I have in my hands an official state ballot inviting me to vote for public officials by mail or online.
Yesterday the mailman brought me a letter from the South Dakota Retirement System. Our state pension system is holding an election for five seats on the Board of Trustees. SDRS asks me to send my paper ballot to Election Services Co.‘s P.O. Box in Ronkonkoma, New York, or vote online through ESC’s secure ballot website. Online voters access the system by logging in with their ZIP code and an “Election Validation Number” included in the letter from SDRS. “In efforts to reduce cost,” says SDRS, “we encourage online voting.” SDS provides no option for me to vote in person. SDRS must receive all votes by 5 p.m. Central on May 25.
The SDRS Board of Trustees is a public body, created by state law, just like county commissions, city councils, school boards, sanitary districts, and most of the other elected offices on which we vote. This public body, serving 84,000-some members, is able to conduct its elections entirely by mail and Internet, delivering ballots and login information to every eligible voter.
If the South Dakota Retirement System can offer voting by mail and online, why not create an online voting system to complement our current mail-in absentee voting system?
…the FCC voted today to approve a controversial plan to deregulate the $45 billion market for business-to-business broadband, also known as Business Data Services (BDS), by eliminating price caps that make internet access more affordable for thousands of small businesses, schools, libraries and hospitals. The price caps, which have been in place for years, are designed to protect small businesses and other community institutions from predatory behavior by monopoly broadband providers like AT&T and Verizon.
…Public interest advocates say the removal of the BDS price caps will deliver a massive financial windfall to broadband giants like AT&T and Verizon, while driving up costs for consumers. That’s because every time you use an ATM or a credit card at the gas pump or grocery store, the transaction takes place over a BDS network. Higher costs for businesses inevitably lead to higher prices for consumers [Sam Gustin, “Trump’s FCC Votes to Allow Broadband Rate Hikes for Schools and Libraries,” Vice: Motherboard, 2017.04.20].
“Instead of looking out for those millions of little guys, the commission has once again chosen to side with the interests of a handful of multibillion-dollar providers,” Clyburn said in her dissenting statement. “What today’s order does is open the door to immediate price hikes for small business data services. Especially hard-hit would be those in rural areas: Cash-strapped hospitals, schools, libraries and police departments will pay even more for vital connectivity, and soon we will see pressure on our rural health care funding, resulting in less bandwidth” [Donovan Harrell, “FCC Changes to Data Services Could Raise Costs for Rural Areas, Commissioner Argues,” McClatchy, 2017.04.20].
How hard is it to figure out that Donald Trump and his Republicans don’t care about anyone but big business?
Dakota Free Press Podcast Episode #5 is up and ready for your earbuds! This week, Spencer Dobson and I talk March for Science, pine beetles, online privacy, and anti-Muslim hysteria. Then Spencer interviews local criminology professor Courtney Waid-Lindberg about the death penalty, drug policy, and more criminal justice issues. Have a listen… and if you enjoy the show, help us do more by ringing the Dakota Free Press Tip Jar!
In their last election cycles, The telecom industry gave Representative Noem $38,200, Senator Rounds $40,166, and Senator Thune $215,000. Their votes this week indicate the industry’s investment in them has paid off, as once again, Representative Noem and Senators Rounds and Thune are putting big-money donor interests above the welfare of everyday South Dakotans. It seems the tens of thousands of dollars (or in Senator Thune’s case, hundreds of thousands of dollars) they received in campaign donations meant more to our state’s congressional delegation than protecting the Social Security numbers, financial materials, and health information of their constituents [South Dakota Democratic Party, statement, 2017.03.31].
Republican sponsors of the legislation insist the FCC plan was unnecesary and an example of government overreach.
But conservative callers to KELO Radio’s Greg Belfrage Show Friday morning were dead set against ISP’s being able to make money off their online browsing.
“It just seems like a huge invasion of privacy and I’m with you. I’m shocked that I’m on the side of the Democrats and the ACLU,” one caller complained to Belfrage [Mark Russo, “Rounds, Thune Respond to Online Privacy Pickle,” KELO Radio, 2017.03.31].
Russo quotes Thune saying that “we have to keep looking at how to best protect online consumer privacy under one consistently enforced standard.” O.K., Senator Thune, how about enacting and consistently enforcing a standard that says what we read, write, upload, and download on the Internet is as private as what we check out from the library?
Russo quotes Rounds saying that the FCC “needs to go back to the drawing board on these regulations and to a more evidence-based approach….” What evidence do you need, Senator Rounds, that the videos you watch and the e-mails you send should not be sold by your ISP to any liberal blogger with a big crowdsourced checkbook?
“In the 21st Century, Americans deeply value their privacy when it comes to digital content,” Yoder said in a statement Tuesday. “We don’t want the government having access to our information without our consent, and the same goes for private business.”
“These digital privacy protections put in place by the FCC are commonsense measures similar to long-standing rules that apply to phone companies that will simply ensure internet users can continue to have control over their personal information” [Harper Neidig, “GOP Faces Backlash over Internet Privacy Rules,” The Hill, 2017.03.30].
Yoder got it right, while Thune, Rounds, and Noem got it wrong. As Stephen Colbert noted, “This is what’s wrong with Washington, D.C. I guarantee you, there is not one person, not one voter of any political stripe anywhere in America, who asked for this….” Well, not one person except for the telecom execs to whom Thune, Rounds, and Noem sold our online privacy.
If Shantel Krebs can look at 98 people clicking on an Aberdeen American News poll and call the 61% swinging her way a “commanding lead” for herself, then the new Approach ballot questioneers should be able to look at 5,700+ people giving recreational pot 76% approval and medical cannabis 91% approval and shout “Game over, Marty!” the moment they submit their completed petitions this fall.
So we know how the Facebook crowd will vote… assuming the Facebook crowd realizes that real action requires voting, not just clicking.
Jackley’s explanation of the recreational cannabis initiative does much more to sandbag the measure. First, despite his statutory mandate to provide a concise title (when statute demands “concise”, it’s o.k. to complain about length), Jackley ignores New Approach’s more concise 14-word title (“An Act to provide for the regulation and taxation of cannabis and cannabis products”) and goes for 23: “An initiated measure to legalize certain amounts of marijuana, drugs made from marijuana, and drug paraphernalia, and to regulate and tax marijuana establishments.”
The recreational cannabis initiative refers to allowing possession of “cannabis paraphernalia”; Jackley says the initiative legalizes “drug paraphernalia.” The initiative refers to cannabis and cannabis products; Jackley says the initiative legalizes “trafficking”—a loaded word—”certain amounts of marijuana or some kinds of controlled substances.” The later overly broad term invites voters to speculate that this cannabis initiative legalizes totally different kinds of drugs—meth! crack! peyote! Dogs and cats living together!
Jackley works in mention at the end that the recreational cannabis initiative has 35 sections. He asserts that “the acts described in the measure would remain illegal under State or Federal law.” I can buy Federal, but how can an initiative that becomes State law leave the actions it describes illegal under State law?
Jackley then closes by saying the measure has “numerous conflicts with other State laws”—which one would think are dealt with by the Section 2 phrase Notwithstanding any other law—”and within the measure itself” and “A court may find portions of the measure unconstitutional.”
Jackley’s sandbags may not be that heavy. If KOTA’s online poll gives any inkling of public sentiment, New Approach simply needs to tap existing enthusiasm for reforming marijuana laws to get the word out. Advertise like crazy, and people won’t even look at the Attorney General’s explanation on the ballot; they’ll just look for the numbers (IM 24 and 25?) that they’ve heard in every ad and Facebook Share from their friends and mark Yes and Yes.
In a party-line 50-48 vote Thursday, senators approved a resolution to undo sweeping privacy rules adopted by the Obama-era Federal Communications Commission. If it becomes law, it would also prevent the FCC from setting similar rules again.
Those rules have not gone into effect, but they require ISPs to tell consumers what information is being collected and how it is being used or shared. Most notably, the rules require ISPs in some cases to get users’ explicit consent, for example to sell information such as geolocation or browsing history for advertising [Alina Selyukh, “U.S. Senate Votes to Repeal Obama-Era Internet Privacy Rules,” NPR: The Two-Way, 2017.03.23].
As NPR noted when the FCC passed these privacy protections in October, Internet service providers are not the only collectors and sellers of our personal data. Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other websites get all sorts of information about us, and the FCC rules would not have stopped them from cashing in on our searches and video views.
But individual websites see only a sliver of our online activity. Our online service providers see every byte that flows through our pipes and thus could provide the most comprehensive picture of our online habits to businesses eager to monetize our click-preferences.
To review: Koch Brothers’ propaganda wing Americans for Prosperity provided 97% of the money spent to convince South Dakotans to vote against Initiated Measure 22, the Anti-Corruption Act. Their primary argument was that allocating up to $12 million every two years to voluntary public campaign financing and a state ethics commission would take tax dollars from other important public services.
“While passing a government funding bill during lame duck session under the threat of government shutdown is the wrong way to govern, it’s cause for celebration that this bill excludes several big-government priorities that Americans roundly rejected this year. It’s critical that Washington change business as usual and stop spending on corporate welfare to bail out failed Beltway programs or prop up favored industries and corporations. We’re glad to see this message starting to resonate in Congress as well, as they’ve protected past promises to cap discretionary spending and rejected efforts to make it easier for the Export-Import Bank to extend large, taxpayer-backed loans, or to bail out insurance companies under the president’s failed health care law.
“It’s also a victory for consumers that this bill does not include an internet sales tax, which would slap them with higher costs when they check out from their favorite online store [Americans for Prosperity, press release, 2016.12.07].