Environmentalists Are Awful Voters

Nathaniel's a friend who's doing great things. How many folks don't vote because they just don't find the candidate "inspiring" enough? And then they get worse representation, which makes them less inspired --- and more easily ignored by politicians and parties. A downward spiral. I fear that we'll repeat the pattern this election. - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

Nathaniel Stinnett launched the Environmental Voter Project (http://environmentalvoter.org) in 2015 with the mission of “identifying inactive environmentalists and then turning them into consistent activists and voters.” He spoke on Tuesday, September 20, 2016 at MIT and at Tufts on Thursday, September 22 on the topic of “Modern Environmental Politics: big data, behavioral science, and getting environmentalists to vote.”

You can see his Tufts presentation at


The Environmental Voter Project concentrates on one thing and one thing only, increasing environmental turnout . Their polling data shows that environmentalists are “awful voters”: they don’t vote. They estimate 15.78 million environmentalists did not vote in the 2014 midterms; 10.12 million did not vote in 2012; and in MA 277,250 environmentalists did not vote in 2014. You can see their MA environmental non-voters by zip code map at http://www.environmentalvoter.org/blog/easiest-way-massachusetts-residents-fight-climate-change

Stinnett believes “We have a silent environmental majority right now” if, If, IF we can get those environmental voters to the polls. Using predictive modeling surveys, asking a few questions to 40,000 respondents, the Environmental Voter Project can find hidden patterns and correlations that identify environmental voters with 89% accuracy. Their research shows
homes without a landline,
women 55-59,
men 25-29,
people in a new home with no kids,
basketball fans,
are all demographic groups with higher environmental concerns (in descending order) than the general population.

Nearly 90% of the population say their biggest issues are, according to the polling, national security, the economy and jobs, and immigration. Only about 4% of us list the environment or climate change as our primary issue. [Now if only someone would link national security, the economy and jobs, and immigration to a positive green future, those figures might change. We could start with Solar IS Civil Defense and work from there. Make the environmental payoff a side-benefit of more security, a better economy with more and better jobs, and part of the solution for international migration and there’s at least the possibility of a conversation.]
The Environmental Voter Project focuses on getting people to the polls not candidates or issues but they are using social pressure, peer pressure to get likely voters to vote. An example of this is in the message “Who you vote for is private/whether you vote is public record” which was shown to increase turnout by 14.1%. This is similar to what Opower (https://opower.com/products/energy-efficiency/) and other energy management companies have found when they included a “how you compare to your neighbors” energy graphic on the utility bill. “Everybody’s voting” is much better than “Voting is important,” a message which can actually be shown to depress turnout.

Roughly 220 million people in the USA are eligible to vote, 180 million are registered, and 129 million voted in 2012 Presidential election. The Environmental Voter Project wants to identify likely environmental voters and get them to the polls. If you sign their pledge, they will remind you of all your local elections: http://www.environmentalvoter.org/sign-the-pledge

The Tufts Institute of the Environment Lunch and Learn Series
has an archive of 44 hour-long talks on a wide variety of environmental topics

It is a great resource and they are always adding more.

New Hampshire's ballot selfie ban is unconstitutional. Ours probably is too.

Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (whose decisions apply in both NH and MA) declared that a New Hampshire statute criminalizing “ballot selfies” – that is, taking a photograph of a marked ballot and then sharing the image – is unconstitutional, because it violates voters’ freedom of speech.  I haven’t seen any comment yet from Bill Galvin, Maura Healey, or other MA folk with a role in enforcing our own, archaic law that also seems to prohibit such things, but I can’t see how our law could survive when New Hampshire’s failed.

The New Hampshire statute reads:

No voter shall allow his or her ballot to be seen by any person with the intention of letting it be known how he or she is about to vote or how he or she has voted except as provided in RSA 659:20. This prohibition shall include taking a digital image or photograph of his or her marked ballot and distributing or sharing the image via social media or by any other means.

NH officials defended this law on the borderline absurd ground that it stands as a bulwark against the nefarious practice of selling votes … which, as far as anyone can tell, has literally not happened in NH in decades.  The opinion contains this marvelous passage:

Secretary Gardner has admitted that New Hampshire has not received any complaints of vote buying or voter intimidation since at least 1976, nor has he pointed to any such incidents since the nineteenth century.

