A PSA For Your Friends Who Don’t Vote: ‘Your Excuse Sucks’

After interminable years, several billions of dollars and an unending stream of political ads (more if you live in a swing state), Election Day is here. But what’s that? You know eligible voters who still aren’t planning on turning out?

It’s time you send your friends to Your Excuse Sucks, a project by Cultivated Wit and Fight for the Future. Among the brains behind it are comedians and writers like Brian Janosch and Baratunde Thurston. Trust them to help make the case for voting, if being part of the democratic process to shift power in the country isn’t a good enough excuse on its own.

Think you don’t have time to vote? “Sure, time is money. But you know what else is money? Money! Specifically the amounts of it you could gain or lose based on the outcome of this election,” they say.

You live in a solidly blue or red state where the presidential results for your state are pretty much taken care of? Your Excuse Sucks says, “There’s a word for someone who only participates if they know they can win: asshole.”

And on and on it goes. Of course, there are several legitimate reasons why you may not be voting today: you’re under 18; you’re not a citizen; you live in Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, or Virginia and have a felony on your record and so are possibly barred from voting; you didn’t register in time; or, as Your Excuse Sucks says, “you’re dead.”

Voter ID Confusion and Tea Party Poll ‘Monitoring’ in Pennsylvania

Our Voting Rights Watch community journalists are deployed around the country watching the polls today. So far, Election Protection monitors are getting lots of reports of individual dustups, particularly around the voter ID laws. James Cersonsky sends in this report from Pennsylvania:

Polling places this morning across the state have been rife with confusion—and misinformation—about photo ID requirements. NAACP field organizer Liz Lassiter told Voting Rights Watch that a voter in Hatfield was turned away for not having ID; election officials called the police when she attempted to make a phone call while continuing to wait in line. A university administrator sent us this photo showing confusing signage for student voters. And my fellow community journalist Kemi Bello reports that a Lancaster election official held aside voters who didn’t have ID, while poll watchers in Collegeville allegedly asked voters to show ID and told those who refused to present it, “Well, we’ll get your name anyway.” In a related instance of potential intimidation, a voter in Upper Darby called the Election Protection hotline saying that a man in a suit was directing voters of color away from the line and sending them to the “wrong line for the wrong precinct.”

Yesterday, civil rights and community groups in Pennsylvania released a report detailing how tea party poll watchers planned to clump in black neighborhoods in the Pittsburgh area. The 59 targeted precincts in Allegheny County are over 79 percent black; the remaining precincts are less than 11 percent black (for full stats, see Daniel Denvir’s coverage at Philadelphia’s City Paper). “I’m sure they’re targeting everywhere with the same type of antics,” NAACP Vice President Jotaka Eaddy told Voting Rights Watch.

As Brentin Mock reported yesterday, nationally the place to look for potential voter suppression may not be the polls themselves today. Brentin found a list of dozens of voters in Hillsborough County, Fla., whom the tea party group Tampa Vote Fair had challenged in advance, meaning those voters would be forced to cast provisional ballots. It’s unclear how many counties received similar lists or how many voters were on them.

Fourteen-Year-Old From Inglewood Explains Why He’s Canvassing for Obama in Nevada

antoine-jenkins-will-coley-vegas.jpgAntoine Jenkins on a charter bus traveling from Los Angeles to Nevada. (Photo: Will Coley)

Fourteen-year-old Antoine Jenkins traveled from Inglewood, Calif. to Las Vegas, Nevada to knock on doors and urge voters in the swing state to vote for President Obama.

“In four years I’ll be able to go college and that’s why I need that student loan from Obama,” Jenkins explained to a resident he met that asked why he was knocking on doors. The interaction was captured in an audio story by Will Coley, a Los Angeles based progressive activist who works as a social media strategist.

Coley met Jenkins on a charter bus that traveled from Los Angeles to Las Vegas this past weekend.

