Thursday, December 08, 2005

Yesterday I received an email with various news items. This one stood out to me:

The House of Representatives has voted in favor of establishing a long-overdue Affordable Housing Fund. Those affected by Hurricane Katrina are to receive priority.

But many community-based nonprofits will not be able to receive the funds if the Senate follows the House’s lead.

That’s because hidden away in HR 1461 is an antivoter gag rule. Proposed by Representative Michael Oxley (R?OH), the so-called Manager’s Amendment states that no organization can receive money from the Affordable Housing Fund if it engages in voter registration, voter identification, or get-out-the-vote activity, even of a nonpartisan nature; if it has engaged in such activity in the 12 months before applying for funding; or if it affiliates with any organization that engages in such activity. Affiliation is defined very broadly; the amendment explicitly names overlapping board memberships and sharing of supplies as indicators of an affiliate relationship.

HR 1461 was passed by the House on October 26 and will now be taken up by the Senate, whose version of the bill, S 190, does not yet contains a gag rule provision.

It is highly ironic that organizations that work to help at risk neighborhoods are being punished if they encourage people to vote by helping them register. I know of a local non-profit that had a resident-organized voting drive. Local politicos would come in and call bingo and there was a voter registration table out in the hallway. The politicos included most major office holders, regardless of political party or leaning. This type of activity would put an organization at risk of losing funding. That's an embarrassment.

Originally posted at my work blog.