting power and influence from big donors to smaller, individual contributors.

“Public financing of campaigns would give greater voice to all voters and reduce the disproportionate influence of big donors in D.C. politics,” Grosso said. “We must ensure that everyone has an opportunity to participate in and positively influence the political process, regardless of how much or how little they are able to contribute, or if they do not contribute at all.”

Under the legislation, the Fair Elections Act of 2017, qualified participating candidates are eligible to receive base amount allocations and matching payments. In exchange for receiving public financing, participating candidates would no longer be able to accept direct corporate contributions or traditional political action committee (PAC) contributions.

The contribution limits and matching funds are tiered by the office being sought, ranging from a limit of $20 for Ward State Board of Education candidates to $200 for mayor. Candidates would receive a 2-to-1 match before qualifying for the ballot, then a 5-to-1 match after.

“In addition to fighting corruption, a public financing system empowers residents of ordinary means to have a meaningful ability to compete for elected office,” Grosso said.  “This bill is about amplifying the voices of everyday D.C. residents.”

Eight of Grosso’s colleagues, Chairman Phil Mendelson, Councilmembers Charles Allen, Elissa Silverman, Robert White, Mary Cheh, Kenyan McDuffie, Trayon White, and Brianne Nadeau, joined him as co-introducers.

“The Fair Elections bill is about putting more power in the hands of DC residents. Changing the way we fund campaigns in a way that prioritizes the low-dollar donor means candidates can spend more time focused on their constituents and neighbors, rather than chasing big-dollar donors,” said Councilmember Charles Allen, chairperson of the Committee on the Judiciary, to which the bill was referred.

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Fair Elections Act of 2017

Fair Elections Act of 2017

Introduced: March 22, 2017

Co-introducers: Chairman Phil Mendelson, Councilmembers Elissa Silverman, Robert White, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, Kenyan McDuffie, Charles Allen, and Trayon White

Summary: To reform campaign financing and to provide for publicly funded political campaigns.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today, along with my colleagues Councilmembers Charles Allen, Elissa Silverman, Robert White, Mary Cheh, Kenyan McDuffie, Trayon White and Brianne Nadeau, I am reintroducing the “Fair Elections Act of 2017.”

Since I’ve been in office, I have introduced some version of this bill in every Council period because I believe strongly that public financing of elections is one of the most vital tools to combat the corrupting influence of outsized campaign spending.

As we all know, campaign donations are a necessary, though sometimes complicated aspect of politics.

Support for candidates in the District of Columbia today generally comes from three sources: Friends of a candidate who know his or her qualifications and support their aspirations for democracy and the common good; Citizens who have views on governance and public policy, or citizens with grievances with governance; and individuals with commercial interests that either benefit or risk loss due to decisions of governance.

All of these sources are appropriate in a functioning democracy; however, the situation we face today is that we are out of balance—big donors outweigh the ability of others’ to influence campaigns.

My legislation helps to restore that balance by establishing a robust public financing program.

In Council Period 21, then-Chair of the Committee on Judiciary, Councilmember McDuffie held a hearing on this bill, which brought about important feedback and healthy criticism.

Following that hearing, my staff worked to make the changes recommended by the Attorney General and completed an in-depth analysis of the previous3 election cycles to understand what is truly needed to run a successful campaign in the District of Columbia.

Under the legislation, qualified participating candidates are eligible to receive base amount allocations and matching payments, the latter both before qualifying for the ballot and after.

In addition to fighting corruption, a public financing system empowers residents of ordinary means to have a meaningful ability to compete for elected office.  Establishing this system will allow those who may not have personal wealth or access to high-powered connections to launch competitive campaigns.

This is bill is about amplifying the voices of everyday D.C. residents and I hope that all of my colleagues will stand up for publicly funded elections and cosponsor this legislation.

I yield the remainder of my time to my co-introducers and I welcome any co-sponsors.

