Does The 7th Ward Need A Full-Time Alderman?

The recent 7th Ward Independent Democrats 7th Ward Alderman Candidate Survey asked the following question and received the following answers relating to work in addition to serving as alderman.

A9) Do you plan on working in a paid or volunteer position requiring 20 hours or more a week or running a business in addition to serving as alderman? If yes, please explain. (25 words or less)

John (Jack) Coatar: Yes, I plan on practicing law in addition to being an Alderman.

Chelsea Merta: I will work 56 plus hours a week as a full-time alderwoman and occasionally do some pro bono legal work for nonprofits.

Samuel J. Cummings, III: Yes, I believe politicians should have real jobs. Politicians who live solely on the taxpayers dime put personal careers over people’s interest.

Tell me what you think on this issue. Your answer should be specific to the 7th Ward. The Poll will be open until 5 pm Thursday and I will post results that evening.

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GOP Wants Fill In The Blank Poll Tax Constitutional Amendment

Republican legislators in Missouri want another handout. This time, they want taxpayers to foot the bill for endless lawsuits on one of their red meat agenda items- poll taxes, also known as Voter Identification requirements.

When you require people to spend money in order to vote, it’s a poll tax. Requiring people to pay for documentation necessary to secure a Photo Identification Card before they cast a ballot is requiring them to pay a poll tax.

“Shall the Constitution of Missouri be amended to state that voters may be required by law, which may be subject to exception, to verify one’s identity, citizenship, and residence by presenting identification that may include valid government-issued photo identification?”

That’s the ballot language for the first constitutional amendment proposed this year in the Missouri House: HJR1 by State Rep. Tony Duggar (Wright and Webster Counties).

The object is to get voters to adopt a generic enabling provision for Voter Identification into the Missouri Constitution. It’s a one time expense to the GOP. After it’s in the Constitution, Republicans have the votes in the General Assembly to fill in the details deliberately left out of the constitutional amendment- a poll tax bill every legislative session if they want. And, each time, there will be a court challenge and the Missouri Attorney General will have to defend the poll tax, with you and me picking up the tab.

Sure. The GOP dominated legislature can require Motor Vehicle fee offices to provide free State Identification Cards.

But that free State Identification Card will require documentation that is not free and, in some cases, not easy to obtain.

You will need a Certified Copy of your Birth Certificate to get an ID Card.  In Missouri, that Birth Certificate will cost you $15.

Sure. The GOP dominated legislature can require the Missouri Department of Health to issue free Birth Certificate copies.

But that free Birth Certificate copy will require you to show a State Identification Card, which you will never get because you cannot get the Birth Certificate copy.

Lather. Rinse Repeat.

And what could possibly go wrong when ordering a copy of your Birth Certificate from the State of Missouri?

You find out that your name is misspelled on your Birth Certificate.

You find out the State of Missouri has lost your Birth Certificate.

You find out that you have no Birth Certificate in the name you have always used because it turns out you were adopted and your adoptive parents didn’t file for an amended Birth Certificate.

You find out that there is no record of your birth in Missouri and anyone who might have known where you were really born is deceased.

In cases where a Birth Certificate problem can be corrected by the State of Missouri, it can take months.

Now a married woman who took her husband’s surname after the ceremony will also need a Certified Copy of her Marriage License, in addition to her Birth Certificate. If you married in Missouri, you’ll pay $9-$12 for that copy. It’s unlikely that the GOP dominated legislature would do anything about making those copies free. $7 of that fee goes to the Missouri Children’s Trust Fund and the rest goes to county general revenue. The State would have to replace that income because of the Hancock Amendment.

Then there’s the part where not everyone living in Missouri, who wants to vote here, was born here. The GOP dominated legislature certainly cannot force other states to give out free copies of Birth Certificates and Marriage Licenses.

In the end, it’s a poll tax and courts will see it that way. But that’s not the point. It’s not about policy making or statesmanship or good government or even less government. It’s about red meat. It’s about conning Missouri voters into giving the GOP an annual opportunity to write absurd legislation that taxpayers then have to pay to defend.

So when Missouri House Speaker John Diehl says there is No Ferguson Agenda, he means there will be nothing helpful. He does not mean that Republicans will not take advantage of the times and feed their rural constituents with the red meat of disenfranchising urban voters.

— Marie Ceselski

Let’s Cut $750,000 From Board of Elections Budget & Increase Voter Turnout

If I told you there was a way to cut $750,000 annual out of the St. Louis City Board of Elections Budget and increase voter turnout at the same time, you’d think that was a good deal, wouldn’t you? Here’s the that deal.

In St. Louis City, voter turnout in partisan State Elections is higher than in our partisan Municipal Elections.

