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What’s on Your Ballot? Truthdig’s Voter Guide

Election Day is Tuesday. (Tony Webster / WikiMedia)

Editor’s note: The views in this article are each author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Truthdig.

Choosing the next president isn’t the only important decision the American electorate has to make in the 2016 election. In this article members of the Truthdig team share their opinions on other key issues, some of them national, some state and some local.

Why I Support Dr. Jill Stein for President—Chris Hedges

The focus of our energy must be on building nonviolent, mass movements keyed to issues such as immigrant rights; Black Lives Matter; fighting male violence against women, including pornography and prostitution; the anti-fracking and environmental justice movement, which has spawned groups such as the Delta 5; the cancellation of all student debt; the demand for a living wage; the destruction of the animal agriculture industry through the practice of veganism; health care as a human right; the struggle to dismantle the security and surveillance state and expose the crimes of empire; the abolition of trade agreements such as NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership; and the rebuilding of militant unions. These movements must build alliances with the oppressed around the earth, including the Palestinians. We do not have the luxury, or the right, to pick and choose whom among oppressed people it is politically convenient to support. We will rise or fall together.

This is why I support Dr. Jill Stein, who for the second time is the Green Party candidate for president. I support Stein because she understands that this is primarily about building a global movement, not about participating in an election. She, unlike Bernie Sanders, knows that this movement will never be realized within the Democratic Party or by paying deference to the power elites, the Israel lobby or the arms industry and the military establishment. She grasps that until we name and destroy the evil of militarism and imperialism, genuine social and political reform, indeed democracy, is impossible. She does not want to work within the corporate establishment. She wants to dismantle it. And all the pundits who tell us not to waste our vote miss the point. It is time to stop playing the game.

Pardon and Protect Whistleblowers—John Kiriakou

Former President Jimmy Carter said in 2014 that if he were president today he would consider pardoning Ed Snowden if the NSA whistleblower were convicted and sentenced to be executed. Carter’s comment put him out of the mainstream, even of the Democratic Party. After Snowden revealed NSA’s warrantless wiretapping of American citizens’ communications, President Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry talked tough. Snowden should “man up,” they said. He should come home and “face the music.” He should “pay for his crime.” In reality, he would probably die in prison.

My view was that Snowden had provided a great public service. We would have had no proof whatsoever that our own government was spying on us had Snowden not provided the proof.

But instead of thanking him, John Kerry revoked Snowden’s passport, stranding him in Russia, and Eric Holder’s Justice Department filed felony charges against him in the notorious Eastern District of Virginia, where no national security defendant has ever won a case.

The treatment of Snowden is not unusual. When Tom Drake blew the whistle on NSA’s domestic spying program, he was charged with nine felonies. The case fell apart and all those counts were dismissed, but not until Drake was rendered broke and virtually unemployable. I faced 45 years in prison for blowing the whistle on the CIA’s torture program. Almost all of my charges were also dismissed, but I did two years in prison. CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling has a similar story.

Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have said that Ed Snowden should be punished severely. That’s why Carter’s comments were music to my ears. Among individuals running for president, only Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein have said that they would pardon Snowden, Drake, Sterling and me, and that they would protect whistleblowers who make their revelations in the national interest.

I can’t vote this year. I’m a convicted felon. But if I could, it would be third party.

Eye on Down-Ticket Races in Iowa—Paul Street

I’ve never been much for the quadrennial U.S. presidential electoral carnival—for all the standard left reasons, including the corporate and imperial allegiance and captivity of the major-party candidates; promoting candidates’ personal qualities and “character” over substantive policy debate; the hideous amount of big money spent by wealthy donors on the race, with capitalist strings attached.

Still, I always make my way into the voting booth, not just to have my own little say, however minor, on who will sit in the bigger elected governmental seats—president, Congress, the governor’s office—but also, and just as importantly, “down-ticket” ballot races.

Here in Johnson County, Iowa, Kurt Friese—a candidate who opposes the Dakota Access pipeline, supports a county minimum wage higher than the state and federal standard, and backs serious policies supporting ecological sustainability—is running for the county Board of Supervisors. I am voting for him strictly on policy. He and some already voted onto the board could well be persuaded to vote for measures that would ban numerous environmentally disastrous practices in the county.

I’m voting for a measure in Iowa City that would make it easier for citizens to put referendums on the ballot.

One or two state Senate district contests to the east could determine whether the Iowa State Senate goes Republican. If that were to happen, there is a strong possibility that Iowa’s arch-reactionary, corporate-owned governor, Terry Branstad, would be empowered to wipe out public-sector workers’ rights to collective bargaining (ala Scott Walker in Wisconsin) in Iowa. I could be persuaded on policy grounds to knock on some doors and make some calls to help defeat the Republicans.