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Bills provide equitable access to education, elections for D.C. immigrants

For Immediate Release:

January 24, 2017

Contact:

Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987

mnocella@dccouncil.us

Bills provide equitable access to education, elections for D.C. immigrants

Washington, D.C. – As the national political climate becomes more divisive, Councilmember David Grosso today re-introduced two bills that promote the inclusion of our immigrant communities in our city’s educational and electoral institutions.

“D.C. welcomes and embraces the diversity that has made America great for centuries,” Grosso said. “Regardless of what language they speak, regardless of where they were born, immigrants are an integral part of our neighborhoods. We must therefore ensure that they have every opportunity to fully participate.”

The Language Access for Education Amendment Act of 2017 strengthens existing law by increasing the standards of the Language Access Act for government services for all non-English proficient residents.

The bill requires that each public school and public charter school provide translations of essential educational information, such as data relating to a student's well-being and educational progress.

“As chairperson of the Committee on Education, I know that having parents who are actively involved in the education of their child is critical to their success,” Grosso said. “Putting students in the best position to succeed means ensuring that information is made available to their parents in the language they speak.”

The bill also requires that each public and public charter school with a 5 percent or more non-English proficient population, must designate a culturally competent language access liaison at each school and designate a language access coordinator for each local education agency. 

The second bill, the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2017, would grant voting rights in local municipal elections to D.C. residents who are not U.S. citizens but have permanent residency status.

“’All politics is local’ is a common phrase in the U.S. political system and what most District residents care about are the tangible things that affect their day-to-day lives like education, potholes, playgrounds, taxes, snow removal, trash collection, red light cameras and more,” Grosso said. “Everyone deserves a voice in their government. We cannot perpetuate the same injustice in our own city that is imposed upon us by the federal government each day.”

Currently, there are seven jurisdictions where non-citizens can vote in local elections in the U.S., six of which are in neighboring Maryland. None of these cities or towns has experienced incidents of voting fraud with regard to non-citizens voting in federal elections. 

Both bills have been introduced in previous council periods and have received hearings. Under Council rules no additional hearings will be necessary for committees to act on the legislation.

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Grosso writes to Board of Elections about voter registration problem

Over the weekend, Councilmember Grosso heard from a long time resident, who has been voting in D.C. elections since 1964, that she received a notice of no longer being registered to vote from the D.C. Board of Elections. Subsequently, other residents also reached out with the same problem. After looking into it, Grosso found the agency's response inadequate and wrote to the Board today to ask that they address the issue immediately, as early voting for the 2016 election starts next month. See the letter below, followed by an example of what residents received--and the registration card that shows a birthdate in 1800, which is the source of the problem.

Update: Less than a day later, the Board of Elections responded to Councilmember Grosso's letter saying they will be sending a clarifying mailer to voters affected by the original confusing notice.  You can see their response below. 

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Campaign finance reform goes local

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Campaign finance reform goes local

It’s a wet, chilly December morning in the nation’s capital, but the mood is upbeat in the Wilson Building, the seat of city government in Washington. D.C. Here council member David Grosso is about to unveil his latest campaign finance reform bill.

“I’m excited to be here this morning for this press conference,” he told a crowd of supporters. Grosso called the press conference to introduce what he calls fair elections legislation: a bill that would establish public financing for local candidates to counteract big money in city elections.

“For me this is about lifting up the voice of the everyday voter and making sure that individuals in the District of Columbia feel that they have the same power as the big corporations have,” he said.

[David Grosso announces campaign finance reform legislation.]

David Grosso announces campaign finance reform legislation.

Office of Council Member David Grosso

Earlier, Grosso told me he modeled his legislation after a public financing law in Connecticut, and he noticed that Seattle voters passed a measure establishing publicly funded vouchers that voters can hand out to candidates. Maine voters updated their public financing system too.  Grosso said there is a common theme across it all.