Missouri State General Election Nov. 4, 2014: 34.05%
St. Louis City Municipal General Election April 2, 2013: 12.55%

Missouri State Primary Election Aug. 5, 2014: *20.29%
St. Louis City Municipal Primary Election March 5, 2013: 22.o8%

Missouri State General Election Nov. 6, 2012: 74.04%
St. Louis City Municipal General Election April 5, 2011: 13.70%

Missouri State Primary Election Aug. 7, 2012: 26.77%
St. Louis City Municipal Primary Election March 8, 2011: 6.74%

Missouri State General Election Nov. 2, 2010: 48.52%
St. Louis City Municipal General Election April 7, 2009: 17.12%

Missouri State Primary Election Aug. 3, 2o10: 18.58%
St. Louis City Municipal Primary Election March 3, 2009: 14.50%

In Fiscal Years with four elections- Municipal Primary & General and State Primary and General- the St. Louis City Board of Elections Budget increases by at least $1.5 Million.
FY14BOEFY13BOE
If we move St. Louis City Municipal Elections to State Election cycles, we could save up to $750,000 annually.

Move Mayor and Comptroller Elections and half the Board of Aldermen to President/Governor/Congress Elections. Move Board President and half the Board of Elections to State Auditor/Congress Elections.

We can do this right now without any enabling legislation by Missouri General Assembly because St. Louis City and Kansas City are given authority over election of offices under Section 122.650 RSMO.

Full power and authority are hereby conferred on every city in this state which now has, or may hereafter have, more than four hundred thousand inhabitants, to provide for and regulate all elections for offices of and under such city and for the nomination of candidates for such offices; and such provision for and regulation of such elections may be effected either by charter provisions therefor adopted by the people of such city according to law, or ordinances therefor duly enacted, or by the people thereof under the power of initiative, if any, reserved in the charter of such city.

St. Louis City Voters can amend  Article II to make our Municipal General Election the first Tuesday in November of even number years.

Our Primary Election laws are by ordinance, not Charter. We don’t have to re-invent the wheel to switch to a Municipal Primary in August. Chapter 2.08.020 Revised Code of St. Louis City already requires Municipal Primaries be held first Tuesday in August of even-numbered years.

Now this doesn’t change school board elections or junior college district trustee elections scheduled for April ballots. That is something we’d need to get assistance with from the Missouri General Assembly. I also have some ideas on that to be shared another time.

*The Democratic Party failed to have a candidate for State Auditor, the top of the ticket for this primary election.

— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

Voter Registration For Felons And 18 Year Olds

There has been some talk lately about voter registration being less important than protesting because of the high number of African Americans who are offenders and cannot vote. The thinking is that protests will raise the consciousness of America and that’s how The Great Disenfranchisement will end.

I disagree. Registering voters, educating voters, and getting them to the polls is how we make change. We cannot wait for offenders to become voters.

I’m not suggesting that protestors stop protesting. It just makes me sad to see lots of missed opportunities right now for change. We have the greatest ability to make a difference by exercising  our right to vote in local elections.

The voting rights for felons issue came up today while trying to register voters. 7th Ward Independent Democrats began our 2015 City Primary Voter Registration Drive this weekend. Before we registered voters, it was important for us to know…

According to the Missouri Secretary of State,

Upon completion of your sentence and probation or parole, you are eligible to vote in elections. Individuals who have been convicted of an election offense, whether a felony or misdemeanor, are not allowed to vote.

According to the Missouri Board of Probation and Parole, in 2013, there were 47,543 offenders on Probation and 15,996 offenders on Parole in Missouri. None can register to vote.

I would argue that if you want offenders to be law-abiding ex-offenders and contributing members of a community, enfranchising them provides some important dignity, for we are all equal at the polls, and reaffirms that all members of a community bear responsibility for the present and future of their community.

For crying out loud, Maine and Vermont allow their incarcerated offenders to vote and it has yet to bring about the Apocalypse.

Do I have much faith that the Missouri General Assembly is going to pass legislation in the immediate future permitting felons on probation and parole to vote? No.

Should we give up on voter registration in St. Louis because a significant percentage of our citizens have been disenfranchised? No.

For every offender on probation or parole, there is likely at least one parent, grandparent, sibling, spouse, partner, child of voting age who is not registered to vote.

In some wards, including the City’s 7th Ward, or townships, the families of offenders can make a difference in who is elected alderman or councilman. Elect enough aldermen and councilmen committed to enfranchising offenders and they can make a difference in the election of state legislators, mayors, county executives/commissioners, and their agendas in Jefferson City. And that’s how together we make change.

If you’d like to help us register voters in the 7th Ward, email me at stlcity7thward@aol.com or call 314-436-5311.

Another issue that came up during today’s voter registration, the 18 Year Old Vote.

According to the Missouri Secretary of State, you can register and vote if you are at least 17 years and 6 months of age and will be age 18 by Election Day. In the case of the upcoming St. Louis City Primary Election, if you will be 18 years old by March 3rd, you can register and vote in the next election.

Do St. Louis City Public Schools provide voter registration in our high schools? If not, they should. Each report card should come with Voter Registration Information. It’s a great idea but not mine. A nice lady named Willa passed the idea along to us today.

— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman