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Last week marked the sixth anniversary of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, which unleashed unlimited corporate spending on our elections. Thinking about the widespread impact of this ruling, it’s easy to get pretty down on the state of our democracy. In addition to the immediate wreckage Citizens United caused in our democracy, there was a simultaneous attack on voting rights, leaving people in this country with less access to the polls than in 1965.
For instance, in this election cycle alone, employees from oil and gas companies have contributed nearly a million dollars on just three candidates, Sen. Ted Cruz, Gov. Jeb Bush and Sec. Hillary Clinton, respectively.
Yeah, that can be pretty disheartening.
The good news is the American people are not putting up with any of this. People from Florida to Washington are determined to build a democracy in which everyone has equal voice and can rest assured that their vote won’t be immediately squashed by corporate money.
The best part is they’re winning.
There is still a lot to be done to fix our democracy. Feast your eyes on these six beautiful reasons that solutions are possible.
6. In Tallahassee, Florida voters overwhelmingly supported a sweeping set of ethics and campaign finance laws in 2014. The reforms included the creation of an ethics board, public campaign financing and a lower cap on individual contributions to candidates.
5. A unanimous state court in Texas ruled that a voter ID law that discriminated against African-American and Hispanic voters was unconstitutional. This law had disenfranchised more than 500,000 voters.
4. Maine voters showed their support for clean elections by passing campaign finance reforms that would strengthen public financing for legislative and gubernatorial races, increase fines for violators of campaign finance laws and require groups to disclose political ad spending.
3. Meanwhile, voters in Seattle passed by a vote of 60 to 40 percent public financing of the city’s elections. This will initiate new system in which voters can distribute up to four $25 “democracy vouchers” to candidates. Who wouldn’t want a democracy voucher?
2. Hawaii typically has the lowest voter turnout nationwide. State legislators recently passed a much-needed bill that will allow residents to register and vote on the same day starting this year. This bill should increase voter participation with easier access to the polls.
1. If you listened to President Obama’s State of the Union address last week, you may have heard his tough talk on fixing democracy—“fixing our politics” to be exact. The White House reassured us this week that his strong rhetoric was not just lip service when officials said the president is seriously considering a “dark money” executive order that would require companies with government contracts to disclose their political contributions. If passed, the law would be a major step forward in increased transparency in political spending.
Now it’s time for the 2016 candidates to follow the lead of our current president by proposing real solutions to our broken, but fixable, democracy.
Citizens United certainly damaged our democracy, but by working together and challenging our lawmakers across the country, we can fix it.
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A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.
"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."
The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.
My god, White Island volcano in New Zealand erupted today for first time since 2001. My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable. #whiteisland pic.twitter.com/QJwWi12Tvt— Michael Schade (@sch) December 9, 2019
Michael Schade / Twitter
At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.
The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.
Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.
"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."
Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.
Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.
"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.
"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."
The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.
Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.
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