“The Supreme Court has ruled; I think the Congress members aren’t doing much of anything at all, so they’re really kind of stuck," he said. "So, all these local jurisdictions are starting to say, 'Hey, we can try to tackle this on our own.'”

Nick Penniman wants to help those local jurisdictions. He heads a campaign finance reform group called Issue One.  He wants to help local lawmakers like Grosso introduce legislation on things like public financing of elections, ethics, and lobbying reform. His plan?  Develop boilerplate reform legislation for local politicians.  

“We want to be able to give them great models that they can pull off the shelf, slap their name on, file and begin fighting for reform at the state and local level,” he said.

There’s just one problem.   A few problems, actually, according to Richard Briffault.  He’s an expert on campaign finance law at Columbia University.  Voters can have mixed feelings about public financing of elections.

“I mean public funding has often been criticized as welfare for politicians," he said. "You get politicians saying the public’s money should go to schools or police, and not to campaigns. And that’s a popular stance.”

And then you have to get candidates to accept public money and the restrictions on private fundraising that usually come with it.  

“Public funding is not going to work, in the sense of becoming taken on by significant candidates, unless there’s a significant amount of money,” Briffault said.

Still, Briffault notes, it’s not a bad idea to pick your battles, and focus on cities and states where there’s an appetite for campaign finance reform.  For Nick Penniman of Issue One, his ultimate goal is national reform.

“What we’re trying to do is build momentum at the state level so that we can eventually surround Washington with victories and with energy that Washington won’t be able to bat away anymore,” he said.

Penniman said this is like the Gilded Age, the time around the turn of the 20th century when a hyperconcentration of wealth and political corruption led to major campaign finance reform. Unfortunately, it didn’t last. 

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Grosso to Reintroduce Legislation Increasing Power of Individuals in D.C. Elections

For Immediate Release
November 30, 2015
Contact: Darby Hickey
(202) 724-8105

Grosso to Reintroduce Legislation Increasing Power of Individuals in D.C. Elections

Washington, D.C.—At the D.C. Council’s December 1 Legislative Meeting, Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) will reintroduce legislation to establish a system allowing for public financing of elections in the District of Columbia. The legislation comes after Grosso successfully advocated for the dissolution of the FreshPAC and introduced a bill to close the loophole allowing unlimited fundraising by Political Action Committees during non-election years. This legislation is the latest in a series of elections and ethics reform bills that Grosso has introduced since joining the Council in 2013, including an earlier proposal for publicly financed campaigns.

“Public financing of campaigns would give greater voice to all voters and reduce the disproportionate influence of big donors in D.C. politics,” Grosso said. “We must ensure that everyone has an opportunity to participate in and positively influence the political process, regardless of how much or how little they are able to contribute, or if they do not contribute at all.”

Grosso’s legislation proposes to:

  •  Create a new, independent office at the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability to provide robust oversight of campaign finance laws and public financing of elections.
  • Provide public dollar matches for campaign donations to candidates of $100 or less.
  • Require candidates to meet a certain threshold of small donations from D.C. residents in order to qualify to receive public financing.

At 8:30am, Tuesday, December 1, 2015, Councilmember Grosso will join the D.C. Fair Elections Coalition for a press conference on the proposed public financing of elections bill in advance of its introduction at the Legislative Meeting. The press conference will be held in room 120 of the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington D.C.

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Grosso Introduces Bill to Close PAC Campaign Finance Loophole

For Immediate Release: 
10/20/2015
Contact: Darby Hickey
(202) 724-8105

Grosso Introduces Bill to Close PAC Campaign Finance Loophole

Washington, D.C.--Today, Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), along with Councilmembers Mary Cheh, Charles Allen and Anita Bonds, introduced the Political Action Committee Contribution Regulation Amendment Act of 2015 to close the loophole in D.C. campaign finance laws allowing Political Action Committees (PACs) to raise unlimited donations in non-election years. Grosso released the following statement:
 
"Since joining the Council, I have worked to do all that I can to empower our residents to feel as though they have a strong voice in local politics.  I ran for office on a platform of good government, with transparency and ethics, and I have worked to further those goals as a Councilmember over the past three years.
 
