• Candidate Profile: Jen Lunsford for NY State Senate

    Jen Lunsford is a lawyer, a mom, and a community volunteer running for the New York State Senate against Rich Funke in the 55th District.  Jen is 36 years old and resides in Penfield with her husband, Scott, a Pittsford native, and their two-year old son.  After graduating from Boston University School of Law in 2009, Jen moved to Rochester to begin her legal career.  Since then, she has worked to protect the interests of sick and disabled people through her work as an attorney, and to advocate for children as a volunteer with the Center for Youth.  Jen believes that public service works best when it actually serves the public.  She has pledged to hold regular public forums and open office hours throughout her district once she is elected.

    “Elected office is a customer service job. Too many elected officials forget who they work for and shut themselves off to opinions that differ from their own.  When you are given the privilege of serving your community you owe it to those you represent to hear them out, even if they didn’t vote for you or donate to your campaign.  When you are elected to office, you should represent everyone, even those who disagree with you.  Something I have learned over the course of my legal career, where I meet people from all walks of life, is that we are far more the same than we are different.  We all want the same things– quality schools, good healthcare, safe communities and good job opportunities for ourselves and our families– we just sometimes disagree about how to get there.”

     

     

  • Part I – Election Integrity Taking a Back Seat

    It sounds a bit like the premise of a Bond (or possible Austin Powers?) movie:

    Hoards of the best (and worst) hackers descend upon Las Vegas in a pair of events shrouded in silence and mystery with one nefarious purpose: hack the election.

    In this case though, the events are called Black Hat USA and DEF CON, and they recently wrapped up on the 12th of August, 2018.  DEF CON, and its more nefarious sibling, Black Hat, were back-to-back conferences for those interested in . . . let’s say “computer security and best practices.”

    Oh, and the circumvention thereof.

    This year’s DEF CON, the 26th, was themed “1983: The View from Dystopia’s Edge,” and true to this glaringly obvious tagline, the premise was about governmental security and the use of technology to control people (and their collective attention span).  Speakers had topics such as “A Journey Into Hexagon: Dissecting a Qualcomm Baseband” and “Hacking PLCs and Causing Havoc on Critical Infrastructures.”

    We all know the stereotypes.  Reclusive hackers with bad personal grooming and worse morals.  To be fair, in aggregate, those only fit in movies and in “presidential” debates that include He Who Will Not Be Named.  But with topics like these, it’s not a far stretch to imagine that the typical event-goer was of a different sort.

    Now, with all of this info, you might be tempted to box this passel of “nerds” away in your head as a means of dismissing them, but these folks are the real deal.  One of the headline speakers was Rob Joyce, Senior Advisor for Cybersecurity StrategyFor the NSA.  And if the NSA takes these people seriously, it’s a pretty solid indication that so should you.

    This year and last, DEF CON included a “Voting Village” made up of retired (but standard issue) voting machines used in elections around the United States.  The aged Diebold TSX machines (still in use in Georgia, by the by) were there, as well as others such as ES&S and WinVote.  It should inspire no confidence when you read the following headlines, then:

    To be fair, the 11-year-old hacker didn’t actually change the results of Florida’s presidential vote; she changed the displayed tally which, upon any further inspection, would have been shown to be incorrect.  And the 17-year-old hacker didn’t actually hack a state election; he used the same machines that are currently being used by various states in our union, and was able to fully modify votes, change candidate names, and even gave Gary Johnson (remember him?) 90 billion votes In one state.

    In case the lines weren’t drawn clearly enough for you: tweens and teens hacked regulation election equipment in under an hour.  What chance do our elections stand, as is, against a hostile nation? Now, I do not wish to dismiss the talent of these two young computer enthusiasts in the least, but they were in all likelihood far from the best hackers at either conference, and their efforts were part of a very public showing of how poor the computer and operational security is/was surrounding our voting machines.

    This type of activity, attempting to break, characterize flaws, and publish, is inherent to something called “white hat hacking,” and although this type of work might sometimes irk companies and institutions (who are often the very public recipients of shame for easy or trivial hacks, such as those on display at the Voting Village), the sum total of these activities is positive: they force a change that increases our security.

    Earlier on, I mentioned that DEF CON was part of a pair of conferences, the other being Black Hat.  Two guesses as to the intent of that conference?

  • Get Ready to Vote in the Upcoming Elections: September Primary and November General Election

    Get ready to vote in the upcoming elections. There is a New York state and local primary on Thursday, September 13 from noon to 9 p.m. and there is a general election for federal, state, and local offices on Tuesday, November 6.

