Major Owens on Government Reform
Former Democrat/Working-Families Representative (NY-11, 1983-2007)
Voted NO on requiring photo ID for voting in federal elections.
Requires that to vote in federal elections, an individual present a government-issued, current, and valid photo identification. After 2010, that ID must require providing proof of US citizenship as a condition for issuance. An individual who does not present such an ID is permitted to cast a provisional ballot, and then present the required ID within 48 hours. Exempts from this requirement the absentee ballot of any eligible overseas military voter on active duty overseas.
Proponents support voting YES because:
The election system is the bedrock that our Republic is built on and its security and oversight is of paramount concern. Only US citizens have the right to vote in Federal elections, but our current system does not give State election officials the tools they need to ensure that this requirement is being met.
This bill is designed to increase participation by ensuring that each legitimate vote will be counted and not be diluted by fraud. There are many elections
in this country every cycle that are decided by just a handful of votes. How can we be certain that these elections, without measures to certify the identity of voters, are not being decided by fraudulent votes?
Opponents support voting NO because:
There is something we can all agree on: only Americans get to vote, and they only get to vote once. But what we are talking about in this bill is disenfranchising many of those Americans. It is already a felony for a non-American to vote. We had hearings and what we found out was that the issue of illegal aliens voting basically does not occur.
The impact of this will disproportionately affect poor people and African Americans, because many are too poor to have a car and they do not have a license. We have no evidence there is a problem. We have ample evidence that this will disenfranchise many Americans. This is the measure to disenfranchise African Americans, Native Americans. It is wrong and we will not stand for it.
Reference: Federal Election Integrity Act;
Bill H R 4844
; vote number 2006-459
on Sep 20, 2006
Voted NO on restricting independent grassroots political committees.
A "527 organization" is a political committee which spends money raised independently of any candidate's campaign committee, in support or opposition of a candidate or in support or opposition of an issue. Well-known examples include MoveOn.org (anti-Bush) and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (anti-Kerry). Voting YES would regulate 527s as normal political committees, which would greatly restrict their funding, and hence would shift power to candidate committees and party committees. The bill's opponents say: This legislation singles out 527 organizations in an effort to undermine their fundraising and is a direct assault on free speech.This bill would obstruct the efforts of grassroots organizations while doing nothing to address the culture of corruption in Congress.H.R. 513 is an unbalanced measure that favors corporate trade associations over independent advocates. Corporate interests could continue spending unlimited and undisclosed dollars for political purposes while independent
organizations would be subject to contribution limits and source restrictions.H.R. 513 also removes all limits on national and state party spending for Congressional candidates in primary or general elections--an unmasked attack on the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act and clear evidence that the true intention in advancing H.R. 513 is not reform, but partisan advantage in political fundraising.
The bill's proponents say:
Reference: Federal Election Campaign Act amendment "527 Reform Act";
; vote number 2006-088
on Apr 5, 2006
- 527s' primary purpose is to influence the election or defeat of a Federal candidate. They have to file with the FEC because after Watergate in 1974 this Congress passed a law that said if you are going to have a political committee whose primary purpose is to influence an election, then they have to register with the FEC.
- The FEC ignored 30 years of congressional actions and Supreme Court jurisprudence in allowing 527s to evade the law. In short, the FEC failed to do its job and regulate 527s as required under the Watergate statute.
Voted NO on prohibiting lawsuits about obesity against food providers.
The Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act ("The Cheesburger Bill") would prevent civil liability actions against food manufacturers, marketers, distributors, advertisers, sellers, and trade associations for claims relating to a person's weight gain, obesity, or any health condition associated with weight gain or obesity. A YES vote would:
Reference: The Cheesburger Bill;
Bill HR 554
; vote number 2005-533
on Oct 19, 2005
- Prohibit such lawsuits in this act in federal or state courts
- Dismiss any pending lawsuits upon this bill's enactment
- Maintain an individual's right to bring a lawsuit to court for false marketing, advertising or labeling of food when such information led to injury, obesity or weight gain
Voted NO on limiting attorney's fees in class action lawsuits.
Class Action Fairness Act of 2005: Amends the Federal judicial code to specify the calculation of contingent and other attorney's fees in proposed class action settlements that provide for the award of coupons to class members. Allows class members to refuse compliance with settlement agreements or consent decrees absent notice. Prohibits a Federal district court from approving:
Reference: Bill sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley [R, IA];
; vote number 2005-038
on Feb 17, 2005
- a proposed coupon settlement absent a finding that the settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate;
- a proposed settlement involving payments to class counsel that would result in a net monetary loss to class members, absent a finding that the loss is substantially outweighed by nonmonetary benefits; or
- a proposed settlement that provides greater sums to some class members solely because they are closer geographically to the court.
Voted YES on campaign finance reform banning soft-money contributions.
Shays-Meehan Campaign Finance Overhaul: Vote to pass a bill that would ban soft money contributions to national political parties but permit up to $10,000 in soft money contributions to state and local parties to help with voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives. The bill would stop issue ads from targeting specific candidates within 30 days of the primary or 60 days of the general election. Additionally, the bill would raise the individual contribution limit from $1,000 to $2,000 per election for House and Senate candidates, both of which would be indexed for inflation.
Reference: Bill sponsored by Shays, R-CT, and Meehan D-MA;
Bill HR 2356
; vote number 2002-34
on Feb 14, 2002
Voted NO on banning soft money donations to national political parties.
Support a ban on soft money donations to national political parties but allow up to $10,000 in soft-money donations to state and local parties for voter registration and get-out-the vote activity.
Bill HR 2356
; vote number 2001-228
on Jul 12, 2001
Voted YES on banning soft money and issue ads.
Campaign Finance Reform Act to ban "soft money" and impose restrictions on issue advocacy campaigning.
Reference: Bill sponsored by Shays, R-CT;
Bill HR 417
; vote number 1999-422
on Sep 14, 1999
Election reform is #1 priority to prevent disenfranchisement.
Owens adopted the CBC principles:
Source: Congressional Black Caucus press release 01-CBC7 on Jan 6, 2001
- Election Reform is the CBC’s Number One Legislative Priority. What happened in Election 2000 is no way to elect the President – the most powerful position in the world. For the sake of our democracy, it is imperative that Election Reform be the top priority of every Member of Congress, and every American. As the world’s oldest and leading democracy, the outcome of our elections should never be in doubt. We must ensure that every vote cast is counted and that everyone who is eligible to vote is allowed to vote. Election reform is not a black issue or white issue, it is a red, white & blue issue. Voting is the most fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution and must be protected.
- Voter Education and Participation. African-Americans turned out to vote in Election 2000 in record numbers, many for the first time. This accomplishment, however, was undercut by allegations of voter intimidation, inaccurate voter registration lists, flawed
ballot designs, and antiquated voting machinery. All of these problems led to confusion before, during and after the election. The CBC will partner with state & local governments, civic & religious organizations and higher education institutions to prevent voter intimidation, as well as to enhance and improve voter registration, education and participation.
- Congress Must Act. Congress has the power, authority and absolute obligation to assure that the apparent disenfranchisement does not ever happen again. The CBC is committed to passing a strong and effective election reform package. Legislation should address ballot design, modern voting machines, an accurate vote-counting mechanism that allows for recounts, the restoration of voting rights for ex-offenders, assistance for bilingual and disabled persons who vote, and ensure the most accurate voter registration rolls on election day so that every one who is eligible to vote can vote, and have that vote counted.
Criminalize false or deceptive info about elections.
Owens co-sponsored criminalizing false or deceptive info about elections
OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: Amends federal criminal law to prohibit any person from knowingly deceiving any other person regarding:
Creates a private right of action for any person aggrieved by a violation of such prohibition. Prescribes a criminal penalty for such deceptive acts.
- the time, place, or manner of conducting any federal election; or
- the qualifications for or restrictions on voter eligibility for any such election.
SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. OBAMA: Voter participation is fundamental to our democracy, and we must do all we can to encourage those who can to vote. I also hope voters go to the polls with accurate information about what is on the ballot, where they are supposed to vote, and what our Nation's voting laws are.
It might surprise some of you to know, but even in this awesome age of technological advancement and easy access to information, there are folks who will stop at nothing to try to deceive people
and keep them away from the polls. These deceptive practices all too often target and exploit vulnerable populations, like minorities, the disabled, or the poor.
Deceptive practices often rely on a few tried and true tricks. Voters are often warned that an unpaid parking ticket will lead to their arrest or that folks with family members who have been convicted of a crime are ineligible to vote. Of course, these warnings have no basis in fact, and they are made with one goal and one goal only: to keep Americans away from the polls.
The bill I am introducing today provides the clear statutory language and authority needed to get allegations of deceptive practices investigated. It establishes harsh penalties for those found to have perpetrated them. Deceptive practices and voter intimidation are real problems and demand real solutions like those offered in my bill.
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Rules and Administration; never came to a vote.
Source: Voter Intimidation Prevention Act (S.1975/H.R.4463) 05-S1975 on Nov 8, 2005
Require debates for recipients of public campaign financing.
Owens co-sponsored requiring debates for recipients of campaign financing
To amend the Internal Revenue Code to require the participation in primary and general election debates of any candidate who receives public financing, and to establish criteria for participation of certain candidates in election debates.
Source: H.R.1753 1993-H1753 on Apr 21, 1993
Page last updated: Mar 10, 2011