Last year, the Council passed a law that closed the so-called 'LLC Loophole,' limiting donations of corporations to political campaigns, and bringing more transparency and accountability to the elections process. Despite that positive change, regulations were finalized that exempted Political Action Committees from the campaign finance donation limits during non-election years.   
 
While campaign donations are a necessary aspect of politics, we also must ensure that everyone has an opportunity to participate in and positively influence the political process, regardless of how much or how little they are able to contribute, or if they do not contribute at all. Unlimited donations undermine the voice of the people, which is why I introduced this measure to close the loophole that allows Political Action Committees to raise unlimited donations in non-election years. By striking this section of the regulations we put Political Action Committees in the same position as Principal Campaign Committees with reasonable limitations on the amount of money that any one individual or business can contribute.
 
A healthy democracy needs engagement from residents, but when residents feel their vote does not matter, they disengage from the political process. Campaign finance reform is a critical aspect of good government because it keeps elected officials accountable to every voter, not just big donors. The legislation I introduced today helps to ensure that we strike the necessary balance between competing interests and expand the opportunity for everyone to have their voices heard."

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D.C., other cities debate whether legal immigrants should have voting rights

By Pamela Constable February 9, 2015, Washington Post

David Nolan and Helen Searls are a professional couple in the District, active in their children’s school and local civic associations. As taxpayers and longtime residents, they feel they have a duty to be involved in public life. But as legal immigrants who have not become U.S. citizens, they have no right to vote — even in local elections.

“It’s frustrating at election time to have no say in what’s happening,” said the British-born Searls, 54, who works at a media company. “Washington has people from all over the world. If they are engaged and participating in public issues, it benefits the city.”

Searls and Nolan are among 54,000 immigrants in the District — and about 12 million nationwide — who have been granted green cards that allow them to remain in the United States permanently. Most are sponsored by relatives or employers. They pay taxes and serve in the armed forces. Yet in all but a handful of localities, they have no voting rights.

Last month, for the third time in a decade, a bill was introduced in the D.C. Council to allow legal immigrants to vote locally. The measure has little chance of passage, but it is illustrative of a growing movement to expand local voting rights to noncitizens that has spawned similar proposals in several dozen communities across the country.

Most immigrant groups focus on promoting citizenship as the path to political influence, and the effort to enfranchise noncitizens remains controversial. It has succeeded in only a handful of places, including Chicago and Takoma Park, Md., but has been gaining traction recently in others, including New York City and Burlington, Vt., as the population of settled legal immigrants grows.

Student Maria Ferreira goes over her study book, which has questions about American history that she will need to know for a citizenship test. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

Proponents point out that noncitizen voting was the norm early in American history, when new regions needed people to populate them. It was abandoned only after spates of anti-foreign sentiment in the 1860s and 1920s. Proponents have not urged that immigrants be allowed to vote for president, which is against federal law; they want them to be permitted a political role in their communities.

But opponents assert that the right to vote at any level is a defining quality of citizenship. They say it should not be easily granted to the foreign-born, who might have divided loyalties and insufficient knowledge of American democracy. And they point out that any legal permanent resident can apply to become a U.S. citizen with full voting rights after a five-year wait.

“To be a voter is to signify that you have cleared hurdles and that you understand what it means to be an American, with responsibilities as well as rights,” said Carl Horowitz, president of the National Legal and Policy Center, a conservative think tank in Falls Church, Va. Allowing noncitizens to vote, he said, “renders the idea of citizenship meaningless.”

Some opponents also think the campaign is part of a political scheme to create more Latino voters, who polls show tend to prefer Democrats — a concern that has spread with the protracted debate over illegal immigration. The largest numbers of green-card holders are from Mexico, followed by China, India and the Philippines.