“When I boarded the bus, Antoine and his mother were sitting behind me and we immediately hit if off,” Coley told “He was the youngest canvasser in our group and everyone cheered him on. We chanted ‘Antoine!’ almost as much as we did ‘Four more years!’”

Inglewood is a predominantly black and Latino community in the South Bay region of Los Angeles. Earlier this year the Inglewood Unified School District became the first Southern California district to be taken over by the state due to the district’s “ballooning budget deficit.” In an effort to cut costs the district eliminated 200 positions and increased class sizes as a result.

Listen to Will Coley’s story below.

Debunking Election Myths: Don’t Worry, Your Straight-Ticket Vote Is Totally Okay

Debunking Election Myths: Don't Worry, Your Straight-Ticket Vote Is Totally Okay

Among the rumors and misinformation floating around today is one that’s very easy to debunk—if you’re voting anywhere but North Carolina. Do not fear—your straight-ticket voting is perfectly valid, and will include a vote for the president. Nevertheless, rumors to the contrary are populating the social mediasphere and even reaching the Election Protection hotline. So reports Kemi Bello, a Voting Rights Watch community journalist from Texas, who is monitoring the Election Protection feed today.

The Florida Times-Union explains the one exception to this rule:

In North Carolina, however, the warning in the viral email could be a good one. In that state, straight-ticket voting is allowed, but only for races other than president/vice president. So if you vote a straight ticket, you must vote separately for the president and vice president. A state law passed in 1967 prohibits the combination of the vote for president with any other office on the ballot, according to the state’s election website.

Still, rumors are popping up in Pontiac, Michigan; Stewartstown, Pennsylvania and elsewhere. The rumor is so widespread that a spokesperson from Alabama’s Secretary of State responded to the talk today to assure voters that straight-ticket voting, a ballot option allowing voters to vote for a party’s entire slate of candidates with a single mark, is a valid way of voting that will indeed include a person’s pick for president.

Once an unavoidable part of the voting process, today just 15 states offer straight-ticket voting. They are: Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.

AP: Strong Turnout in New York and New Jersey Despite Sandy’s Chaos

Election watchers have wondered how Hurricane Sandy would impact turnout and voting experience. Associated Press is reporting that it doesn’t appear to have dampened turnout this morning even in hard-hit areas of New Jersey and New York.

Turnout in the heavily Democratic Northeast has been a significant question as election watchers game out the potential outcome. One prediction for the night is that President Obama will win the Electoral College but not the popular vote. That’s concerning to some, because it may well deepen already troubling emotions among those on the far right who believe the president is illegitimate.

That said, thus far signs point to a strong turnout despite Sandy’s chaos. Colorlines reporters voting this morning in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, a majority black and Caribbean neighborhood, saw lines about an hour long. Our Voting Rights Watch community journalist Hermelinda Cortes, who’s monitoring reports from election protection teams this morning, notes the following:

Election Protection is documenting a number of issues for voters at polling locations across the country, especially areas hit by Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey, and Pennsylvania where there are long lines, confusion about voting locations, and sometimes no power or heat at polling locations. Many people are also being asked for photo identification.

We’ll follow these reports throughout the day. We’ve also heard separate reports of conflict at Pennsylvania polling stations over voter ID requirements. We’ll follow these throughout the day. On the hopeful side in terms of encouraging voting, both New York and New Jersey have made it possible for voters to cast provisional ballots in any polling place, in order to accommodate displaced voters.

Obama Has 431 Ways to Win, Romney Has 76 Ways to Win [Infographic]

Obama Has 431 Ways to Win, Romney Has 76 Ways to Win [Infographic]

An interactive graphic published by the The New York Times recently allows users to explore the 512 combinations of swing states President Barack Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney must win to get to the White House.

Obama has 431 ways to win enough electoral college votes to be re-elected, while Romney has just 76. However, if Romney loses Florida, he has only one path to victory.

