ACLU News

What 40 Years in Sex Work has Taught Me About Decriminalization

Content Warning: This piece contains graphic descriptions of violence, including sexual assault.

The worst night of my life was the night that changed everything.
 
It was hot out. That’s the code word sex workers use to warn each other if police are nearby. I ducked into a card room called Georgianne’s to hide, where I busied myself with an arcade machine, slipping quarter after quarter into the coin slot to make the world go away for a moment — or at least for the length of one Ms. Pac-Man game.
 
That peace came to a halt when a man came up and flashed a wad of bills in my face. He told me to meet him out back so the police wouldn’t see him leave with me. I knew this was never a good idea. As a sex worker, if no one sees who you leave with, you may never come home. But I didn’t care and went with him anyway, thinking he was like any other client on any other night.
 
When we got to his house, he locked the door and blocked it with a fan. He said he was a police officer, but I knew he was lying. A police officer would never take me home. My gut told me not to go through with it, but when I tried to leave, he snatched me by the hair and dragged me back into his house. He raped me several times that night. He even tried to kill me.

In the movies, when someone strangles you, you die. That isn’t always the truth. You come back and you breathe again and you’re in the same hell that you left, surrounded by blood and broken glass. I didn’t know whether the blood was his or mine, but it didn’t matter. That night, I fought for my life like only the dying can.

I tried everything, until finally I played dead and he bought it — but it didn’t stop him. Thinking I was dead, he dragged me out the back door and down the steps to his car, where he raped me one more time before throwing me in the trunk. I watched, still playing dead, as he went back inside the car to clean up the mess. I had a chance to run — and I took it.
 
My legs wouldn’t work. My foot had been badly injured, too. So I crawled and limped away until I made it to the first cross street. A car drove up. Four men were inside. It was only when I saw the looks on their faces — pure terror — that I realized the extent of what that man did to me.
 
“We don’t want anything to do with this,” said the driver. “But we’re gonna take you somewhere safe.”
 
They took me to the UC Davis Medical Center. I ended up in the rape unit, where nurses washed off the blood, stitched up my wounds, and gave me a rape kit before calling the police. Even though I knew I might be arrested for prostitution, I decided to report anyway — that man was too dangerous, and I didn’t want anybody else to go through what I did. I went straight to the district attorney, who looked at the pictures and the rape kit and decided to believe me.
 
But at trial, it became painfully clear that my word as a sex worker was worthless. I’ll never forget the way it felt to take the stand and retell the experience for an entire courtroom, answering questions about why I was in a certain place at a certain hour, as if it was my fault. I knew they judged me for what I did for a living, and the outcome of the case speaks volumes to how society sees sex workers: The man who kidnapped, raped, and tried to kill me was sentenced to 45 days of community service. According to the court, what he did to me that night amounted to petty theft.

Kristen DiAngelo.Credit: Max Whitaker

My story is as shocking as it is common. Sex workers frequently face violence on the job, but we usually won’t report because we might be arrested in the process. When we do report, we don’t get heard because of the social stigma that being a sex worker carries. My experience that night and the injustice that followed spurred me to fight for the rights society denied me. And the first step in that fight is to decriminalize sex work.
 
Since sex workers do not have access to many of the same protections as other workers, we have to fend for ourselves. It isn’t easy to keep yourself safe if you are constantly afraid of being arrested. Those of us who work on the street will rush through client negotiations to avoid being seen, sometimes jumping into dangerous situations with violent clients because we didn’t have time to screen the client first. People who work online also have limited ability to watch out for their safety. In 2018, the passage of SESTA/FOSTA banned many online sex work and client screening platforms that sex workers use to stay safe. And once you’re caught in a risky situation, there’s nobody to call for help without risking arrest.

Criminalization also puts us at higher risk of police abuse. Throughout my career, I’ve been sexually assaulted and robbed by the police several times, and I couldn’t do anything about it. I have also encountered police officers who helped me — in some instances, possibly saving my life by warning me of areas to avoid if other police were patrolling nearby. But sex workers should not have to rely on chance to stay safe, and those who swore to serve and protect should be helping rather than harming us.
 
I have been to jail several times for prostitution. Other sex workers, such as trans women of color, are even more likely to be arrested, incarcerated, and harassed, partly because the police profile and target them. The punishment doesn’t end with a jail sentence — having an arrest for prostitution on your criminal record is a scarlet letter, considered a crime of moral turpitude. It makes it difficult or sometimes even impossible to get a job, sign a lease, or access everyday services — even banking. I was shocked when I got a letter from my bank announcing they were closing my account. Even though I had good credit and had been a customer for decades, they said my job made me a “high risk” customer and violated their code of ethics. If sex work were decriminalized, banks would probably have fairer policies, and it would be easier for us to advocate for our rights.

Opponents of decriminalization are often trying to “save” us from trafficking and exploitation. In my experience, attempts to save sex workers through law enforcement have done the opposite. Raids, arrests, and stop-and-search policies push us further into the margins, where violence goes unchecked. Making an occupation illegal does not stop exploitation and trafficking — exploitation and trafficking proliferate because sex workers can’t report, don’t have resources, and social stigma silences us. Sex workers are not infantile beings who don’t know what’s good for us. We are the last people who want to perpetuate exploitation and harm, because we’re the ones who are affected. We want labor rights, we want justice, and we want to be treated the same as any other worker under the law. First and foremost, we need people to listen to us.
 
I’m proud to be a part of the movement for sex workers’ rights. In my home state of California, we banned the use of condoms as evidence of sex work by police. This will encourage workers to carry and use protection without fear of arrest, protecting both their health and that of their clients.The same law also allows sex workers to report violent offenses such as trafficking, rape, and robbery with complete immunity from arrest — not just for prostitution, but for misdemeanor charges related to sex work or drugs. Every day I see more signs that attitudes are changing, including at the federal level. Last year, Congress introduced the SAFE SEX Workers Study Act, which calls for studying the effects of SESTA/FOSTA on sex workers’ safety and well-being. Decriminalization is by no means a panacea, but it will create positive changes for sex workers.
 
If sex work were decriminalized, sex workers would be able to seek help when we’re in danger. We could go to the hospital in times of emergency without fear of arrest. We would have more autonomy. And we wouldn’t get entangled with the criminal justice system for a misdemeanor that will follow us for life. Decriminalization is the step we need to take to keep us all safe.

Eye on Civil Liberties: Where You Can Have an Impact in Elections Closer to Home

The intense focus on the presidential race can easily obscure policies that could have more of a direct impact on communities in both red and blue states but they are no less important. Many voters don’t engage with the electoral process because they don’t think their votes make a difference or count for much. Down-ballot races are where voters can make a real impact in shaping policies and spark a broader public debate. 

The ACLU is nonpartisan, so our goal with down-ballot campaigns is to ensure that voters are educated about the potential consequences of an election, not to support specific candidates. We don’t tell voters who to vote for but provide them the tools to cast an informed vote by elevating the key issues at play in the race. 

So what policies are at stake in this election? Here’s a quick snapshot of the types of civil liberties and civil rights issues that could be on your ballot. 

Criminal Justice Reform
This summer police accountability and other criminal justice reforms were thrust front and center. These are issues we’ve long worked on but now take on new importance and are reflected across the spectrum of races where we’re engaged. 

Take the Maricopa County, Arizona attorney race. Elected prosecutors, district attorneys, or county attorneys have an enormous impact on the criminal legal system — they decide who to charge with crimes, whether to offer a second chance or send someone to prison, and when to hold police accountable. In Maricopa, we’re focusing on how candidates can hold police accountable when they kill someone and end prosecutions of low-level marijuana possession, charges that disproportionately impact people of color. 

Conditions of confinement are also a key issue in the criminal justice space. Sheriffs are often the people directly in charge of local jails, meaning they’re responsible for conditions in these facilities and the people incarcerated there. In Cobb County, Georgia, 50 people have died in custody since 2003, and others have experienced deadly neglect, misconduct by deputies, inhumane conditions, extended lockdowns, and inadequate medical care. Through our engagement in this race, voters could not only improve conditions in the jail but also establish accountability for what goes on behind those walls.

But it’s not just local officials who can have an impact on the criminal justice system. Ballot measures allow an entire state to address issues like mass incarceration. In Oklahoma, we’re working on State Question 805, a common-sense criminal justice reform that will limit extreme sentences for nonviolent crimes and save Oklahoma taxpayers $186 million. Oklahoma hands down cruel and unfair sentences for minor crimes, leading to one of the highest incarceration rates in the country. An individual sentenced in the state served 33 years in prison for writing $400 worth of bad checks, and a mother was sentenced to 15 years for stealing basic necessities and children’s toys from a Walmart. State Question 805 will limit sentences like these that are out of proportion to the crimes.

Reproductive Freedom 
Since 2011, states have passed more than 460 abortion restrictions, eroding abortion access for far too many, disproportionately harming low-income people and people of color. With President Trump having promised only to nominate justices that would overturn Roe v. Wade, if his current nominee is confirmed, the legal right to abortion will be in the gravest danger it has faced yet. As federal protections for reproductive rights become precariously uncertain, safeguarding this right at the state level has never been more urgent. 

Montana stands out as a state with strong protections for reproductive freedom, especially in its geographic region, but that’s mostly because of its governor, as well as some important state supreme court precedents. The state legislature continually passes abortion restrictions like targeted regulations of abortion providers (TRAP laws) and abortion bans, but has been stopped by the governor’s veto pen. Without a governor who supports abortion rights, Montana could see severe restrictions on the five remaining abortion providers in Montana, which also serve patients from Idaho, the Dakotas, and Wyoming, where access is virtually non-existent due to restrictions. The risk is so high that the ACLU is dedicating significant resources to informing voters on what’s at stake in this race so they can make an informed decision.
 