Yes on California Proposition 62, No on Proposition 66—Mike Farrell

Proposition 62 would replace the death penalty with sentences of life without parole. It also would require inmates to work (which they cannot do on death row) and pay 60 percent of their earnings to a general victims’ restitution fund. The state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office says Proposition 62 would save Californians $150 million every year.

Currently, family members of victims have to relive the horror of a loved one’s murder through years of appellate hearings. If Proposition 62 is passed, guilty parties will be put behind bars until they die, providing finality and ending the torture endured by victims’ families. Eliminating the death penalty also would give convicts who aren’t guilty the chance to prove their innocence.

Proposition 66, on the other hand, is another in a series of lame attempts to fix an irreparable death penalty system. The proposition imposes additional levels of appeal that would lengthen the process. It attempts to limit the California Supreme Court to five years to resolve appeals that now take an average of 12, but it contains no provision to enforce such a limit. As Proposition 66 authors should know, limiting the court’s deliberation time simply would mean making more mistakes and killing more innocent people.

Our state maintains a list of attorneys willing to accept appointment to handle appeals. Some are trained for and willing to accept capital—death penalty—appeals while others are not. Proposition 66 requires any of these attorneys, whether trained for capital defense or not, to accept death cases or be removed from the list. Forcing unwilling or untrained attorneys to handle the complex issues involved with capital defense would guarantee costly, perhaps fatal, errors and ensure further appeals based on “ineffective assistance of counsel.” Proposition 66 also pretends to save the state money by moving some costs to the counties, an unfair burden that counties can’t afford. Critically, Proposition 66 has no effect on the federal appellate courts, which already return 60 to 70 percent of all death verdicts to the state for resentencing, retrial or further consideration.

Vote yes on 62 and no on 66.

Time for Building Alliances and Savvy Organizing—Sonali Kolhatkar

There are multiple and complex reasons for why the Trump phenomenon is an undeniable part of the American political landscape, including a steady diet of right-wing media and legitimate economic grievances, coupled with racial resentment from a shrinking white majority. But regardless of the reasons, the phenomenon is here to stay, meaning that even if Hillary Clinton is elected president in November we as a country have to understand and deal with the fact that millions of Americans have pledged allegiance to a racist, sexist, nationalist and deeply flawed American billionaire.

[…] But there are issue-based fault lines that have emerged quite clearly this year: In broad strokes, economic justice, racial justice and climate justice encompass the majority of concerns for many Americans. Some of those Americans consider themselves conservative and even Republican. It is along those fault lines that we can and must try to organize politically, even if it means stepping way out of our comfort zones to find common ground with people who may not share all our values. It is very possible that the populace whose anger Trump has unleashed will remain resentful and beyond our reach.Perhaps we need to see the implosion of the Republican Party via the Trump nomination as a sign that the time to win progressive political change through the electoral system is over and that presidential elections are just basic check-boxes to dutifully cross off our to-do lists. The real work lies after Nov. 8—in how well we build alliances, how hard we push whoever is in the Oval Office and how savvy our organizing becomes.

End the Death Penalty—Gary Tyler

Washington, D.C., Fighting for Statehood—Clara Romeo

On Tuesday, Washington, D.C., residents will vote on a referendum on petitioning Congress to admit the District of Columbia into the Union. Washington, D.C., lacks the representation in Congress that states have and must submit its budget and laws for congressional approval.

National decisions, including tax increases and waging war, do not involve representation from the district. Over 670,000 citizens reside in D.C., a population larger than that of two states, but they have no representation in the United States Senate or House of Representatives and instead have only a House delegate who is not allowed to vote in the chamber.

Eleanor Holmes Norton, a delegate to Congress, expressed her frustration: “When permitted, the delegate vote has had no adverse impact on the operations of the House, but its importance to the taxpaying American citizens who live in the District cannot be overstated.”

Not only is Washington, D.C., excluded from national decisions, but the city often has disagreements with Congress regarding its own laws. In a segment of “Last Week Tonight,” host John Oliver reported that Congress has stopped D.C. from spending its own money on abortions for low-income women and a needle exchange program for residents.

Omission of the nation’s capital from representation in the federal government was originally installed in the Constitution by the Founding Fathers. The intent was to limit surrounding areas from having undue political power over government officials. While many members of Congress cling to the original interpretation of the Constitution, others find it inapplicable to modern-day politics.

Opponents of D.C. statehood have largely been Republicans, either clinging to constitutional phrasing or wanting to ensure Republican majorities in Congress. In the candid words of D.C. statehood opponent and Ohio governor John Kasich, “What it really gets down to, if you want to be honest, is … they [Republicans] know that’s just more votes in the Democratic Party.”

The presidential candidates on this year’s ballot have differing views on the matter. Republican candidate Donald Trump opposes statehood but advocates for better representation. “I don’t see statehood for D.C. … I think that’s [congressional representation] something that would be OK. Having representation would be OK.”