Visit the New York Times and check out the interactive graphic created by graphics editors Mike Bostock and Shan Carter.

The Rest of World Would Vote for Obama, BBC Poll Finds


A BBC News poll that surveyed close to 22,000 people in 21 countries found most would re-elect President Obama.

An average of 50% favored Obama, with 9% for Mr Romney.

Only Pakistan’s respondents said they would prefer to see Romney win today’s election.

France was the most strongly pro-Obama (72%).

The survey was conducted by GlobeScan/PIPA between 3 July and 3 September.

Chris Rock’s Message for the ‘Undecided Voters of the Caucasian Variety’

Chris Rock's Message for the 'Undecided Voters of the Caucasian Variety'

On last Friday night’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” Chris Rock starred in a satirical campaign ad that proved President Barack Obama is white.

The Hollywood Reporter transcribed Rock’s evidence of why the Commander in Chief is so white:

-Obama formerly went by Barry, “the third whitest name on Earth.”

  • After college, the president went into black Chicago neighborhoods to organize people. “How white is that? Black people don’t go into black communities,” Rock says. “We don’t have to. We’re already there.”

-“Barack Obama supports gay marriage,” Rock says. “Most black men don’t even support straight marriage.”

It’s a pretty good satirical ad, but the record, that last bit about black people not supporting gay marriage is actually a myth that’s worth addressing. In fact, black people are more likely to support gay marriage than whites.

How the Romney and Obama Campaigns Racially Typefaced You

How the Romney and Obama Campaigns Racially Typefaced You

Both the Barack Obama re-election campaign and the Romney for President campaign have what they call “groups” or “communities” within their campaigns to target the so called “minority” groups.  The campaigns have given the groups their own identity and typeface and it may provide some insight in how they perceive these groups. (For those that don’t know, a typeface = fonts.)

Some of the typefaces are good, some of them are bad and whoever picked the Latinos for Obama font should be charged with a hate crime.

Here we go, we’ll start with the Obama campaign’s groups:

For starters they have the general group meant for white folks and everyone who doesn’t know they have their own dedicated group.


Latinos got the craziest font.

Take a look at the letter “S” in Latinos, does it look like it comes from the golden age of gang graffiti to you? Or like some low-rider cars should be in the picture too?


Then there’s the African-American group with this interesting selection:


The classiest font went to Asian-Americans.

Take a look, it looks so serious compared to the African-American and Latino groups. So serious! It could have gone much worse though…


11 Arrested at City Hall as Chicago Teachers, Families Unite to Defend Public Schools

11 Arrested at City Hall as Chicago Teachers, Families Unite to Defend Public Schools

While the rest of the city was easing into their weekend, Chicago teachers and parents were laying themselves on the line Friday evening to protest Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s school reform agenda. In a press conference turned sit-in, over a hundred Chicago students, parents and teachers gathered at Chicago’s city hall Friday evening demanding a moratorium on the mayor’s campaign to shut down dozens of Chicago’s neighborhood public schools. Jitu Brown, the education organizer at Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, said eleven people were arrested at around 10pm, but not before protesters took over the hallway just outside Emanuel’s door for hours.

“What they should do is declare a moratorium on school closings because so much damage has been done by these policies,” Brown said. “There’s enough examples of how [school closures] have already been harmful to communities that they should do it just out of acknowledgement of past history.”

The sit-in came just days after the city released its guidelines for shutting down city schools. In February, Mayor Emanuel proposed a plan to phase out or shut down some 100 public schools in Chicago, and also announced a parallel plan to open 64 schools. The public school closures are explained as a measure of efficiency; they’re targeted at so-called “underutilized” schools where enrollment is far below building capacity. Yet, Brown and others say that the underutilization of schools is a manufactured problem by reformers like Emanuel who are intent on destabilizing the public education system and transferring public education into the hands of non-public entities. The increasingly vocal coalition of Chicago public school teachers, students and families rising up against Emanuel’s school closures agenda say the city’s already long history with school closures have had a destabilizing effect on the poorest communities, which are most in need of stable public institutions to anchor communities.