Should Roe v. Wade be overturned, abortion could become illegal in several states, including Arizona. The Arizona House of Representatives, however, is very close to obtaining a majority that would protect abortion rights, so we’re engaging in two key state legislative races  — House Districts 20 and 23 — to mobilize voters on this issue. Additionally, since access to abortion turns not only on statewide legislation but also on prosecutorial discretion, we have raised abortion in the Maricopa County attorney race too. Should abortion be banned in the state, the Maricopa County attorney would have significant influence on whether to charge people with crimes for seeking or providing abortion care. 

And in Colorado, we’re fighting back a ballot measure, Proposition 115, that would ban abortion later in pregnancy. Prop. 115 would make it a crime for doctors to provide abortion care starting at 22 weeks in pregnancy, robbing pregnant people of the ability to make their own personal medical decisions, taking into consideration their own personal situations. Prop. 115 is a one-size-fits-all mandate that fails to acknowledge every pregnancy is unique — and shows no compassion for what families face in unimaginably complicated circumstances. And it takes away the ability of doctors to provide the best medical care for their patients.

Immigrants’ Rights
Typically, the federal government shapes our policies on immigration. But they frequently also try to involve local law enforcement in their efforts to find, detain, and deport immigrants, splitting families and communities. This is the case for local sheriffs who are often asked to house detained people, including immigrants, and have the power to enter into agreements with federal immigration enforcement to deputize local police as immigration agents. 

In the run-up to November 3, we’re focused on three specific sheriff races that have the ability to transform the quality of life for immigrant families. In Charleston, South Carolina, the next sheriff could end the city’s 287(g) agreement with federal immigration agencies, which wastes local resources to detain and deport immigrants on behalf of the federal government. And in Cobb and Gwinnett counties in Georgia, two of the most aggressive locations for local immigration enforcement, we’ve asked candidates if they’ll commit to both ending the 287(g) program and stopping the use of ICE detainers, which can extend a person’s detention beyond the authorized amount of time, allowing ICE to take them into custody and eventually deport them. In Gwinnett County alone, the county shared information with ICE on more than 5,000 immigrants in 2017, which accounted for one-fifth of all interactions nationwide that year. In Miami-Dade County, Florida — another area of ACLU electoral engagement — the mayor will appoint a new sheriff, so in this case, we’ve gotten involved in a mayoral race to let voters know about the candidates’ positions. But, the issues at stake are the same — treating immigrant communities justly and curtailing local collaboration with ICE.

Racial Justice
While our country remains in a moment of racial reckoning, there are states where voters can have a direct impact on racial justice in just a few weeks. Of course, many reforms to the criminal justice system, like State Question 805 in Oklahoma, could mean decreasing racial disparities in who gets charged and the length of their sentences. But these policies on the ballot go beyond criminal justice reform.

This year, Nebraska voters can decide to reduce predatory payday loan interest rates, which average more than 400 percent. These payday loans, marketed as a short-term fix for those in financial stress, are actually designed to trap borrowers in a cycle of long-term debt. The consequences of payday lenders fall especially hard on communities of color, where payday lending stores are located in higher numbers than in other neighborhoods. It becomes incredibly hard for minority families to build wealth, save for the future, or have a safety net because dollars are systematically drained away. This ballot measure comes at a time when many Americans are devastated by the global health pandemic and the longstanding racial disparities it has exacerbated, leaving millions unable to meet their families’ basic needs. While many of these issues will take work to resolve, voting for this ballot measure will be a move in the right direction to help remedy economic and racial injustice. 

In California, the most diverse state in the nation, voters can choose to support Proposition 16, which would bring affirmative action back to the state for the first time in decades. The current affirmative action ban means fewer and less profitable opportunities for women and communities of color. But this isn’t only about money and jobs — lives are at risk. Black, Latinx, and Native American people are dying disproportionately from COVID-19 because of the devastating consequences of decades of discrimination in education, housing, jobs, health care, and more. Affirmative action would help reduce and eliminate those harms by leveling the playing field, for instance, through expanding access to health care education to all communities. Research has shown that communities of color receive better health care from medical professionals of those communities. If passed, Proposition 16 will help bring equal opportunity to all Californians, increasing access to fair wages, good jobs, and quality schools for everyone.

Make a Plan to Vote
Of course, none of these policies will change if you don’t vote. So make a plan and recruit friends and family. For more on how to vote in your state, check out our Let People Vote tool.

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Paid for by American Civil Liberties Union, Inc., Anthony Romero, Executive Director, 125 Broad Street, New York, New York 10004.  Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.
 
Paid for by the American Civil Liberties Union, Inc. on behalf of the Committee to Advance Constitutional Values.
 
Authorized and paid for by American Civil Liberties Union, Inc., 125 Broad Street, New York, NY 10004, 212-549-2500, on behalf of Yes on 805, Inc.
 
Paid for by American Civil Liberties Union, Inc.; Anthony Romero, Registered Agent.  Authorized by Abortion Access for All.
 
Paid for by American Civil Liberties Union, Inc., 125 Broad Street, New York, NY 10004, and authorized by Nebraskans for Responsible Lending.
 
Paid for by American Civil Liberties Union, Inc., ID #1259514, and authorized by Yes on 16, Opportunity for All Coalition, Sponsored by Civil Rights Organizations.

Photographer Josué Rivas on Indigenous Representation

This week and in recent years, a growing number of states and cities across the country celebrated Indigenous Peoples’ Day. It comes as an important corrective after decades of celebrating the “discovery” of the Americas by Christopher Columbus each year. We know, of course, that no such discovery happened — what did happen was colonization, and centuries of subjugation, murder, disenfranchisement, and displacement of Native Americans. As we reflect on our history and on the stories that have been too often excluded, we consider the importance of not just what stories get told, but of who gets to tell them. 

This week on At Liberty, we are joined by Josué Rivas, who helped us think through these questions. Rivas is a visual storyteller, educator, creative director, and self-described “Indigenous futurist.” He descended from the Mexica Otomi peoples. He aims “to challenge the mainstream narrative about Indigenous peoples” and to “be a visual messenger for those in the shadows of our society.” 

https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/910743910

Let Trans People Vote

Do you have a plan to cast your ballot on November 3rd or before during early voting? We’re all are asking this question, but for many transgender people it invokes an extra layer of questions and anxiety. Will I need to show ID? If so, can I get my name and gender marker changed on my ID in time?  Did I change my name on my voter registration? How should I dress? Will a poll worker embarrass me, out me, or challenge my identity? WIll I get harassed for being trans or some other reason? Transgender voters encounter a number of barriers that make exercising our right to vote complicated, intimidating and unnecessarily difficult.

State ID laws have created a web of barriers for transgender residents to cast their ballot. There are around 378,450 voting-eligible transgender people across the country who do not have accurate IDs. And 81,000 transgender voters live in states with the strictest photo ID requirements.

https://twitter.com/ACLU/statuses/1234881082404765699

Trans people have to jump through lots of hoops to get updated identification that reflects who we are. Typically we have to submit a legal petition to state court and have a hearing in front of a judge. In some states we need background checks and to publish the name change in a newspaper, which costs money. We need to present documentation at all sorts of agencies to update our information, and changing gender markers can require a variety of burdensome medical certifications. 

If that doesn’t sound complicated enough, this election has additional hurdles for transgender voters due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many state courts, DMVs, and social security offices closed, meaning trans people could not start their necessary legal filings or got stuck somewhere in the process. Now even with some offices reopening, huge backlogs and new protocols mean appointments are not available for months, leaving many trans people stuck in the lurch with mismatched documents heading into election day. Partly because many of us do not have stable, long-term housing, it can be challenging to keep our registration updated even under ordinary circumstances. Transgender people were twice as likely as the general U.S. population to report problems like not receiving an absentee ballot or being registered at the wrong address kept us from voting in the 2014 election. 

These and other barriers do not impact all trans people equally. A 2015 survey found that Black transgender people were 3.5 times as likely as white transgender people to not be registered to vote because they feared anti-transgender harassment. IDs can cost money, and even if the ID is free the process of updating underlying documents can cost time and money which not all of us can afford to pay. Black and Indigenous transgender women are also more likely than other trans people to have been incarcerated, which sometimes leads to loss of voting rights. 

As intimidating as these challenges may seem, trans people who are eligible to vote often do vote — in fact, we may vote in higher numbers than the general U.S. population. That may be because we know that our rights are on the line. It is illegal for poll workers to turn us away from voting because we are transgender. And the news is not all bad for transgender voters in this election. Expanded vote by mail access across the country due to COVID-19 may alleviate some of the threat of in-person intimidation, harassment, and questioning. If you plan to cast a vote by mail, make sure you check your voter registration status and fill out your ballot using the name you are registered under. Request and return your ballot as far in advance as possible, to avoid any last-minute problems. If you have questions about how to cast your ballot this election, check our voting resources or reach out for assistance. 

Let People Vote | American Civil Liberties Union

Here at the ACLU we will continue the fight to improve access to updated identification and remove barriers to exercising your right to vote. In the meantime, we hope everyone who is eligible will vote! We need all of our voices in this democracy to keep moving toward justice for all.

Checklist for Trans Voters
  • Check your voter registration status to make sure you are registered and your name and address are up to date.
  • See our ACLU Let People Vote guide for info on whether your state allows vote by mail, early voting, and other important info on how to cast your vote.
  • If you are voting by mail, make sure you fill out your ballot and sign using the name listed on your voter registration.
  • If you are voting in person, consider going with a friend in case you encounter harassment or need to document discrimination. You may want to plan extra time in case you encounter difficulties.
  • Call 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) if you encounter any problems while voting.

Make an Informed Decision: Where the Presidential Candidates Land

Everything we’ve fought for is at stake in this election. Our right to protest a broken system, our right to equal treatment at work, and even our right to vote. It’s up to us to decide what comes next. The ACLU does not endorse or oppose candidates, but we do want to give you the information you need to make informed decisions. It is crucial that you study where the candidates land on the issues. See below for the presidential candidates’ positions on key civil liberties issues.

IssueJoe BidenDonald TrumpPolice Reform: Pledged to help hold police accountable for shooting unarmed people and other misconduct, by requiring local law enforcement to improve “use of force” standards as a condition of receiving federal funds.YesNoReducing Incarceration: Pledged to reform/reformed sentencing to reduce incarceration levels in the United States.YesYesEqual Pay: Pledged to support policies that require pay transparency such as the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would help ensure equal pay for Americans, regardless of gender.YesNoVoting Rights: Pledged to restore the Voting Rights Act, which would require states with a history of racial discrimination to get permission before they change their voting laws.YesNo

Paid for by American Civil Liberties Union, Inc.

ICE is Trying to Deport My Husband While I Treat COVID Patients

I work as a registered nurse in an intensive care unit in Southern California. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, I’ve been working alongside my colleagues as we try to save the lives of the sickest patients and comfort their families. The hours have been long, and we have all seen more than our share of sorrow.
 
Fortunately, for most of the pandemic I had my husband to lean on. It was comforting to know that while I was in the unit, he was at home caring for our two young children and that when I came home he would be there to support me.
 
That changed in July, when ICE detained him during a routine check-in. Now they are saying that he will be deported to Pakistan as soon as they are able to put him on a flight. I need your help to try and stop that from happening.
 
Amir and I were introduced to each other by a mutual friend in New York. I loved listening to him talk. He was so knowledgeable and interesting. In Pakistan he had been a doctor, later coming to the United States on a student visa to pursue a PhD at the University of Texas in environmental science. While he was there, he started dating a woman who eventually became his first wife.
 
Then 9/11 happened. As a Pakistani Muslim, Amir suddenly became a target of the FBI due to his research into bioluminescent bacteria, and agents showed up at his door, interrogated him, and took him away. It took them a few weeks to realize their suspicions were baseless and though they never acknowledged it, based on discriminatory profiling. Unfortunately, in the months prior to this incident, he and his wife had become estranged. As a result, he was then transferred from FBI custody to ICE, where an officer told him that the collapse of his marriage had made him deportable.
 
For three years, Amir fought to stay in the U.S. from the inside of a detention facility. He taught himself immigration law, filing over 200 cases on behalf of other immigrants while also dealing with his own case. Eventually, he was released after a custody review.
 
But Amir’s troubles with ICE didn’t end there. Every time they could, they detained him again, hoping that they would be able to get documents from Pakistan that would allow them to send him back.
 
Despite this ordeal, Amir and I fell in love, moved to California, and started our family. He told me about the problems he’d had with ICE, but I didn’t care — I believed we would find a way to work it out.
 
Now we have two children, one of whom is a year and a half old and another who is six. Every summer, Amir has dutifully checked in with ICE, who have been issuing him temporary work permits and allowing him to remain in the country with us. He started a business, and has been a taxpayer and member of the community here.
 
I wanted Amir to apply for a marriage visa for us, but he feared that it would anger ICE and lead to his deportation. His time in detention psychologically scarred him and left him afraid of what might happen if he rocked the boat.
 
This past July, when Amir went to his check-in with ICE, they didn’t let him leave. Without warning, they detained him, saying that they had obtained documents from Pakistan that would allow him to be deported, and that they would be doing so as soon as they could.

Urooj Alavi.Credit: Wey Wang for the ACLU

The months since Amir’s detention have been devastating for me and my family. I cannot stop working — my colleagues need me, and now that my husband’s income is gone, I am the sole breadwinner. When I am working, my children are in the care of a babysitter, but if anything were to happen to me they would have nowhere to go. Already, two other nurses at my ICU have become sick with COVID-19.
 
To make matters worse, last week I received horrible news. Amir had been complaining of the lack of precautions in the Adelanto Detention Center, a privately run facility that has a contract with ICE to hold immigrants. He told me that there was no social distancing and that they were often packed into holding cells without regard for anyone’s safety.
 
Now, he has contracted COVID-19.
 
Hearing of his treatment since he became sick has been horrifying. Despite his positive diagnosis at Adelanto, ICE seems to have covered up the test results before transferring him to another facility in Arizona, where he once again tested positive. Now his condition has worsened. The last time we spoke, he told me that his fever had reached 104 degrees.
 
As a medical professional who deals with COVID-19 every day, I am shocked and appalled at ICE’s irresponsible conduct regarding the highly contagious virus. As a wife, I am terrified for my husband, who is a cancer survivor. Amir is a doting father and a gentle man. He deserves better than this. 
 
Once Amir recovers and tests negative for COVID-19, ICE says that they will chain him in shackles and fly him to Pakistan, a country he has not seen in nearly 20 years. I’m not sure what will become of our family if that happens. They call me an essential worker, but how much can they really care about me if they are willing to treat us like this? Even though we are U.S. citizens, my children and I may be forced to leave my country and my job as a nurse, just to keep our family together.
 
Deporting Amir will not make America stronger, better, or safer. It will separate our family and cause grave suffering for me and our children. It pains me to know that we are not the only family facing this kind of treatment from ICE. I need your help to keep Amir here with us. Time is running short, but it’s not too late yet. Please call the Florence Field Office and ask them not to deport Amir and tear our family apart: (602) 766-7030. 

At the Polls, Episode 5: Why is Voting so Inaccessible to People with Disabilities?

Voters with disabilities make up the largest minority voting bloc in the country, but too often, voting is inaccessible. It’s a bigger problem than it may seem: One in four American adults has a disability and 45 percent have a chronic illness, including health conditions that impact their ability to vote safely during a global pandemic. 

In this week’s episode of At the Polls, we discuss accessible voting with Susan Mizner, director of the ACLU’s Disability Rights Project, and Curtis Chong, a longtime technologist and advocate for digital accessibility for all. 

https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/909309553

While in-person polling places are required to be fully accessible, we still see violations such as lack of ramps or elevators, voting machines not properly set up, and facilities without adequate signage indicating accessible routes or parking. Inaccessibility means that sometimes voters with disabilities need assistance to vote, sacrificing their right to cast a private, independent ballot, or can’t vote at all. Reminder: Voters with disabilities are legally guaranteed equal access to the ballot.

One way to improve accessibility is to expand access to vote by mail, as many states have done this year in response to the pandemic. But that is not enough to ensure that all voters with disabilities can access the vote. Congress needs to enact more measures, such as those in the Accessible Voting Act, to make sure the right to vote applies to everyone, including people with disabilities. 

Watch the video below and listen to this week’s episode of At the Polls to answer your questions about accessible voting. 

What You Need to Know About Orleans Parish District Attorney Candidates

The election for Orleans Parish district attorney on Nov. 3 is a historic opportunity to shape the city’s priorities on racial disparities in sentencing, prosecutorial practices, bail reform and help end mass incarceration. The next DA can create a fairer, more equitable criminal legal system and champion reform.

Make informed decisions. Make sure you know where the candidates are on key civil liberties and civil rights issues.

Orleans Parish District Attorney Candidate Scorecard IssuesArthur HunterKeva LandrumJason WilliamsDecarcerationPledges not to prosecute marijuana possessionYesDid not pledgeYesPledges not to seek “habitual offender” enhancementsNoNoYesProsecutorial PracticesPledges not to lock crime survivors in jail to secure their testimonyYesNoYesPledges to recommend release of people held on technical violations of probation and paroleYesDid not pledgeYesPretrialPledges to make charging decisions within five days of a person’s jail admission, or agree to release without bond, except for charges carrying life in prisonYesDid not pledgeYesJuvenile JusticePledges not to transfer kids out of juvenile court to be prosecuted as adultsNoNoYesTransparency & Public IntegrityPledges to re-establish a Conviction Integrity UnitYesYesYesCommits to independent investigations of killings and use of excessive force by policeYesYesYesFull questionnaire links: Arthur Hunter | Keva Landrum | Jason Williams

Learn more about what New Orleanians want from their next district attorney with the ACLU of Louisiana’s candidate briefing: The Power of a Prosecutor.

ACLU of Louisiana Elections Information Center

Important dates and deadlines

Early voting: Oct. 16 through Oct. 27 from 8:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. (excluding Sundays).

Deadline to request absentee ballot: Oct. 30, 2020, by 4:30 p.m.
Absentee ballots must be received by the registrar of voters by 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 2, 2020.

Find your polling location here.

Paid for by American Civil Liberties Union, Inc., Anthony Romero, Executive Director, 125 Broad Street, New York, New York 10004, not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. The ACLU does not support or oppose candidates for elected office.

Let People Vote: Our Fight for Your Right to Vote During 2020

2020 has been an unprecedented year in many ways; a pandemic during a presidential election being one of them. Not unique to 2020, however, is politicians’ and states’ systematic efforts to suppress voting and disenfranchise Americans. But the ACLU, along with our affiliates and partners across the country, have been hard at work defending your right to vote. This year, we have won 27 victories in 20 states and Puerto Rico that will safeguard the voting rights of millions of Americans this November. Together, these states are home to more than 154 million Americans and wield 247 votes in the Electoral College.
 
No one should have to choose between their health and their vote, and yet states insisted on limiting access to early voting and voting by mail and played politics with peoples’ lives during a global pandemic. Voting by mail is a common-sense and secure solution to protect our health, which is why officials from both parties in a wide range of states expanded voting by mail to all voters in their states. 

1. Voting Safely During the Pandemic Eligibility to Vote by Mail

When the pandemic started, 34 states had laws permitting all eligible voters to cast their ballots by mail in November — leaving 16 that didn’t. We sued and and helped ensure that five of these 16 states expanded vote-by-mail eligibility to all voters for the general election: 

  • Missouri: In May, citing a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and the ACLU of Missouri, the Missouri legislature expanded access to vote by mail to all voters during 2020 due to COVID-19, and eliminated the state’s notary requirement for high-risk voters. The litigation is ongoing to ensure no voter has to risk their health to obtain a notary signature. The ACLU and the ACLU of Missouri brought the case on behalf of the NAACP of Missouri, the League of Women Voters of Missouri, and several individuals.
  • Alabama: In June, the ACLU and the ACLU of Alabama joined a lawsuit, on behalf of several Alabama voters and the Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute, brought by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, to ensure all Alabama voters could vote by mail. A month later, in July, the Alabama secretary of state declared that all registered Alabama voters could no-excuse absentee vote this year by selecting the “physical illness or infirmity” excuse on their application. 
  • Connecticut: On July 31, after the ACLU and the ACLU of Connecticut sued on behalf of the Connecticut NAACP, the League of Women Voters of Connecticut, and an individual voter, the state passed a bill permitting every eligible voter to vote absentee using the “sickness of COVID-19” as a valid excuse.
  • Kentucky: In August, the state of Kentucky agreed to let all eligible voters vote by mail due to the pandemic, and dropped several requirements that would have put the state’s voters at dire and unnecessary risk in order to cast a ballot in 2020, including a strict photo ID requirement that would have increased Kentuckians’ risk of COVID-19 exposure by forcing them to visit ID-issuing offices to exercise their right to vote. The ACLU, the ACLU of Kentucky, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Covington & Burling LLP brought the lawsuit on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Kentucky, the Louisville Urban League, the Kentucky State Conference of the NAACP, and several individuals.
  • South Carolina: In September, after the ACLU, the ACLU of South Carolina, and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund sued, the South Carolina legislature passed a bill to expand access to vote by mail to all eligible voters for the 2020 election. 

Now, a total of 45 states are permitting all eligible voters to vote by mail in November. Only five states are restricting access to vote-by-mail to certain voters.
 
We also helped expand voting by mail eligibility in Tennessee and Puerto Rico:  

  • Tennessee: In August, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that every eligible voter with underlying medical conditions placing them at risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19, and those caring for people with underlying illness, can vote by mail. The ACLU, the ACLU of Tennessee, and Dechert LLP brought the case on behalf of several Tennesseans whose health would be at risk if forced to vote in person while COVID-19 is spreading, including a two-time cancer survivor.
  • Puerto Rico: In September, a federal court ruled that every Puerto Rico resident over the age of 60 can vote early or by mail in this election. The ACLU, the ACLU of Puerto Rico, and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP brought the case on behalf of Puerto Rico residents who are over 60 and want to vote safely, either by absentee ballot or early voting to avoid crowds.
Witness Signature Requirements for Voting by Mail

When the pandemic started, about a dozen states had outdated laws requiring voters casting their ballots by mail to have someone as a witness when they complete their ballots and provide a witness signature. Such requirements pose a risk to voters’ health and safety during the pandemic, and do nothing to enhance elections integrity. We sued and and helped eliminate such requirements in four states: 

  • Virginia: In May, a federal court approved a partial settlement to remove Virginia’s witness requirement for voters who believe their health would be at risk due to COVID-19 if forced to comply. The agreement was extended for the November elections in August. The ACLU and ACLU of Virginia brought the case on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Virginia and several individuals.
  • Rhode Island: In August, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the Republican National Committee’s request to block Rhode Island from eliminating witness/notary requirements for vote by mail in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ACLU, the ACLU of Rhode Island, the Campaign Legal Center, and the law firm Fried Frank brought the case on behalf of two voting rights advocacy groups: Common Cause Rhode Island and the League of Women Voters Rhode Island.
  • Minnesota: In August, the state of Minnesota agreed to eliminate the witness requirement. The ACLU, the ACLU of Minnesota, and Faegre Drinker LLP sued on behalf of the NAACP and individual voters, seeking to make voting safer in Minnesota in the midst of this pandemic.
  • Alaska: On October 12, alongside the Native American Rights Fund, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, and the ACLU of Alaska, we won a ruling from the Alaska Supreme Court, blocking Alaska’s witness signature requirement for the general election.  We represent the Arctic Village Fund, the League of Women Voters of Alaska, and several individual voters in this case. 
Other Barriers to Voting

In addition to the cases above, we won victories in four states regarding other unnecessary barriers to voting:

  • Pennsylvania: In September, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled that state law allows county bureaus of elections to set up drop boxes and satellite offices to accept mail and absentee ballots. The ACLU, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Public Interest Law Center, and the law firm Wilmer Hale joined an existing case on behalf of the Black Political Empowerment Project, Common Cause Pennsylvania, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, Make the Road Pennsylvania, and three voters.
  • Minnesota: In September, the state agreed to mail absentee ballot applications to registered voters for the November general election, making it easier for Minnesota voters to vote safely in the midst of this pandemic.
  • Montana: In September, a Montana judge overturned a state law that would’ve severely restricted the right to vote for Native Americans. In Montana, the majority of individuals vote by mail, and rural tribal communities often work with get-out-the-vote organizers who collect and transport ballots to election offices that would otherwise be inaccessible. These ballot collection efforts are often the only way Native Americans can access the vote. But the Montana Ballot Interference Prevention Act (BIPA) effectively ended the practice of ballot collection and assistance efforts, and would have disenfranchised Native American voters en masse. The ACLU, the ACLU of Montana, and the Native American Rights Fund successfully brought this lawsuit on behalf of Western Native Voice and Montana Native Vote, Native American-led organizations focused on getting out the vote and increasing civic participation in the Native American community; and the Assiniboine & Sioux Tribes of Fort Peck, Blackfeet Nation, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation, Crow Tribe, and Fort Belknap Indian Community. 
  • Wisconsin: In September, a federal court ordered the state to immediately provide temporary free IDs to voters who need them for purposes of satisfying the state’s strict voter identification requirement, and better public education regarding how to obtain a free ID before the November election.
  • Alabama: After a two-week trial, a federal court held that the Alabama Secretary of State’s ban on curbside voting violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Constitution, and enjoined it for the November election.
2. Voter Registration and Voter Rolls Voter Registration Opportunities for Public Assistance Clients

The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), often referred to as the “motor voter” law, requires states to offer voter registration at the DMV. Unfortunately, it is all too common for states to neglect or ignore the NVRA requirements. For years, the ACLU has brought litigation nationwide to ensure compliance with the NVRA. Our investigations and successful advocacy with partner organizations this year resulted in millions of public assistance clients receiving a voter registration opportunity.

  • Arizona: In January, the State of Arizona agreed to provide more effective voter registration services to individuals who update their driver’s license or state ID address in person at a Motor Vehicle Department office or online through the Service Arizona portal. As part of the settlement, Arizona mailed voter registration cards to more than 450,000 people. The ACLU, the ACLU of Arizona, Demos, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP brought the case on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Arizona, Mi Famila Vota and Promise Arizona.
  • Kansas: After investigations by the ACLU, the ACLU of Kansas, and Demos, the state of Kansas agreed to mail voter registration applications to more than 270,000 clients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, and the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP).
  • Michigan: After investigations by the ACLU and the ACLU of Michigan on behalf of Detroit Disability Power and Street Democracy, the state of Michigan agreed to mail approximately 345,000 voter registration applications to Medicaid clients.
  • North Carolina: The ACLU and the ACLU of North Carolina partnered with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights to successfully advocate for the mailing of voter registration applications to more than 1.2 million Medicaid clients.
  • Virginia: The ACLU and ACLU of Virginia partnered on advocacy to ensure that more than 410,000 Medicaid and SNAP clients received voter registration forms from the state.

Overall, thanks to advocacy by the ACLU and our partner organizations, almost 3 million public assistance clients in these five states have received voter registration applications in the mail.

Unnecessary Barriers to Voter Registration

Restricting the terms and requirements of registration is one of the most common forms of voter suppression. Types of restrictions include requiring documents to prove citizenship or identification, or onerous penalties for voter registration drives.

  • Kansas: In April 2020, a federal appeals court ruled that a Kansas law requiring people to show documents to prove their citizenship when they register to vote violated the National Voter Registration Act, and the U.S. Constitution. The law, which had been crafted by former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, had prevented 31,000 Kansans from registering to vote. The ACLU, the ACLU of Kansas, and Dechert LLP filed the lawsuit in 2016 on behalf of several individual voters and the Kansas League of Women Voters.
  • Tennessee: In April, Tennessee lawmakers repealed onerous restrictions previously enacted in a 2019 law that sought to restrict and impose harsh penalties on community voter registration efforts. The law was passed in the wake of a surge in voter registrations prior to the 2018 midterm election. However, instead of providing necessary resources to help election offices process the influx, state lawmakers passed a measure that created criminal and civil penalties against those who were unable to comply with onerous new requirements. The measure threatened to curtail or completely suspend the efforts of key voter registration groups across the state. The ACLU, the ACLU of Tennessee, the Campaign Legal Center, the Fair Elections Center, and the law firm of Sherrard, Roe, Voigt, Harbison challenged the measure in a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of organizations that conduct voter registration activities in Tennessee.
Voter Purges

States often engage in flawed processes to remove voters from the rolls based on erroneous information. We successfully fought to prevent purges in two states earlier this year.

  • California: In January, after we along with ACLU of Northern California, Demos, and the UCLA Voting Rights Project sought to intervene and dismiss a case brought by individuals seeking to require the California Secretary of State and DMV to review documentary proof of citizenship before registering people to vote after DMV transactions, the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their case and have not refiled it. We represented the League of Women Voters of California, Common Cause, Mi Familia Vota, and UnidosUS in the case.
  • Indiana: In August, a court permanently blocked a law in Indiana that would have allowed county election officials to kick voters off the rolls immediately without notice, based solely on third-party information. The ACLU, the ACLU of Indiana, Demos, and the firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, on behalf of Common Cause Indiana, challenged the law. The law sought to circumvent federally mandated safeguards from a state purge process, allowing voters to be purged based solely on second-hand information without notice or an opportunity to correct the record.
3. Fair Maps

In addition to all of our work to make sure that everyone can register and vote safely and without unnecessary barriers, we are also trying to make sure that everyone is counted equally in the political process and that political district maps are fair — at both the national and local levels.

  • The Census: The Trump administration tried twice to undermine the census and weaponize it to target undocumented immigrants. We sued, and won, twice. As the Constitution says: everyone in the country must be counted. In September, a federal court blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to block undocumented immigrants from being counting in the Census for purposes of representation in Congress — a move that would have been devastating to states with large immigrant communities. The ACLU, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas, and Arnold & Porter LLP brought the case on behalf of the New York Immigration Coalition, Make the Road New York, CASA, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the ADC Research Institute, and FIEL Houston.
  • Georgia: In January, a federal district court in Albany ordered the Sumter County Board of Elections and Registration to adopt court-drawn maps for county school board elections, in compliance with the Voting Rights Act. In addition, the court required the county to move its school board elections from May back to November to ensure increased voter participation, including from the Black community. The ACLU, the ACLU of Georgia, and the Law Office of Bryan L. Sell filed this lawsuit on behalf of Rev. Mathis Wright, Jr. 

We are not done yet. We will keep working to protect your right to vote in the days leading up to Election Day and on Election Day itself. And we’ll be back at work the next morning, preparing for the next election.

Wisconsin: Vote Early, Vote Today

Your vote matters and here’s how to cast it in Wisconsin.

  • If you are not already registered, you can register and vote on the same day (except for Oct 31 and Nov 1).
  • Bring your photo ID with you. If you don’t have one of the listed photo IDs, you can get one for free at the DMV, even if you don’t have all of the documents, like your birth certificate.

For early vote times in other locations, contact your municipal clerk.

MunicipalityLocation(s)Date(s)TimesTuesday, October 20, 2020 – Friday, October 23, 2020 8am – 5pm dailyBeloitCity Hall
100 State St,
Beloit, WI 53511
Saturday, October 24, 20208am – 4pmMonday, October 26, 2020 – Friday, October 30, 20208am – 5pm daily MunicipalityLocation(s)Date(s)TimesTuesday, October 20, 2020 – Thursday, October 22, 20207am-6pm dailyFriday, October 23, 20207am-5pmEau ClaireElections Office,
203 S. Farwell St.
Eau Claire, WI 54701
Saturday, October 24, 20209am-4pmMonday, October 26, 2020 – Thursday, October 29, 20207am-6pm dailyFriday, October 30, 20207am-5pm MunicipalityLocation(s)Date(s)TimesTuesday, October 20, 2020 8am-4:30pmWednesday, October 21, 2020 – Thursday, October 22, 20208am-6:30pm dailyFriday, October 23, 20208am-4:30pmGreen Bay100 N Jefferson St, Green Bay, WI 54301Saturday, October 24, 202010am-4pmMonday, October 26, 2020 – Tuesday, October 27, 20208am-4:30pm dailyWednesday, October 28, 2020 – Thursday, October 29, 20208am – 6:30pm dailyFriday, October 30, 2020 (last day to register in Clerk’s office prior to election)8am-5pmSaturday, October 31, 2020 (voting only; if you need to register you will need to go to the polling location on election day)10am-4pm MunicipalityLocation(s)Date(s)TimesTuesday, October 20, 2020 – Friday, October 23, 20207:30am- 4:30pm dailyJanesvilleJanesville City Hall
18 N. Jackson St. Janesville, WI 53548
Monday, October 26, 2020 – Thursday, October 29, 20207:30am- 4:30pm dailyFriday, October 30, 20207:30am- 5pm MunicipalityLocation(s)Date(s)TimesTuesday, October 20, 2020 – Friday, October 23, 20208am- 4:30pm dailySaturday, October 24, 20208am – 4pmKenoshaKenosha City Hall Sunday, October 25, 202012pm – 4pmMonday, October 26, 2020 – Friday, October 30, 20208am- 4:30pm daily MunicipalityLocation(s)Date(s)TimesLa CrosseCity Hall
2nd Floor
400 La Crosse St. La Crosse, WI 54601Tuesday, October 20, 2020 – Friday, October 23, 20208:30am-5pm dailyMonday, October 26, 2020 – Friday, October 30,20208:30am- 5pm daily MunicipalityLocation(s)Date(s)TimesMenomonieCity Hall
800 Wilson Avenue, 3rd floorTuesday, October 20, 2020 – Friday, October 23, 20208:30am- 4pm dailyMonday, October 26, 2020 – Friday, October 30,20208:30am- 4pm daily MunicipalityLocation(s)Date(s)TimesRacineTBATBATBA MunicipalityLocation(s)Date(s)TimesMilwaukeeFrank P. Zeidler Municipal Building,
841 N Broadway, Room 102, Milwaukee, WI 53202Tuesday, October 20, 2020 – Friday, October 23, 20208am-7pm dailySaturday, October 24, 2020 – Sunday, October 25, 202010am-4pm dailyMonday, October 26, 2020 – Friday, October 30, 20208am-7pm dailySaturday, October 31, 2020 – Sunday, November 1, 202010am-4pm daily MunicipalityLocation(s)Date(s)TimesMilwaukeeMidtown Center, 5700 W Capitol Dr, Milwaukee, WI 53216Tuesday, October 20, 2020 – Friday, October 23, 20208am-7pm dailySaturday, October 24, 2020 – Sunday, October 25, 202010am-4pm dailyMonday, October 26, 2020 – Friday, October 30, 20208am-7pm dailySaturday, October 31, 2020 – Sunday, November 1, 202010am-4pm daily MunicipalityLocation(s)Date(s)TimesMilwaukeeZablocki Library, 3501 W Oklahoma Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53215Tuesday, October 20, 2020 – Friday, October 23, 20208am-7pm dailySaturday, October 24, 2020 – Sunday, October 25, 202010am-4pm dailyMonday, October 26, 2020 – Friday, October 30, 20208am-7pm dailySaturday, October 31, 2020 – Sunday, November 1, 202010am-4pm daily MunicipalityLocation(s)Date(s)TimesMilwaukeeBay View Library, 2566 S Kinnickinnic Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53207Tuesday, October 20, 2020 7am-1pmWednesday, October 21, 2020 – Friday, October 23, 20201pm-7pm dailySaturday, October 24, 2020 – Sunday, October 25, 202010am-4pm dailyMonday, October 26, 2020 – Tuesday, October 27, 20207am-1pm dailyWednesday, October 28, 2020 – Friday, October 30, 20201pm-7pm dailySaturday, October 31, 2020 – Sunday, November 1, 202010am-4pm daily MunicipalityLocation(s)Date(s)TimesMilwaukeeCannon Park Pavilion, 303 N 95th St, Milwaukee, WI 53226Tuesday, October 20, 2020 7am-1pmWednesday, October 21, 2020 – Friday, October 23, 20201pm-7pm dailySaturday, October 24, 2020 – Sunday, October 25, 202010am-4pm dailyMonday, October 26, 2020 – Tuesday, October 27, 20207am-1pm dailyWednesday, October 28, 2020 – Friday, October 30, 20201pm-7pm dailySaturday, October 31, 2020 – Sunday, November 1, 202010am-4pm daily MunicipalityLocation(s)Date(s)TimesMilwaukeeClinton Rose Senior Center, 3045 N Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr, Milwaukee, WI 53212Tuesday, October 20, 2020 7am-1pmWednesday, October 21, 2020 – Friday, October 23, 20201pm-7pm dailySaturday, October 24, 2020 – Sunday, October 25, 202010am-4pm dailyMonday, October 26, 2020 – Tuesday, October 27, 20207am-1pm dailyWednesday, October 28, 2020 – Friday, October 30, 20201pm-7pm dailySaturday, October 31, 2020 – Sunday, November 1, 202010am-4pm daily MunicipalityLocation(s)Date(s)TimesMilwaukeeEast Library, 2320 N Cramer St, Milwaukee, WI 53211Tuesday, October 20, 2020 7am-1pmWednesday, October 21, 2020 – Friday, October 23, 20201pm-7pm dailySaturday, October 24, 2020 – Sunday, October 25, 202010am-4pm dailyMonday, October 26, 2020 – Tuesday, October 27, 20207am-1pm dailyWednesday, October 28, 2020 – Friday, October 30, 20201pm-7pm dailySaturday, October 31, 2020 – Sunday, November 1, 202010am-4pm daily MunicipalityLocation(s)Date(s)TimesMilwaukeeGood Hope Library, 7717 W Good Hope Rd, Milwaukee, WI 53223Tuesday, October 20, 2020 7am-1pmWednesday, October 21, 2020 – Friday, October 23, 20201pm-7pm dailySaturday, October 24, 2020 – Sunday, October 25, 202010am-4pm dailyMonday, October 26, 2020 – Tuesday, October 27, 20207am-1pm dailyWednesday, October 28, 2020 – Friday, October 30, 20201pm-7pm dailySaturday, October 31, 2020 – Sunday, November 1, 202010am-4pm daily MunicipalityLocation(s)Date(s)TimesMilwaukeeMitchell Street Library, 906 W Historic Mitchell St, Milwaukee, WI 53204Tuesday, October 20, 2020 7am-1pmWednesday, October 21, 2020 – Friday, October 23, 20201pm-7pm dailySaturday, October 24, 2020 – Sunday, October 25, 202010am-4pm dailyMonday, October 26, 2020 – Tuesday, October 27, 20207am-1pm dailyWednesday, October 28, 2020 – Friday, October 30, 20201pm-7pm dailySaturday, October 31, 2020 – Sunday, November 1, 202010am-4pm daily MunicipalityLocation(s)Date(s)TimesMilwaukeeTippecanoe Library, 3912 S Howell Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53207Tuesday, October 20, 2020 7am-1pmWednesday, October 21, 2020 – Friday, October 23, 20201pm-7pm dailySaturday, October 24, 2020 – Sunday, October 25, 202010am-4pm dailyMonday, October 26, 2020 – Tuesday, October 27, 20207am-1pm dailyWednesday, October 28, 2020 – Friday, October 30, 20201pm-7pm dailySaturday, October 31, 2020 – Sunday, November 1, 202010am-4pm daily MunicipalityLocation(s)Date(s)TimesMilwaukeeVillard Square Library, 5190 N 35th St, Milwaukee, WI 53209Tuesday, October 20, 2020 7am-1pmWednesday, October 21, 2020 – Friday, October 23, 20201pm-7pm dailySaturday, October 24, 2020 – Sunday, October 25, 202010am-4pm dailyMonday, October 26, 2020 – Tuesday, October 27, 20207am-1pm dailyWednesday, October 28, 2020 – Friday, October 30, 20201pm-7pm dailySaturday, October 31, 2020 – Sunday, November 1, 202010am-4pm daily MunicipalityLocation(s)Date(s)TimesMilwaukeeWashington Park Library, 2121 N Sherman Blvd, Milwaukee, WI 53208Tuesday, October 20, 2020 7am-1pmWednesday, October 21, 2020 – Friday, October 23, 20201pm-7pm dailySaturday, October 24, 2020 – Sunday, October 25, 202010am-4pm dailyMonday, October 26, 2020 – Tuesday, October 27, 20207am-1pm dailyWednesday, October 28, 2020 – Friday, October 30, 20201pm-7pm dailySaturday, October 31, 2020 – Sunday, November 1, 202010am-4pm daily MunicipalityLocation(s)Date(s)TimesMilwaukeeUniversity of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Student Union, 2200 E Kenwood Blvd, Milwaukee, WI 53211Tuesday, October 20, 2020 – Friday, October 23, 202010am-3pm dailyMonday, October 26, 2020 – Friday, October 30, 202010am-3pm daily

Return Your Vote by Mail Ballot Today

All ballots must be received by your city clerk by 8pm on Election Day.

• Return by mail, allow enough time for your ballot to arrive back to your clerk by 8pm Election Day
• Return at your clerk’s office
• Return at an early vote location
• Return at a secure drop box that your clerk receives the same day (list below)

Beloit (2 dropboxes)
Location(s): City Hall: 100 State St, Beloit, WI 53511

  • City Hall (outside in the round-about)
  • City Hall (ground floor)

Times: Accessible 24/7 for all

Eau Claire (4 dropboxes)
Location(s
):

  • Clairmont
  • Birk Street
  • Mall Drive
  • City Hall on Grand Avenue

Times: Accessible 24/7 for all

Green Bay
Location(s): City Hall: 100 N Jefferson (In the parking lot at the backdoor)
Time: Accessible 24/7 for all

Janesville
Location(s): Outside of City Hall’s door: Janesville City Hall 18 N. Jackson St. Janesville WI 53548
Time: Accessible 24/7 for all

Kenosha 
Location(s):

  • Kenosha Municipal Building: 625 52nd St, Kenosha, WI 53140
  • Northside Library: 1500 27th Ave, Kenosha, WI 53140
  • Kenosha Transit Facility: 724 54th St, Kenosha, WI 53140
  • Kenosha Water Utility: 4401 Green Bay Rd, Kenosha, WI 53144
  • Southwest Library: 7979 38th Ave, Kenosha, WI 53142
  • Uptown Library: 2419 63rd St, Kenosha, WI 53143

Times: Accessible 24/7 for all

La Crosse 
Location(s): City Hall Parking lot (Green box) City Hall 2nd Floor 400 La Crosse St. La Crosse, WI 54601
Time: Accessible 24/7 for all

Menomonie 
Location(s): TBD
Time: Accessible 24/7 for all

Racine 
Location(s):

  • More boxes are coming 
  • City Hall: 730 Washington Avenue Room 103 (Red box on the Northside/6th street)

Time: Accessible 24/7 for all

Milwaukee 
Location:

  • Atkinson Library, 1960 W Atkinson Ave
  • Bay View Library, 2566 S Kinnickinnic Ave
  • Capitol Library, 3969 N 74th St
  • Center Street Library, 2727 W Fond du Lac Ave
  • Central Library, 814 W Wisconsin Ave
  • City Hall Complex, 200 E Wells Street (on east side Market St, between City Hall and Zeidler)
  • East Library, 2320 N Cramer St
  • Election Commission Warehouse, 1901 S Kinnickinnic Ave
  • Good Hope Library, 7715 W Good Hope Rd
  • Martin Luther King Library, 310 W Locust St
  • Mitchell Street Library, 906 W Historic Mitchell St
  • Tippecanoe Library, 3912 S Howell Ave
  • Villard Square Library, 5190 N 35th St
  • Washington Park Library, 2121 N Sherman Blvd
  • Zablocki Library, 3501 W Oklahoma Ave

Time: Accessible 24/7 up until 8pm on election day

For drop box information in other locations, contact your municipal clerk.

The Race for Arizona State House District 20

The outcome of the race for the House in Arizona District 20 could determine important policies during the next legislative session.
 
If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, abortion could become illegal in Arizona.
 
Judy Schwiebert pledged to support legislation that keeps abortion safe and legal. Shawnna Bolick and Anthony Kern pledged to vote to prohibit abortion care except in rare cases.

IssueShawnna BolickJudy SchwiebertAnthony KernHas pledged to support legislation that keeps abortion safe and legal.NoYesNoSource: Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona Candidate Questionnaire (2020)

The ACLU does not endorse or oppose candidates, but we do want you to cast an informed vote in Arizona House District 20.
 
Paid for by American Civil Liberties Union, Inc. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate committee.

The Race for Arizona State House District 23

The outcome of the race for the House in Arizona District 23 could determine important policies during the next legislative session.
 
If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, abortion could become illegal in Arizona. 
 
Eric Kurland pledged to support legislation that keeps abortion safe and legal. John Kavanagh and Joseph Chaplick pledged to vote to prohibit abortion care except in rare cases.

IssueEric
KurlandJoseph
ChaplickJohn
KavanaghHas pledged to support legislation that keeps abortion safe and legal.YesNoNoSource: Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona Candidate Questionnaire (2020).

The ACLU does not endorse or oppose candidates, but we do want you to cast an informed vote in Arizona House District 23.
 
Paid for by American Civil Liberties Union, Inc. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate committee.

The Supreme Court to Decide Whether Chicago Can Keep Cars Locked Up When Debtors File for Bankruptcy

Sandra Botello, an unemployed mother living in Chicago, faced a difficult financial choice — pay $400 in school fees for her son or cover the cost of renewing Chicago’s mandatory vehicle sticker. She paid the school fees, keeping her son’s education moving forward — but within weeks received five $200 tickets for not having a vehicle sticker. Late fees and collection fees caused her debt to balloon to nearly $3000. Chicago impounded Botello’s car for unpaid tickets, charged additional fees for storing her car for 33 days, and ultimately sold the car for scrap, leaving her with thousands of dollars of debt.
 
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court hears argument in Chicago v. Fulton, a case with profound implications for Botello and millions of others across the country who are buried under mountains of debt from fines and fees they cannot afford to pay to state and local governments.  As our country grapples with an economic recession that has plunged millions of people into financial crisis — with Black and Brown communities hardest hit — the Supreme Court’s ruling on the bankruptcy question raised in Fulton is of critical importance nationwide.
 
Fulton concerns three bankruptcy cases resulting from Chicago’s draconian practice of addressing staggering budget gaps by squeezing people for money through hefty fines and fees, driver’s license suspension, and the seizure of their cars. Chicago seized the cars of Timothy Shannon and George Peake for unpaid tickets and the car of Robbin Fulton for driving on a license suspended for unpaid tickets. It also charged them thousands of dollars in fees to get their cars back. Unable to pay, each debtor sought a fresh start by filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
 
Instead of returning the cars to Fulton, Shannon, and Peake when they each filed for bankruptcy, Chicago kept the cars, making it hard for them to go to work, earn money, and care for their families. Their cases raise the question of whether a creditor violates the automatic stay and turnover provisions of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code when it decides, after a debtor has filed for bankruptcy, not to return estate property to the debtor. The bankruptcy courts and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals all ruled that Chicago violated the law. Chicago sought review in the Supreme Court.
 
Last March, the ACLU and groups across the ideological spectrum — the Cato Institute, Fines and Fees Justice Center, Institute for Justice, Rutherford Institute, and R Street Institute — submitted a friend-of-the-court brief to the Supreme Court in Fulton. We argue that Chicago’s practice of keeping cars violates both the plain text of the Bankruptcy Code and Congress’ intent in establishing bankruptcy to give people a fresh start.
 
Our brief explains that the Bankruptcy Code requires creditors to return estate property to debtors immediately after the filing of a bankruptcy petition because debtors often need that property — like their cars — to earn income and make the payments required for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan. Instead of playing by the rules, Chicago seeks to keep cars locked up to coerce debtors into paying Chicago first. This practice causes real harm.
 
For example, Fulton needed her car to get to her job, take her preschool age daughter to day care, and care for her elderly parents. Shannon, a housekeeper, needed his car to get to work. Peake needed his car for his daily 45-mile commute. None of this is surprising since 86 percent of Americans describe a car as a necessity of life and 70 percent of Chicago commuters drive alone to work.
 
Our brief also provides context critical to understanding the national importance of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Fulton. Chicago’s ticketing and impoundment practices are part of a nationwide trend in which governments turn to fines, fees, and punitive collection practices — instead of taxes — to raise public revenue. Cities and towns across the country use ticketing to raise money, leading to what some call “taxation by citation.” Nearly 600 cities raise at least 10 percent of their general fund revenue through fines and fees, and at least 284 rely on fines and fees for 20 percent or more of their general funds.
 
These powerful incentives for governments to impose fines and fees people cannot afford lead to crushing debts. Fines that are manageable for a person of means may be out of reach for a poor or low-income person. As of April 2020, 37 percent of American adults surveyed by the Federal Reserve reported facing difficulty covering a $400 emergency expense. Those who cannot immediately pay often face draconian collection efforts — like the suspension of their driver’s licenses (a problem in 41 states and the District of Columbia, including Illinois) and vehicle impoundment — leading to more fines and fees.
 