D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At Large), who introduced the immigrant voting bill last month, said his attempt in 2013 met with a “huge backlash,” and he acknowledged that the new proposal is unlikely to go far. A similar bill in 2004 also died.

“This is the right thing to do, but a lot of people still have a misguided understanding of what it’s about,” Grosso said. “I get e-mails and tweets from around the country saying I want to give the vote to people who snuck over the border.”

Despite such fears, advocates said the political impact of the noncitizen vote has often been marginal. In many cases, the impetus has come from liberal or civic groups, while the beneficiaries may be less enthusiastic or aware of the benefits.

Washingtonians David J. Nolan and his wife, Helen Searls, say they hope to become U.S. citizens so they can vote. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

The pioneering community was Takoma Park, which gave legal immigrants voting rights in a 1991 referendum. Sean Whittaker, 46, a Canadian-born engineer who lives there, said that being able to vote made him feel as if he truly belonged in the community. In the town’s most recent election, the district candidate he supported won by six votes. “Maybe I made a difference,” Whittaker said.

Since then, four other Maryland towns have approved similar policies, although noncitizens cannot vote in state elections. In 2012, Del. Patrick L. McDonough (R-Baltimore County) sponsored a bill to ban noncitizens from voting in any Maryland locality, warning hyperbolically that even Osama bin Laden would have been allowed to vote in Takoma Park.

But the repercussions from Maryland’s experiment have been far from dire. Takoma Park officials say no more than a handful of immigrants have voted in any local election, where turnout is also generally low among citizens, too.

“This has not fulfilled either the worst predictions of critics nor the great hopes of supporters,” said state Sen. Jamin Raskin (D-Montgomery), a law professor who helped pave the legal path for the initiative. Still, he said, “it has remained an important statement of welcome, a way to give people a taste for the democratic process.”

Elsewhere in the United States, efforts to enfranchise foreign-born residents have spread to scattered municipalities, including liberal college towns such as Madison, Wis., and Amherst, Mass., and cities with large immigrant populations.

But such proposals have also encountered an array of hurdles, including conflicts with state laws, public antipathy and lack of awareness among immigrant groups. In 2010, voters in Portland, Maine, narrowly rejected a proposal for noncitizen voting in local elections, and a ballot measure in San Francisco to allow noncitizen parents to vote for school board members lost by 55 to 45 percent.

In Amherst, activist Vladi­mir Morales, who has spent a decade promoting the cause, said the idea has wide local support but continues to meet resistance from state legislators, who would have to amend home-rule laws to allow it.

“There is fear. The subject is immigration, and the representatives don’t want to touch it. It just keeps dying in committee,” said Morales, a U.S. citizen from Puerto Rico and a retired Amherst school board member.

In New York, home to about 1.3 million legal permanent residents, noncitizens were allowed to vote in school board elections from 1969 to 2003, when the board system was abolished. In recent years, a coalition of academic, political and immigrant groups has been trying to revive noncitizen voting rights and expand them to all local offices. Advocates said they are close to securing enough city council support to pass legislation this spring, but they lamented that the area’s major immigrant groups have not gotten involved.

“It’s hard to sell,” said David Andersson, the coalition coordinator. “Most voters don’t understand what legal immigrants are, and a lot of immigrant groups are focused on issues like deportation and wages. Sadly, voting is just not a priority.”

In the Washington area, few people know about Grosso’s proposal and few groups have expressed support, except the Service Employees International Union. But many of its members are not legal residents, and the union is strongly identified with illegal-immigrant causes.

Still, a variety of legal immigrants in the District said they would welcome being able to vote for city council and Board of Education members. Some said they wanted to become citizens but had difficulty passing the required tests in English.