Needless to say, the Court was not impressed by the state’s attempted justification for this restriction on speech.  The Court also held that even if the state’s reason for the law were legitimate, the means chosen – criminalizing all ballot selfies – was unacceptably overinclusive: “the State has not demonstrated that other state and federal laws prohibiting vote corruption are not already adequate to the justifications it has identified.”  It therefore held the New Hampshire law unconstitutional.

All of this brings us to an old Massachusetts law which reads:

Whoever, at a primary, caucus or election, … allows the marking of his ballot to be seen by any person for any purpose not authorized by law, … shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than six months or by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars.

There’s no indication as to why this provision is still in effect, though one assumes that the justification for it would be similar to that put forth unsuccessfully by New Hampshire.  But unless Massachusetts has some drastically different reason for outlawing ballot selfies, it’s hard to see why our ban shouldn’t be just as unconstitutional as New Hampshire’s.

Yankee Doodle Town

Big day in Billerica yesterday. Governor Baker dropped in for a ceremony designating it “Yankee Doodle Town.” (The backstory: in 1775 a young Billerica patriot seeking to join the Minutemen was captured by the British while he was trying to buy a rifle. After tarring and feathering him, the Redcoats mockingly called him “Yankee Doodle.” And then, as so often happens, cultural appropriation transformed a term of derision into one of honor.)

The Yankee Doodle Town law (Chapter 240 of the Acts of 2016) was only one of many designations among this year’s enactments. Other laws bestowed honorifics in memory of various beloved local community members upon: a bridge, a courtroom, a basketball court and a traffic island. The third Monday in April is now to be celebrated as First Responder Day.  (In some years in the future First Responder Day will fall during the second-to-the-last full week in that month, aka Licensed Practical Nurse Week.)

And designations like these are just one of the categories of laws the Legislature passes that apply to only one town, or to only one public space, or to only one job title or one person. We have lots of laws exempting a single position (like the deputy police chief in the town of Haverhill) from the Civil Service laws, or establishing a sick leave bank for one state employee, or granting an additional liquor license to one municipality.

It occurred to me recently to wonder whether one-shot laws like these are making up a greater share of the Legislature’s statutory output than used to be the case. It seems I was right: in the 1997-1998 session, about one law in ten fell into this category, but in the two most recent completed sessions, that ratio has increased to closer to one in three. During that time, the Legislature gave special designations to 67 public spaces, or days (or weeks, or months), established 200 sick leave banks for state employees, exempted 34 positions from Civil Service laws, and granted additional liquor licenses to municipalities on 104 occasions.

This development, while nowhere close to the most worrisome legislative trend on Beacon Hill (disclosure: I confess to tuning in to the as-yet uncompleted contest between “Roadrunner” and “Dream On” for the title of Official State Rock Song), may be a symptom of another, more ominous tendency among legislators to adopt leadership’s position on issues of real significance and then to content themselves with hyperlocal items lacking in wide application or great import. If I were among the 50 or so legislators whose positions on gambling underwent 180′s after pro-casino Bob DeLeo succeeded anti-casino Sal DiMasi as Speaker of the House, for example, I might think it wise to keep my head down on the big stuff and and deliver some constituent services instead, even if they are services of the merely symbolic kind.

After the 2015-2016 session ends, I’ll check the numbers again to see if this trend is continuing. In the meantime, don’t forget to commemorate Eddie Eagle Gun Safety week, which starts on Saturday.

Elizabeth Warren Voting NO on Question 2

Excellent. So are all the BMG editors. A Yes vote would be reckless, and is unnecessary. - promoted by Bob_Neer

Senator Elizabeth Warren has released a statement that she is going to vote NO on Question 2:

“I will be voting no on Question 2. Many charter schools in Massachusetts are producing extraordinary results for our students, and we should celebrate the hard work of those teachers and spread what’s working to other schools. But after hearing more from both sides, I am very concerned about what this specific proposal means for hundreds of thousands of children across our Commonwealth, especially those living in districts with tight budgets where every dime matters. Education is about creating opportunity for all our children, not about leaving many behind. I hope that the Legislature, the teachers, and the parents can come together to find ways to make sure all kids in Massachusetts get a first-rate education without pitting groups against each other.”

I am glad she made that statement, all schools including charters, pilot schools and other non-traditional schools should have a role in better educating our children. Charlie Baker and his charter frat house he created in his education cabal need to work with the legislature and create a plan that helps all children.

Every sniff from the debate

Seems like something may be going on. (Hat tip, NYT).

I am tired of paying Donald Trump's taxes - aren't you?

The result of a whole lifetime spent in his own Trump world. - promoted by Bob_Neer

am tired of paying Donald Trumps taxes. Aren’t you?

Clinton destroys Trump

She was prepared and coherent. He wasn’t. The turning point of the debate was his incoherent answer to the birther question. He seemed to lose energy and become increasingly dysfunctional after that, just repeating alt-right talking points and, toward the end, reduced to echoing whatever the last complicated word Secretary Clinton had just used. Thoughts?

Twitterstorming the debate

Debate Predictions Open Thread

Moderator is a Republican, so we can expect a healthy dose of misogyny, racism, and rich-get-richer economics from him, if the party's nominee is any indication. - promoted by Bob_Neer

I’ll start:

Hillary wins.

Spare a Thought for the Down Ballot Races

Of note. - promoted by Bob_Neer

Folks, the national scene is deservedly getting a lot of attention, and my eyes will be on the debate Monday. The presidential race and senate races, in particular, could not be more important this year. But down ballot races in Massachusetts also deserve your focus and support. In my districts, I’m lucky to have a fairly safe congresswoman, state senator, and state rep. While I will likely be spending some time in New Hampshire between now and November 8, yesterday I spent the afternoon with the incomparable Amanda Smith canvassing for freshman state rep Mike Day (Winchester and Stoneham, 31st Middlesex district), after a rousing sendoff by Congresswoman Katherine Clark.

Mike Day is a hard-working rep who is in the legislature for the right reasons and has made a positive impact in his first two years. He has a far right-wing opponent (though she does not present herself that way) who is a Republican state committeewoman and has been endorsed by Gov. Baker (though he did not endorse her in the Republican primary). The choice could not be clearer. Yet Mike Day won his last race by barely 2 percentage points against this same opponent, and she’s coming on strong. This could be a close race, and it depends on getting to the doors, getting the message out, and getting out the vote. If you want to make an impact and keep this dedicated progressive Democrat in the legislature, you might throw some support his way. He has a long list of endorsements including Congresswoman Clark and State Senator Jason Lewis.

In Massachusetts, the strategy of the right seems to be to build a farm team of republican selectmen, city councillors, etc. who can then move on to state rep and state senate seats, aided by a lot of out-of-state money. Let’s stop this one. It’s not my district, not my campaign, but it matters to our ability to improve the lives of residents today and tomorrow. Check out his website for more info. The key point here is that every vote counts. People need to 1) register, 2) vote, 3) complete the entire ballot, 4) tell their friends and neighbors that their votes for all offices matter, 5) make sure that people who have trouble voting on election day can either vote absentee or vote early, and 6) Get Out The Vote. (Others should feel free to chime in, highlight their important local races, and share exactly how we can help one another.)

Great ad for Clinton "Mirrors"

Trouble brewing at EOEEA?

There have been three not-great stories for the Baker administration recently, all coming out of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA):

  • Two top officials of the Department of Conservation and Recreation were suspended without pay for a week after the press revealed that they used state resources to throw a party for Republican bigwigs.
  • Baker named his former campaign driver, James McGinn, as the head of the state’s environmental police – perhaps the most controversial of several hires within EOEEA that have the whiff of patronage about them.
  • An EOEEA employee was harassed and faced on-the-job retaliation after her fiancé announced that he was planning to run against an incumbent Republican state senator.

Baker has defended the hiring of McGinn, and has strongly criticized the employees involved in the other incidents.  Nonetheless, one has to wonder whether it’s coincidence that all of these incidents are happening within EOEEA.  When Baker named Matthew Beaton, a not-very-well-known state rep, to be his Secretary of EOEEA, eyebrows were raised.  And I wondered whether he was up to the job of running such a large operation:

one does wonder whether a 30-something, 2-term state rep with no evident experience overseeing anything other than a small construction company and a state rep’s tiny office is ready to hit the ground running with respect to a large secretariat that encompasses at least seven different agencies (honestly, if I had to hazard a guess as to which major Baker appointee will step down “to spend more time with his family” first, it’d be Beaton, since Baker will be the last guy to have patience for someone who isn’t up to the managerial aspect of the job).

So far, Baker is expressing “full and unequivocal support” for Beaton.  But I’d expect that to change if this starts to look like more of a pattern than it already does.