    You still have time to register to vote for the primary – the deadline is August 19.

    The deadline to register to vote for the November general election is October 12.

    There’s a great Web site you can use to find out if you are registered to vote, where you vote, the candidates for which you will be voting (sample ballots are not yet available, but will be soon), to change your voting information (e.g., change your address if you’ve moved), and to request an absentee ballot. Here’s the link:
    https://www.monroecounty.gov/etc/voter/

    How to Register to Vote

    If you need to register to vote, you can use the link, https://www.monroecounty.gov/etc/voter/ and then click on the tab, “Register to Vote.” You will be taken to copy of the voter registration form that you can fill out and mail in. If you are registering in Monroe County, the mailing address is Monroe County Board of Elections, 39 Main St. W., Rochester, NY 14614. Mailing addresses for the Boards of Elections in other counties are on the form itself.

    A Spanish version of the voter registration form can be found at:
    https://www2.monroecounty.gov/files/MonroeCounty-Mail-Spanish-2015.pdf

    You can also call the Monroe County Board of Elections at 585-753-1550 to request a voter registration form be mailed to you.

    You can even register online at the New York state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Web site, if you have a New York driver’s license, learner’s permit, or a non-driver identification card. Here’s the link to use:
    https://dmv.ny.gov/more-info/electronic-voter-registration-application

    Eligibility to Vote

    You must be a United States citizen to register to vote.

    The minimum age for voting is 18 at the time of the election, so you may register if you are not yet 18 but will turn 18 before the election in which you wish to vote. So, for example, if you want to vote in the primary on September 13, you can register even if you’re only 17 as long as you will turn 18 by September 13. Similarly, you may register for the general election even if you’re now 17 as long as you will turn 18 by November 6. You do, of course, have to register by the appropriate registration deadlines specified above.

    If you are convicted felon, you are eligible to register to vote once you have completed your sentence including probation.

    Who is on the Ballot in the Upcoming State and Local Primary?

    At the state level, there is a two-way primary for the Democratic nomination for the office of Governor. The candidates (in alphabetical order) are the incumbent, Andrew Cuomo, and Cynthia Nixon.

    There is also four-way primary for Attorney General. The candidates are Leecia Eve, Tish James, Sean Patrick Maloney, and Zephyr Teachout.

    At the local level, primary candidates will vary depending on where you live. You can use the https://www.monroecounty.gov/etc/voter/ link to check your ballot as the date of the state and local primary (September 13) grows near.

    Where can I get Information about the Candidates?

    Most candidates have Web sites where you can learn more about them. Do an Internet search using the candidate’s name to find their Web site.

    In addition, a number of non-partisan groups offer candidate information. Examples are:
    • The League of Women Voters – New York state: http://lwvny.org/
    • The League of Women Voters (Rochester chapter): http://www.lwv-rma.org/
    • Ballotpedia, an encyclopedia of American politics and elections: http://www.ballotpedia.org/

  • Infiltrating American Democracy: Team Watch or Team Defend?

    By Lottie Gonzalez-Habes

    In New York state, and in Monroe county’s towns, suburbs, and cities, we are witnessing events coming from multiple fronts signaling that America’s democracy is being infiltrated. The ultimate goal is to weaken core beliefs we have established as a nation. The country, granted, is an imperfect union, but it remains a world model for free societies. Infiltration has begun with subtle messaging from bad “actors” entertaining audiences in American living rooms. It has spread, unintentionally, with help from small town radio and television outlets, and it has reached high pitch with the popularity of “people friendly,” technology-driven social media platforms. When voices dare to publicly express an opinion about these infiltration efforts aloud, gullible partisans and the opposition brush concerns aside by labeling it “exaggeration,” “hyperbole,” and other dismissive terms.

    History and writers teach us that language has been a most effective weapon when enemies of democracy have attempted and succeeded in subverting societies in other parts of the world. Our American principles of freedom of press, transparency, government accountability, participation, and justice for all peoples are undergoing a brutal attack. The attack, however, is delivered with “soft salesman” tactics. The attack on democracy is reaching American audiences using all the traditional propaganda tools: repetition, smiles, big lies, humor, and appearance of strength, as well as appeals that exploit emotions and grievances some may feel. If this sounds familiar to you as a reader, if we think that what we see happening has happened at another time, or if what we hear taking place even vaguely reminds us of high school level history classes, it is because all of it has happened before in other places to people around the world. Why then doubt that similar infiltration efforts are taking root in our own county, cities, and rural and urban places?