The National Disaster Seen in New York’s Income Inequality

The National Disaster Seen in New York's Income Inequality

As New York makes an uneven recovery in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, harsh economic truths obscured by the city’s shining opulence are coming to light. With its global status as America’s financial capital, the consequences of New York’s crushing income inequality holds lessons for the entire nation. Whether we learn from them will be a task of the next president.

The annual economic output of New York and its suburbs is larger than South Korea, Switzerland or Saudi Arabia.

Yet, as Adam David Rohde reported in The Atlantic Magazine, income inequality in the city “rivals parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.” Despite the shine of the Big Apple, wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few in a way that is matched by few places on earth.

One out of three workers in New York hold hourly wage jobs. When these men and women who clean offices or take fast-food orders do not work, they do not earn. According to the latest census data, the bottom 20 percent of wage earners in New York make under $10,000 a year.

As salaried workers and the wealthy fled to hotels or second homes in advance of the storm, “the city’s army of cashiers, waiters, and service workers remained in place,” Rohde writes.

In Sandy’s wake, New York’s inattention to these inequities has had severe consequences.

In cash-strapped areas such as the Rockaways, Red Hook and Coney Island, over 40,000 people are homeless because of the hurricane. As temperatures dropped to freezing at the weekend, seniors were trapped in high-rise public housing towers without food and water. The same is true for the disabled. Half of the storm’s deaths occurred on working class Staten Island where many first responders—deployed to other areas of the city—live.

New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s focus the day after the storm was on opening Wall Street. The impact of inequality seemed far from his thoughts. But that Empire State of Mind puts a great many number of his citizens at risk. In that, New York is in the same boat as the rest of America.

Where we go from here needs to be a major focus of the next occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Janelle Monáe On Being a Former Maid and Why She Still Wears a Uniform

Janelle Monáe On Being a Former Maid and Why She Still Wears a Uniform

On Sunday, BET broadcasted the BLACK GIRLS ROCK! 2012 awards ceremony that celebrate the achievements of women of color in the arts, politics and social welfare. Among the honorees was artist Janelle Monáe who received the “Young Gifted and Black Award.” She delivered the most moving speech of the evening.

Monáe, 26, is known for her captivating music that zips listeners from genre to genre — in just one album she can take you from R&B and funk to rap, psychedelic rock and disco. But the singer-songwritter is also widely respected for her style.

Monáe always wears what she calls her uniform: always a jacket and pants, all her clothes are black or white and her hair is done up in a Fifties-style quiff.

That uniform has caught the attention of fashion royalty like Andre Leon Talley, editor at large of Vogue, who in 2010 included her in an editorial. In August this year, Monae also became a COVERGIRL, joining the ranks of Christie Brinkley, Tyra Banks and Sofia Vergara who have become spokesmodels for the beauty brand.

During her acceptance speech at BLACK GIRLS ROCK! 2012 Monáe spoke candidly about her family and said she wears her uniform in honor of them.

“When I started my musical career I was a maid, I used to clean houses. My parents—my mother was a proud janitor, my step-father who raised me like his very own worked at the post office and my father was a trash man. They all wore uniforms. And that’s why I stand here today in my black and white and I wear my uniform to honor them,” Monáe said, fighting back tears.

“This is a reminder that I have work to do, I have people to uplift, I have people to inspire,” she said after explaining that she grew up in Wyandotte County, “the poorest county” in Kansas City.

“And today I wear my uniform proudly as a Covergirl,” she told the audience reffering to her deal with the cosmetics giant.

Monáe then went on to deliver a message directed to her young fans but one that could resonate with fans of all ages and gender.

“I want to be clear young girls, I didn’t have to change who I was to become a Covergirl, I didn’t have to become perfect because I’ve learned through my journey that perfection is the often the enemy of greatness. Embrace what makes you unique, even if it makes other uncomfortable.

That last quote was a good one to end a story with but because tomorrow is election day, you should know that Barack Obama is a fan of Monáe.

“People that worked in his campaign have told us he is very aware of me,” Monae told Rolling Stones in a 2010 interview.

Gay HIV-Positive DREAMer Deported Despite Community Pleas to ICE

It was the sort of tragedy the Obama administration had seemed so intent on avoiding. On Thursday night Wasington Coelho Ribero, a DREAM Act-eligible undocumented immigrant, was deported to Brazil. His deportation came four months after the Obama administration announced that it would immediately stop deporting young undocumented immigrants who met several stringent requirements, and more than a year after the Obama administration also said it would focus deportations only on those who presented a serious threat to the nation’s security.

Advocates say that under at least one of these administrative guidances, if not for humanitarian reasons, Ribero, a 27-year-old immigrant with a U.S. citizen partner, should have been granted relief. Immigration officials disagreed.

Immigrant and LGBT rights activists worked to protect him from deportation and called for his release as Ribero’s health started declining while in detention. He entered detention in fine health but after four months without access to medical care in Krome Detention Center in Miami, he “developed sores on his feet and white spots,” activists said.

American Indian Tribes Come Together to Help Sandy-Hit Shinnecock Indian Nation

The Shinnecock Indian Nation, a self-governing tribe residing along the shores of Eastern Long Island that was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, is scheduled to receive some much needed assistance from the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

United South and Eastern Tribes (USET) released the following statement from Shinnecock Chairman Trustee Randy King describing the current state of the reservation:

“We know a tidal surge of about four to six feet came into the Reservation. We still do not have electricity. We had out Tribal burial grounds halfway covered with water. Right now it is the electricity (that is needed) which is the issue.” Without the electricity there is no heat and temperatures are falling in the area. “It’s getting cold and some of our elders don’t have ways to heat their home. We have gotten a liaison from FEMA, Ashley Smith, is helping us assess the whole situation too,” King added. Smith and FEMA Special Advisor for National Tribal Affairs at Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Richard Flores continue to coordinate efforts with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Health Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and organizations like the Red Cross.

According to USET, several Tribes, like the Seminole Tribe of Florida, have lots of experience on how to respond and recover after natural disasters. Seminole Executive Director of Public Safety Jerry Wheeler is sending a response team to New York that will assist the Shinnecock with “assessment, help coordinate resources, and assist with documentation for state and federal agencies.”

The Shinnecock Reservation is on the east end of Long Island in Suffolk County, New York.

NY Daily News Reporter Live-Tweeting Alleged Looter Arraignments of People ‘Stealing Essentials’

Oren Yaniv, the Brooklyn courts reporter for the NY Daily News, is tweeting updates from arraignments of alleged looters detained in Brooklyn after Hurricane Sandy. According to one of Yaniv’s tweets, defense lawyers points out that “most alleged Coney Island looters are either students or people with jobs who has little or no priors.”

“Not condoning in any way, but worth noting looters are mostly accused of stealing essentials: paper towels, toilet paper, diapers,” Yaniv wrote in another tweet.

Read more of his updates below:

New Jobs Report Shows Stubbornly High Unemployment Rates for Blacks, Youth

With just days left until voters head to the polls to choose the next U.S. president, the final election jobs report came out on Friday. In total, 171,000 jobs were created in October, but the unemployment rate ticked slightly upward, from 7.9 percent to 7.9 percent. Politico said that the new mirrors the campaign itself: “a long, grinding march forward with little in the way of big inspiration that still slightly favors Obama.”

Still, the outlook for blacks, Latinos, and youth is far less optimistic. The black unemployment rate actually rose in October, going from 13.4 percent to 14.3 percent. And for black teens, those numbers are much worse: joblessness rose to a high of 40.5 percent.