Meanwhile, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton fervently advocates for statehood. “I will be a vocal champion for D.C. statehood,” Clinton proclaimed. “Washington, D.C., is home to nearly 700,000 Americans—more than the entire population of several states. Washingtonians serve in the military, serve on juries and pay taxes just like everyone else. And yet they don’t even have a vote in Congress.”

Even though the vote for the referendum will not be the final step to statehood for D.C., it is an important battle against taxation without representation.

Global Change Starts at the Local Level—Eric Ortiz

Vote your values. That is my voting philosophy.

Starting at the top of the ballot, lesser-evil voting produces evil every time. On the other hand, if the Green Party gets 5 percent of the vote this year, it gets automatic ballot access in 2020 and $8 million to $10 million in federal election funding. The Greens can hit the ground running on Nov. 9 and gain the legitimacy and power necessary to end the two-party stranglehold.

Had voters been given the opportunity to get to know Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka the past six months—beyond independent, progressive media channels—we might be celebrating a Green victory on Election Day and activating a platform of people, planet and peace over profit. But America isn’t ready for this kind of common-sense alternative yet. As more people awaken to our illusion of democracy, we might be in four years.

We also need to fix our broken, discriminatory, racist criminal justice system. This action can start in California with “yes” votes on three ballot measures: Proposition 57 (increases parole/good behavior opportunities for felons convicted of nonviolent crimes and gives more rights to juvenile offenders), Proposition 62 (repeals the death penalty) and Proposition 64 (legalizes marijuana and hemp).

These are three of 18 propositions in California. Another important initiative is Proposition 59, which could help overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and get money out of politics.

In 2016, there are 162 certified state ballot measures in 35 states. Nine cover marijuana issues, five focus on minimum wage and health care, and four relate to gun laws. For a great resource on every issue, player and campaign across the nation, check out Ballotpedia, the encyclopedia of American politics.

The people of the United States have the power to change the world. Global change starts at the local level. Make your voice heard.

Reducing Homelessness and Increasing Jobs in Los Angeles—Bill Boyarsky

What matters most on my ballot is seeing Donald Trump lose.

However, I live in California, which is solidly for Hillary Clinton. In effect, my vote against Trump won’t matter in the national picture. So much of my attention, and concern, will be focused on two local issues, one providing housing for the homeless and the other financing commuter rail lines and roads. That would help Los Angeles area residents avoid traffic and provide jobs for thousands of construction workers and others.

The housing proposal, Measure HHH, would provide housing for the men, women and children living on the sidewalks, in parks, in parking lots and under freeways. In some places, like Skid Row, the sidewalks are so filled with tents of the homeless that it is impossible for a pedestrian to pass. There are almost 30,000 homeless people in Los Angeles. Measure HHH would allow Los Angeles to borrow up to $1.2 billion for housing construction. It would be used for a special kind of housing, with treatment facilities and personnel for the addicted and mentally ill.

The other measure that is important to me is Measure M, which would raise the sales tax by a half-cent to finance a 40-year program of building commuter rail lines and improving the highway system.

The Los Angeles area is famously averse to mass transit, but over the past few years new commuter lines have been proving unexpectedly profitable. I use one whenever I go from western Los Angeles to downtown or to the University of Southern California.

And Measure M would provide years of jobs, especially for women and men without college educations who have been hit hard by the loss of manufacturing in Los Angeles.

The two measures take a two-thirds majority to pass. While Clinton-Trump is out of my hands, I can do something about problems I see every day—homelessness and unemployment.

Bernie Sanders Movement Still Can Incite Change—Robert Scheer

Good Luck to All—Bill Blum

And so it has come to this: Our next president will be either a malignant, racist, neofascist billionaire narcissist in Donald Trump or a lying neoliberal warmonger in Hillary Clinton. Terrific.

The presidential election truly presents the question of which candidate is the lesser evil. Since I live in California, which without doubt will opt for Clinton, I don’t have to answer the question personally. I will be casting my ballot for Jill Stein. Otherwise, I’d reluctantly pull the lever for the Democrat (email arrogance and all), on the theory that you never invite fascism through the front door, and that it will be easier to organize against a Clinton administration than one headed by Trump and staffed by loons drawn from the alt-right. The future of the Supreme Court also hangs in the balance in the choice between Trump and Clinton.

Locally, I’ll be voting on a basket of California ballot propositions, with particular attention to those that seek to end the death penalty in the state, ban the sale of large-capacity ammunition magazines, legalize marijuana for recreational use, and an advisory measure that seeks a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision and related U.S. Supreme Court rulings on campaign finance. I am voting “yes” on all four.

Good luck to all. We’ll need good luck and more in the coming years to deal with the aftereffects of 2016.

What’s on your ballot? Let us know in the comments section.

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