As of 2018, people owed a staggering $1.45 billion to Chicago in unpaid tickets dating back to 1990. These ruinous debts have propelled tens of thousands of people to seek bankruptcy relief, causing the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to lead the nation in non-business Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings. Chicago, California, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Denver all use vehicle impoundment to collect certain fines and fees.
 
The COVID-19 pandemic has made matters worse. State and local budget deficits have skyrocketed due to the recent economic downturn, increasing pressure on governments to balance budgets through fines, fees, and punitive collection tactics. Chicago’s aggressive ticketing and impoundment practices initially sought to address a 2011 budget deficit of $650 million, which was itself the result of the last recession. Now, Chicago confronts a 2021 budget deficit that may be as high as $1.6 billion.
 
Millions of people nationwide are out of work and facing rent, utility, and other costs they cannot afford, with Black and Brown communities hit hardest. A summer 2020 poll of residents in Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago revealed dramatic racial and ethnic disparities in pandemic-related financial distress. While 50 percent of Chicago households reported serious financial problems since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 69 percent of Black households and 63 percent of Latinx households reported the same.
 
The increasingly common practice of imposing fines and fees to generate government revenue and of impounding vehicles as a collection tactic falls heavily on the poorest among us — especially people of color. In resolving Fulton, the Supreme Court must recognize that the Bankruptcy Code was designed to give those who fall into serious debt a chance to begin anew — and that Chicago is violating both the letter and purpose of the law.  

An Indigenous Woman Made it to Safety in the US. DHS Won’t Let it Go.

When Flor got word that she was going to be able to make her way into the U.S. and reunite with her family last May, she was ecstatic. For more than nine months, Flor and her five-year-old daughter had been stuck in Matamoros, Mexico, living inside a two-person tent in a squalid refugee camp near the U.S. border while they waited for an immigration judge to hear their asylum claim.
 
Flor — whose full name is being omitted for her safety — and her daughter were among the roughly 60,000 asylum seekers who’d been trapped in Mexico under the Trump administration’s “Migrant Protection Protocols” (MPP).
 
The months she spent in Matamoros were a nightmare.Temperatures oscillated between blazing heat during the day and frigid cold at night. One of those nights, she and her daughter huddled in their tent as the sound of a gun battle between police and a local drug cartel echoed through the streets. Another time, Flor says men cornered her and demanded extortion payments. When she failed to pay, she was violently assaulted.
 
So when Flor heard that she and her daughter were going to be allowed to enter the U.S., the where they could continue the asylum process under the care of relatives in Massachusetts, she felt like she was being given a new lease on life.
 
“I don’t know how to express the happiness I felt,” she said. “Knowing that we would be happy, at ease, and safe…I don’t know if you could understand it.”
 
By May 2020, being allowed to enter the U.S. as an asylum seeker was akin to a miracle. 
 
The Coronavirus pandemic was raging in the U.S., and hearings for cases like hers had been indefinitely postponed, stranding thousands of asylum seekers in cities across Mexico with no idea when immigration courts would start hearing their claims again. In March, the Centers for Disease Control had caved under pressure from the Trump administration and issued a dubious public health order that allowed border officials to eject asylum seekers from the country almost instantaneously. By late Spring, America’s asylum system had essentially ceased to exist.

A Guatemalan asylum seeker and her two daughters are expelled from the U.S. into Ciudad Juarez under the CDC’s Title 42 order, April 2, 2020.Paul Ratje

But in Massachusetts, Flor’s family’s plea for help had reached the ACLU of Massachusetts. They were desperate – the stories she told them about the situation in the camp were increasingly dire, and they feared for her life and that of her young daughter. ACLU attorneys in the state and nationally had already brought litigation against the MPP, and they decided to take her case along with a coalition of other advocates.
 
Flor joined two other women — one of whom also had a five-year-old child — as plaintiffs in the case, which argued that putting them in the MPP was illegal and inhumane. In the following weeks, attorneys for the ACLU in Massachusetts interviewed Flor and the other two women via cell phone. Flor would charge hers ahead of time in a communal charging station at the camp.
 
“It was only after talking to them on the phone for a really long time, sometimes ten hours, that they felt comfortable enough to share some of the things that they had been through,” said Adriana Lafaille, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Massachusetts.
 
Flor is from Guatemala and is Maya K’iche’ — a member of an Indigenous group from the country’s remote highlands. Throughout Guatemalan history, Maya K’iche’ and other Indigenous groups have been the target of discrimination and violence at the hands of politically dominant Spanish-descended Guatemalans, sometimes called “Ladinos.”
 
In recent years, that violence has surged, with conflicts erupting between Mayan communities and prospectors with their eye on valuable mineral deposits beneath Indigenous land.
 
Flor’s father was a vocal advocate for Indigenous rights, and she says she suffered as a result. After he was attacked and incapacitated, she began working as a maid in a Ladino household at the age of 10. She suffered repeated abuse at the hands of her employers, and, at 19, was violently attacked by a group of men who demanded information about her uncles.
 
By mid-2019, she knew it was time to leave.
 
“I realized that my daughter and I would never be able to escape persecution in Guatemala, and we fled,” she recounted in an affidavit.
 
But by the time the COVID-19 crisis erupted, Flor had been in the Matamoros refugee camp for nearly eight months. Her daughter was losing weight, saying she was too sad to eat, and Flor feared the men who’d assaulted her might return.

Refugee camp for migrants and asylum seekers in Matamoros, Mexico, October 2019.Guillermo Arias for the ACLU.

In May, Flor received a phone call from her attorneys. A federal judge had ruled in her favor, granting the ACLU’s request for her to be taken out of the MPP. She and her daughter would be joining a small handful of people who’d escaped the policy.
 
Flor’s attorneys feared she might be sent to an immigration detention facility instead of being released to her family in Massachusetts. But after only a single night in detention, she and the others were released.

For Lafaille, it was a hard-fought win in an era where the courts have often thwarted efforts to block the Trump administration’s harsh immigration policies.
 
“We were all just so relieved,” she said. “For our clients, it was an end to this incredibly difficult ordeal and a long period of such hardship and uncertainty.”
 
Flor and her daughter settled into life in Massachusetts. The pandemic was still raging, so mostly they stayed inside, but occasionally she accompanied her aunt to the park or grocery store.
 
“It’s so peaceful here,” she said. “I feel a tranquility that I have never experienced in my life. I’m treated nicely by people.”
 
But it quickly became apparent that lawyers from the Department of Homeland Security were not going to accept the loss and move on. Not long after Flor and the others arrived in Massachusetts, Lafaille received notice that the government planned to appeal the decision.

By mid-summer, COVID-19 had arrived in shelters across the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as in the refugee camp where Flor spent nearly a year. Despite the rise in cases in Mexico, DHS refused to relent — the agency pressed on with the appeal, seeking the power to send Flor, her daughter, and the others back to Mexico immediately.
 
Lafaille says that the appeal is a symbol of just how hostile the federal government has become towards asylum seekers under the Trump administration.
 
“Not only has the government claimed that our clients weren’t facing urgent harms in Mexico,” she said. “But after our clients were here in Massachusetts, DHS also asserted that the appeal had to be expedited because it was the government that was being harmed by having to allow these three women and two children — who they never contended were dangerous in any way — to live in safety with their families.”
 
Because of DHS’s appeal, Flor isn’t just facing the daunting task of presenting an asylum claim in immigration court — she’s fighting to prevent her and her daughter from being forced to do so from a tent inside a refugee camp during a pandemic.
 
Flor says she has to find ways to distract herself from the prospect.
 
“I tell myself that I shouldn’t think about that,” she said. “When I do, I try to think about other things instead.”
 
The ACLU of Massachusetts argued against DHS’s appeal in front of the First Circuit Court of Appeals on Oct. 6. Even in an era where the federal government is using every avenue it can to prevent asylum seekers from entering the country, she says the appeal stands out.
 
“It just shows a government that is totally devoid of humanity,” said Lafaille. “In the government’s eyes, the MPP is working because it is so devastating to asylum seekers that many simply cannot make it to their hearings, and their claims are deemed abandoned. They want the process to be so hard and dangerous in Mexico that people just give up.”

Until the First Circuit rules on the appeal, Flor and the other new arrivals are stuck in limbo, hoping they’ll be allowed to remain safe and out of harm’s way.

“The thing I wish for the most, what I ask God for, is to not be sent back to Mexico,” she said.

The ACLU of Massachusetts is co-counseling this case with the firm Fish & Richardson. Flor has been represented in her immigration case by the Law Office of Jodi Goodwin in Harlingen, Texas, and is now represented by Greater Boston Legal Services and the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic. In the First Circuit, the plaintiffs’ position was supported by National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council 119, represented by Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP; former government officials including Janet Napolitano, Roberta Jacobson and James Clapper, represented by WilmerHale; and a coalition of legal service providers and organizations, represented by the Law Office of Joshua M. Daniels.

The Right to Abortion is on the Ballot in Colorado This November

When Justice Ginsburg embarked on her legal career at the ACLU, there were hundreds of laws on the books that discriminated on the basis of sex. But Justice Ginsburg changed that, and she changed history, driven by the then-radical belief that laws steeped in gender stereotypes hurt both women and men. Significantly, she viewed reproductive freedom as a necessary component of true gender equality and dedicated her life’s work to ensuring the law was used as a tool to advance equality.
 
Her loss comes at a pivotal time as opponents of reproductive freedom and gender equality work strategically to roll back abortion rights. Since 2011, states have passed more than 460 abortion restrictions, eroding abortion access for far too many, including low-income people and people of color. President Trump has vowed to only appoint justices that promise to overturn Roe v. Wade. If his recent nominee is confirmed to the bench, the legal right to abortion will be in the gravest danger it has faced yet.
 
With federal protections for reproductive rights now precariously uncertain, it is more urgent than ever that the states safeguard access to abortion care. But in Colorado, that access is under a real, imminent threat: Proposition 115, a measure that would ban abortion later in pregnancy is on the ballot this year.
 
Prop. 115 would make it a crime for doctors to provide abortion care starting at 22 weeks in pregnancy, robbing pregnant people of the ability to make their own personal medical decisions without taking into consideration their personal situations. Prop. 115 is a one-size-fits-all mandate that fails to acknowledge every pregnancy is unique — and shows no compassion for what families face in unimaginably complicated circumstances. And it takes away the ability of doctors to provide the best medical care for their patients.
 
Prop. 115 ignores the stories of people like Christina Taylor who was 20 weeks pregnant with her third child in May 2017 when she, her husband Roy, and their two children excitedly attended a routine mid-pregnancy ultrasound. After consulting with the ultrasound tech, and additional testing, Christina’s doctor delivered heartbreaking news: their baby would not survive birth. They decided to have an abortion. 
 
“I get a little angry at the fact that I can’t really let myself be too sad or grieve too much for the loss of my son because there’s that feeling [it is] a blessing,” Christina said. “Because we’re so privileged to have lived in Colorado where we didn’t have laws getting in the way. Our insurance covered it. I mean, just everything fell into place just perfectly to make this traumatic thing so much easier for us.”
 
Prop. 115 would do exactly what Christina and Roy didn’t need — get in the way of them making the best decision for their family. If it passes in November, families like the Taylors will no longer have access to compassionate abortion care in Colorado.
 
Let’s be clear: Abortion bans are not about health or medicine. They are about controlling our bodies and taking away our power to decide what is best for our own lives.
 
The proponents of this initiative have not been secretive about their agenda: They want to force every Coloradan to continue a pregnancy, with no exceptions for health or individual circumstances — even in cases of rape, risks to the pregnant person’s health, or a lethal fetal diagnosis.
 
Indeed, Prop. 115 is being pushed by many of the same players who have tried — and failed — to ban abortion in Colorado every year for the last decade. If Proposition 115 succeeds in Colorado this November, it will embolden its proponents to pursue bans even earlier in pregnancy with the ultimate goal of restricting all abortion access in Colorado and across the country.
 
In the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case Frontiero v. Richardson, which challenged a law that prevented men married to women who served in the military from receiving dependent benefits, Justice Ginsburg, then a litigator for the ACLU, famously quoted abolitionist Sara Grimke: “I ask no favor for my sex,” she said. “All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.” 
 
This is all Coloradans are asking for: to control our own bodies, and our own futures. With Justice Ginsburg now gone, it falls on all of us to honor her legacy by continuing that fight. In Colorado, that means voting “NO” on Proposition 115.
 
Paid for by American Civil Liberties Union, Inc.; Anthony Romero, Registered Agent, and authorized by Abortion Access for All. 

Why Are Police the Wrong Response to Mental Health Crises?

Over the last months on our podcast, At Liberty, we’ve explored different conversations on the subject of policing: abolition, violence and accountability, protest, and activism. This week, we dug into a topic that has gained more attention in the wake of Daniel Prude’s death in March at the hands of the Rochester Police Department: the startling connection between mental health-related 911 calls and police brutality. 

Studies show that nearly 50 percent of victims of police brutality are living with a disability, predominantly a mental health disability. In many ways, 911 has become the only option for people looking for mental health crisis intervention. And police often arrive at the scene armed with deadly weapons and a lack of mental health training, with devastating results.
 
But there is hope. There are alternatives to policing that can provide real care for people in mental health crises, if we invest in them. Joining us on this episode to break down the issue is Gregg Bloche, a professor of law at Georgetown University and a mental health care policy expert, and Ellie Virrueta, an organizer with Youth Justice Coalition. 

https://soundcloud.com/aclu/why-are-police-the-wrong-response-to-mental-health-crises

Learn About the Charleston County Sheriff Candidates

The election for Charleston County Sheriff on Nov. 3 can help shape the county’s policies on the role of policing in our community, immigrants’ rights, and law enforcement accountability. The Charleston County sheriff can adopt policies that will make our community safer and more just for all.

CAST AN INFORMED VOTE

Make sure you know the candidates’ positions on key civil liberties and civil rights issues. The ACLU does not endorse or oppose candidates but urges you to cast an informed vote.

IssueKristin GrazianoAl Cannon (Inc)Commits to end 287(g), a program working with the Trump administration to detain and deport immigrantsYesNoCommits to ban no-knock warrants, which allow law enforcement officers to enter someone’s home without knockingYesNoCommits to establish an independent advisory board to give community members a larger voice in the sheriff’s officeYesNo ResponseCommits to stop new acquisitions of military equipmentYesNoCommits to enact a use of force policy that directs officers to use de-escalation whenever possibleYesNo ResponseCommits to reducing the sheriff’s office budget and redirecting savings to fund community programsYesNo responseCommits to build a publicly accessible database tracking claims of officer misconductYesNo response

Paid for by American Civil Liberties Union, Inc., c/o 
P.O. Box 20998 
Charleston, South Carolina 29413

The Trump Administration is Banning Talk about Race and Gender

In the latest attempt to silence conversations about race and gender equity deemed “anti-American,” President Trump issued an executive order last week banning federal entities and contractors from providing employees with training on “divisive concepts” and “harmful ideologies” related to race and gender.

What Trump deems “harmful ideologies” are actually concepts diversity trainings use to educate individuals on the systemic barriers and discrimination people of color and other marginalized groups still face in this country today across our institutions — from our workplaces and schools to our criminal legal system. The recent Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements have shown that people across the country fully acknowledge the realities of systemic racism and sexism are still alive and well, and the need to dismantle the systems and pursue change is more important than ever. But rather than engage with these conversations taking place across the country, the Trump administration seeks to silence individuals and impose an alternate version of American history — one that erases the legacy of discrimination and lived experiences of Black and Brown people, women and girls, and LGBTQ+ individuals.
 
Our country needs to acknowledge its history of systemic racism and sexism and reckon with present day impacts of racial and gender discrimination. Slavery and its legacy of oppression are parts of American history that Black people are still facing today. Women, especially women of color, continue to be segregated in lower-status and lower-wage fields in the workplace, and are paid less than men across the board.

Halting all diversity training could set back progress in addressing these systemic issues, among others — including in the workplace. Talking about racism and sexism is not harmful to employees. Many employers host trainings on these issues precisely because they contribute to a workplace that is more equitable and inclusive. Instead, President Trump’s authoritarian leaning executive order presents the real danger, and takes us steps backwards in achieving full equity in this country. It also violates our First Amendment right to free speech.

President Trump’s executive order unconstitutionally requires every single individual or company with a federal contract to certify that they won’t provide trainings on so-called “divisive concepts,” even on the contractor’s own time and dime. In other words, the order effectively gags federal contractors from talking with their own employees about issues of the most profound national importance, such as the impact of systemic racism and sexism in our society. This is a blatant attempt to leverage the federal government’s vast financial resources to suppress speech about race and gender that the Trump administration disfavors.

Trump’s executive order borrows from a long-discredited playbook. In the McCarthy era, many states passed laws requiring public employees to certify that they were not members of the Communist Party or other “treasonous,” “seditious,” or “subversive” groups. In response to numerous legal challenges, including several cases brought by the ACLU, the Supreme Court firmly established that the government cannot require people to disavow participation in constitutionally protected speech or association in order to keep their jobs. Whatever power the government may have over its employees and contractors, it does not have the power to dictate their private expression on matters of public concern, including discussions about race and gender discrimination.

The Supreme Court has also rejected attempts to categorically ban or burden private expression by government employees and contractors. Such categorical bans present the gravest threat to First Amendment freedoms because they directly suppress an extraordinarily large amount of protected speech, chill even more speech before it happens, and distort discussion on matters of public concern. Of course, President Trump’s executive order is expressly designed to suppress and distort public discussion about issues that Trump considers “divisive,” such as race and gender justice. The Trump administration does not trust people to think for themselves on these issues, and so it has decided to think for them. Fortunately, the Constitution does not give President Trump that authority.

Reproductive Freedom is on the Ballot: Cast an Informed Vote for Montana Governor

Our next Governor can determine whether doctors are punished for providing reproductive care. Some Montana legislators have attempted to threaten health care providers with criminal punishment — including prison time — for providing reproductive health care.

Reproductive freedom in Montana will be in the hands of our next governor. We do not support or oppose candidates, but we urge you to cast an informed vote.

IssuesMike CooneyGreg GianforteCommits to veto any bills that would criminalize medical professionals for providing abortion care?YesSponsored a bill in Congress that threatens doctors with prison for providing abortion care

The ACLU is a nonpartisan organization that does not endorse or oppose candidates. This campaign informs Montanans on candidates’ positions before they cast their ballot.   

Paid for by American Civil Liberties Union, Inc.
Anthony Romero, Executive Director
125 Broad Street
New York, New York 10004

Mental Health Treatment is on the Ballot: Cast an Informed Vote for Montana Governor

More than 90 percent of Montanans with substance use disorders do not receive treatment. In fact, lack of treatment and services is a big reason that people on probation or parole return to jail instead of to their family, jobs, and communities. Providing access to treatment for mental health or a substance use disorder is less expensive than putting people in jail, reducing the burden on taxpayers while keeping our communities safe and healthy. 

Since 2016, Medicaid expansion has helped almost 100,000 Montanans receive access to health care, including funding and increasing access to substance use disorder treatment in Montana.

We do not support or oppose candidates, but we urge you to cast an informed vote.

IssueMike CooneyGreg GianforteCommits to proposing a budget with increased funding for mental health and substance use disorder treatment?YesVoted to fund a lawsuit that seeks to end Medicaid expansion, including treatment for mental health and substance use disorders

The ACLU is a nonpartisan organization that does not endorse or oppose candidates. This campaign informs Montanans on candidates’ positions before they cast their ballot.  

Paid for by American Civil Liberties Union, Inc.
Anthony Romero, Executive Director
125 Broad Street
New York, New York 10004

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