As’s economic justice reporter Imara Jones noted after the release of last month’s report, these new numbers underscore any at-length discussion of joblessness during this year’s presidential election. “Given that the economy is the number once concern of all Americans,” wrote Jones, “the lack of presentation by the candidates of detailed plans during their exchange is almost unconscionable.”


NYC’s Chinatown Devastated After Sandy, Advocates Say Race to Blame

NYC's Chinatown Devastated After Sandy, Advocates Say Race to Blame

“Income and race have a lot to do with the situation that we’re in, I went by Wall Street last night and all the lights were on, the buildings were empty, there were christmas lights on the trees and it was absolutely crazy because we had just left here [Chinatown] and it was pitch black,” said Helena Wong in an interview with The Nation. Wong is the executive director of the Chinatown-based organization CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities.

“What we’re seeing is no officials are coming here, there are no translated documents, there’s no FEMA, Bloomberg isn’t here, no ones invested any resources in to this community and there are other communities as well that aren’t Wall Street and aren’t Time Square and it’s pretty clear that it’s profits over people right now,” Wong went on to say.

The video was shot and produced by Francis Reynolds at The Nation.

CAAAV is currently accepting donations for flashlights, batteries, food and bottled water. Visit their website for more information.

Staten Island Residents Refused to Help Black Mom as Sandy Swept Sons Away

Staten Island Residents Refused to Help Black Mom as Sandy Swept Sons Away

Police on Thursday said two brothers, ages 2 and 4, who were swept away Monday night when waves of water crashed into an SUV driven by their mother in Staten Island were found dead.

Glenda Moore left her Staten Island home with two children and was driving to a family member’s house in Brooklyn when her car became submerged underwater. She freed her two kids from their car seats but rushing waves of water swept the kids away from her arms.

“It went over their heads… She had them in her arms, and a wave came and swept them out of her arms,” the mother’s aunt told the NY Daily News.

Local Staten Island newspapers have reported the mother unsuccessfully tried to get help from neighbors but the New York Daily News is reporting another side of the story:

According to the sister, a dripping-wet Moore banged on doors looking for help in the middle of the hurricane, but couldn’t find anyone willing to help her.

“They answered the door and said, ‘I don’t know you. I’m not going to help you,’” said the sister. “My sister’s like 5-foot-3, 130 pounds. She looks like a little girl. She’s going to come to you and you’re going to slam the door in her face and say, ‘I don’t know you, I can’t help you’?’”

Moore spent the night huddled on a doorstep as the hurricane’s assault continued. At daybreak, her sister said, the desperate mother walked until she found a police car and related her heart-breaking story.

The UK’s Daily Mail is also reporting Moore visited a second house in search for help:

Her cousin Nancy Jean, 41, fought back tears as she described the ordeal.

‘I can’t believe the way she was treated by the people she went to for help,’ she said.

‘The first person she knocked on, she begged them and said: “Please call 911”.

‘They told her: “I don’t know you” and closed the door. She tried another door but they turned the lights off.

Connor and Brandon Moore, ages 4 and 2, are believed to be Hurricane Sandy’s youngest victims.

Starving New Yorkers in East Village Forced to Dumpster Dive

Starving New Yorkers in East Village Forced to Dumpster Dive

There’s a lot to say about this reporter broadcasting images of hungry New Yorkers searching for food, but what’s clear now is that people in the East Village and Lower East side—where there are several public housing complexes—are desperate for food. Their priority is getting food, not marathons. 

New Yorkers on food stamps have especially been hit hard because they can’t pay for food, the state distributes benefits through Electronic Benefit Cards (EBT) that can’t be swiped in stores without power.

Jimmy Kimmel Asks a Brooklyn Barbershop About Mitt Romney

Jimmy Kimmel Asks a Brooklyn Barbershop About Mitt Romney
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