    History confirms that a new version of the same ideas (which have destroyed freedoms around the world before) are being introduced in the United States. In 1944 Hideki Tojo, Prime Minister of Japan and Minister of War appropriated powers and promised a “new order in Asia” with his aggressive policies. And never forget how Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Propaganda (1933) believed that “people never rule themselves” and that “rank and file are usually more primitive than we imagine . . . Propaganda must therefore always be essentially simple and repetitious”.

    Most valued American principles are being undermined in front of our eyes by Trump’s Republican administration now in power: respect for public service, the right to unionize and organize, public schools, the right to vote and be elected in free elections, having a free and independent press, national security and public safety agencies, equal protection under the law, environmental protections – all are being undermined while we watch. Examples of recent attacks and the dismantling of important American principles are documented and published in local and national media but are too often to be dismissed.

    Are we choosing to be spectators or are we going to be defenders? All Democrats, whether we lean or consider ourselves left, centrist, or conservative, must stand in indivisible coalition acting locally to defend ourselves, the nation, its citizens, and those democratic principles we strongly hold.

    What can we do?

    Here in Rochester it’s time to choose a team. I am not talking about voting for a candidate running for office or choosing a campaign in which to volunteer. The decision is larger. We are called to decide whether we will be spectators on Team Watch, viewing a “reality” spectacle courtesy of Trump’s Republican broadcasting cronies, or are we going to work, resist and act locally in meaningful ways to advance democracy and defeat its enemies. It’s on us: Team Defend!

  • For Prospective Candidates

    Here at the Monroe County Democrats, candidate recruitment and training is a key part of our mission. We are always seeking out the very best talent — from the private sector, community organizations, schools, and non-profits — and preparing local leaders for public office.

    For 2018 and beyond, we are especially seeking candidates for these positions:

    • Town and village court judges
    • Town and village boards
    • Town and village Democratic Committee members

    Great leaders come from all walks of life and backgrounds, and it’s hard to define all of the factors that will make a person likely to succeed in public office.

    In general, we are looking for candidates that have demonstrated success and bring practical experience to each position, along with a passion for and commitment to our community.

    For example, judicial candidates should have relevant experience practicing law, and they should be willing to come before the bar association judiciary committee for an evaluation of their qualifications for the bench. Town and city board members should have experience managing a staff, budget, and long-term organizational strategy.

    For more information about running for office, please contact your local town or city Democratic Committee leaders or the Monroe County Democratic Committee Chairwoman, Jamie Romeo.

    The recommended deadline to notify us about your intent to campaign for public office for 2018 has past, however, we will continue to meet with prospective candidates for specific positions past that deadline in preparation for the next available electoral opportunity.  If you are interested, let us hear from you!

     

  • We’re Kicking Off Petition Season!

    Hard to believe, but petition season is almost here! Our first day of petitioning will be Tuesday, March 6th.

    In New York State, petitions are the first step for candidates hoping to run for elected office. Over the next few weeks, thousands of community members will sign their support for our local leaders to help get their names on the ballot.

    Petitioning is also our first opportunity to get fired up for the coming year and reconnect with other Democrats in our neighborhoods. While signing petitions, community members can sign-up to volunteer on campaigns, host a lawn sign, or participate in voter registration drives.

    If you’re able to walk door-to-door carrying petitions, please contact your local town or city Democratic Committee leaders or our Operations Director, Henrietta Herriott. We will be putting together our petition-carrying teams over the next few weeks. We’ll start with Congressional petitions in March, then carry statewide and local petitions in June.

    For prospective candidates, it’s not too late to run! The deadline to notify us about your intent to campaign for public office is Wednesday, February 28th. Please visit our recruitment page for more information.

    To stay up-to-date with important news and events, please sign up for our newsletter.

     

     

  • Can Senate Democrats Foil FCC’s Unpopular #NetNeutrality Reversal?

    On the 14th of December, 2017, the FCC officially voted to end the “Obama-era” net neutrality regulation named the Open Internet Order, despite fervent opposition from Congress, technical experts, the American people, and the founders and pioneers of the Internet itself.  The 3-to-2 FCC vote, split along party lines, has been seen as a White House sponsored giveaway to massive telecommunications companies, and seems supported mainly by Trump, Russian spammers, and impersonated Americans. Continue Reading