At the Central American Resource Center in Northwest Washington, a half-dozen middle-aged Latinos bent over citizenship test workbooks one night last week, struggling with questions that ranged from “What is your current occupation?” to “Why did the colonists come to America?” and “What rights are in the Declaration of Independence?”

Maria Carpio, 57, a retired office cleaner from El Salvador, has been a legal resident since 1987. She said she had failed the citizenship test because of her limited eyesight and poor English, but that she volunteered to pass out fliers for a Latino school board candidate in November.

“I have worked hard here all my life,” Carpio said. “I should have the right to express my opinion.”

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Grosso Introduces Bill to Expand Voting Rights in Local Elections to Permanent Resident Immigrants in D.C.

For Immediate Release
January 20, 2015

Contact: Dionne Johnson Calhoun
(202) 724-8105

 

Grosso Introduces Bill to Expand Voting Rights in Local Elections to Permanent Resident Immigrants in D.C.

 

Washington, D.C. – Today, Councilmember David Grosso (I-At-Large) introduced the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2015, a bill to grant voting rights in local municipal elections to all non-citizens in D.C. with permanent residency immigration status.

The full text of Grosso's statement follows:

This morning along with Councilmembers Allen, Nadeau, Evans and Silverman, I introduced the Local Resident Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2015. This bill would grant voting rights in local municipal elections to D.C. residents who are not U.S. citizens but have permanent residency status.

“All politics is local” is a common phrase in the U.S. political system and what most District residents care about are the tangible things that affect their day-to-day lives like potholes, playgrounds, taxes, snow removal, trash collection, red light cameras and more.  All of these issues are important to voters in D.C.  Unfortunately, not all of our residents have a say in choosing the officials who make these decisions.  In my opinion, that is unjust.

Since 1970, the District of Columbia has had a steady increase in the number of foreign-born residents. According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2012), approximately 53,975 residents in the District are foreign born, but not naturalized U.S. citizens.  Over 90% of that population is 18 years of age or older. These are taxpayers who should have the opportunity to have their voices heard in local elections.

For most of American history, non-citizens were permitted to vote in 22 states and federal territories. It was not until the 1920s that, amidst anti-immigrant hysteria, lawmakers began to bar non-citizens from voting in local and statewide elections.  Unfortunately, this hysteria continues across the United States, but it does not need to continue any longer in the District of Columbia.

Currently, there are seven jurisdictions where non-citizens can vote in local elections in the U.S., six of which are in neighboring Maryland. None of these cities or towns has experienced incidents of voting fraud with regard to non-citizens voting in federal elections.  A similar bill was introduced in the Council in 2004 and unfortunately, due to the political climate at the time regarding immigration reform, it did not receive full consideration by this Council. Eleven years later, the time is now to reignite this conversation.

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Clean Hands Elections Reform Amendment Act of 2014

Councilmember Tommy Wells                   Councilmember David Grosso

 Councilmember Mary M. Cheh                 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie

 

A BILL

 

_______________

 

IN THE COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

 

_______________

 

Councilmembers Grosso, Wells, Cheh, and McDuffie introduced the following bill, which was

referred to the Committee on                                                 .

 

To amend Section 1-1001.08 of the District of Columbia Official Code to require all candidates for elected office to obtain a “clean hands” certification from the Office of Campaign Finance prior to obtaining ballot access for any election. 

BE IT ENACTED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, That this

act may be cited as the “Clean Hands Elections Reform Amendment Act of 2014”.

            Sec. 2. Definitions.

For the purposes of this act, the term:

(1) “Ballot access” means the conditions under which a candidate or political party is either entitled to stand for election or to appear on voters’ ballots.
            (2)  “Campaign” means any organized effort to influence the vote of District residents affiliated with a candidate.

(3)  “Clean Hands” means free from debt; owing no outstanding taxes, fines, fees or the equivalent to local or federal officials.

Sec. 3. Clean Hands Certification.

Section 1-1001.08 of the District of Columbia Official Code is amended by adding subsection (t) to read as follows:

“(a) In addition to the qualifications of candidates outlined in this section, each candidate for election to the office of Mayor, Attorney General, Chairman of the Council, member of the Council, or member of the Board of Education, must first obtain a clean hands certification from the Office of Campaign Finance prior to obtaining ballot access for any election. This certification shall provide that:

            (1) The candidate owes no outstanding taxes, fines or fees to the District.

            (2) The candidate’s previous campaign or political committee owes no outstanding fines or fees to the District.

Sec. 4.  Fiscal impact statement.
The Council adopts the fiscal impact statement in the committee report as the

fiscal impact statement required by section 602(c)(3) of the District of Columbia Home Rule
Act, approved December 24, 1973 (87 Stat. 813; D.C. Official Code § 1-206.02(c)(3)).

Sec. 5.  Effective date.
            This act shall take effect following approval by the Mayor (or in the event of veto by the Mayor, action by the Council to override the veto), a 30-day period of Congressional review as provided in section 602(c)(1) of the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, approved December 24, 1973 (87 Stat. 813; D.C. Official Code § 1-206.02(c)(2)), and publication in the District of Columbia Register.

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Instant Runoff Voting Amendment Act of 2014

                                                           

Councilmember David Grosso

 

 

A BILL

                   

IN THE COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

 

                            

 

Councilmember Grosso introduced the following bill, which was referred to the Committee on __________________________.

                                                            .

 

To provide for the election of the Mayor, Members of Council, and the Attorney General using instant runoff voting, to require that District voting systems be compatible with an instant runoff ballot system, and setting a date and conditions for implementation.

            BE IT ENACTED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, That this act may be cited as the “Instant Runoff Voting Amendment Act of 2014”.

 

Sec. 2. Definitions.

            For the purposes of this act, the term:

(1)   “Instant runoff voting,” also called “ranked choice voting,” means a method of

casting and tabulating votes whereby the voters rank candidates according to the order of their choice and counting proceeds in rounds in which candidates are eliminated. In every round, each ballot is counted as one vote for the highest ranked advancing candidate.

(2)   “Continuing candidate” means a candidate who has not been eliminated.

(3)   “Continuing ballot” means a ballot that is not deemed an exhausted ballot.

(4)   “Exhausted ballot” means a ballot that does not rank any continuing candidate,

contains an overvote at the highest continuing ranking or contains two or more sequential skipped rankings before its highest continuing ranking.

            Sec. 3. Instant Runoff Voting.

            Chapter 10 of Title 1 of the District of Columbia Official Code is amended by adding the new section 1-1001.08(b) to read as follows:

            “1-1001.08(b). Instant Runoff Elections.

            “(a) The Mayor, Attorney General, Chairman and members of the Council shall be elected using a ranked choice, or “instant runoff” ballot in both the primary and in the general election.

            “(b) In each primary and general election for the office of Mayor, Attorney General, Chairman and member of the Council:

                        “(1) The ballot shall allow voters to rank candidates in order of preference equal to the total number of candidates for each office; provided, however if the voting system, vote tabulation system or similar or related equipment used by the District cannot feasibly accommodate choices equal to the total number of candidates running for office, then the Board of Elections may limit the number of choices a voter may rank to no fewer than three. The ballot shall allow voters to rank a write-in candidate. A voter may include no more than one write-in candidate among that voter’s ranked choices for each office.

                        “(2) For election to a single office, tabulation proceeds in rounds and the following procedure is used. In each round, each continuing ballot must be counted as one vote for its highest ranked continuing candidate. If more than two continuing candidates receive votes in a round, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and a new round begins. If two or fewer continuing candidates receive votes in a round, the candidate with the most votes is elected.

                        “(3) For election to more than one office, the following procedure is used. Tabulation proceeds in rounds. In each round, each continuing ballot must be counted as one vote for its highest ranked continuing candidate. If the number of continuing candidates is greater than one more than the number of offices to be elected, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and a new round begins. If the number of continuing candidates is equal to or less than one more than the number of offices to be elected, the candidates with the most votes are elected.

                        “(4) Optionally where appropriate, during the Board’s tabulation of results, two or more candidates may be eliminated simultaneously by batch elimination.  Batch elimination may only occur if in any round there is a candidate who’s vote total plus the vote totals of all candidates with an equal number or fewer votes is less than the vote total of the candidate with the next higher vote total. Under those conditions, then that candidate and all candidates with an equal number or fewer votes in the current round may be simultaneously eliminated.

                        “(5) If all the choices indicated on a voter’s ballot have been eliminated, that ballot shall be deemed an exhausted ballot.

                        “(6) If a ranked-choice ballot gives equal rank to two or more candidates, the ballot shall be declared an exhausted ballot when such multiple rankings are reached.

                        “(7) If a voter cases a ranked-choice ballot but skips a rank, the voter’s vote shall be added to the totals of that voter’s next ranked choice.

                        “(8) A tie between two or more candidates shall be resolved pursuant to D.C. Official Code § 1-1001.10(c).

            “(c) The ballot must be simple and easy to understand and allow a voter to rank candidates for an office in order of choice. If feasible, ballots must be designed so that a voter may mark that voter’s first choices in the same manner as that for offices not elected by instant runoff voting. Instructions on the ballot must conform substantially to the following specifications, subject to usability testing and modification based on ballot design and voting machine: “Vote by indicating your first-choice candidate and ranking additional candidates in order of preference. Indicate your first choice by marking the number “1” beside a candidate’s name, your 2nd choice by marking the number “2” beside a candidate’s name, your 3rd choice by marking the number “3” beside a candidate’s name and so on. Rank as many choices as you wish. Indicating 2nd and later preferences will not count against your first choice. Do not skip numbers, and do not mark the same number beside more than one candidate.”

            “(d) The Board of Election shall conduct a voter education campaign to familiarize voters with instant runoff voting. Sample ballots illustrating “instant runoff” voting procedures shall be posted in or near the voting booth, and shall be included in the instruction packed for absentee ballots.

            “(e) Any voting system, vote tabulation system, or similar or related equipment acquired by the District shall be capable to administer instant runoff voting without further modifications.

“(f) Instant runoff voting shall be used for the primary municipal election in 2016 and all subsequent elections. If the Board of Elections certifies to the Mayor and the Council no later than November 1, 2015 that the Board will not be ready to implement ranked-choice balloting in 2016, then the District shall begin using ranked-choice or “instant runoff” balloting at the immediate next municipal election, including special elections.”

Sec. 5. Effect on Rights of Political Parties.

For all statutory and charter provisions in the District pertaining to the rights of political parties, the number of votes cast for a party’s candidate for an office elected by a ranked choice or instant runoff method is the number of votes credited to that candidate after the initial round of counting.

Sec. 6. Rules.

            Within 120 days of the effective date of this act the Mayor shall, pursuant to title I of the District of Columbia Administrative Procedure Act, approved October 21, 1968 (82 Stat. 1204; D.C. Official Code  §  2-501 et seq.), issue rules to implement the provisions of this act.

Sec. 7.  Fiscal impact statement.
The Council adopts the fiscal impact statement in the committee report as the

fiscal impact statement required by section 602(c)(3) of the District of Columbia Home Rule
Act, approved December 24, 1973 (87 Stat. 813; D.C. Official Code § 1-206.02(c)(3)).

Sec. 8.  Effective date.
            This act shall take effect following approval by the Mayor (or in the event of veto by the Mayor, action by the Council to override the veto), a 30-day period of Congressional review as provided in section 602(c)(1) of the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, approved December 24, 1973 (87 Stat. 813; D.C. Official Code § 1-206.02(c)(1)), and publication in the District of Columbia Register.

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