Research Roundup: Ballot Measure Report Card, ICE's Failed Initiative, Affordable Coverage and More

In this week’s PSN Research Roundup: Reports from on recent federal actions to ensure seamless access to affordable health coverage under state-based exchanges, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and National Community Advisory on recommendations for dealing with the failed “Secure Communities” immigration enforcement program, the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center on ways states can protect their ballot initiative processes from fraud, Gallup on the economic mood in all 50 states, and Project Vote on state election legislation that moved in 2011 sessions.

Affordable Insurance Exchanges: Seamless Access to Affordable Coverage - This new factsheet from explains recent actions by the Departments of Health and Human Services and Treasury to implement state-based exchanges in a way that ensures ease of access to affordable coverage for consumers. The document notes HHS’s recent awarding of $185 million to 13 states and DC to help them build exchanges and their announcement of proposed rules to provide consumers with access to affordable health coverage. It also includes a link to a letter HHS recently sent to Governors, “outlining the options and resources for states to work with HHS to set up Exchanges while making more efficient use of shared resources.”

Restoring Community: A National Community Advisory Report on ICE’s Failed “Secure Communities” Program - The National Day Laborer Organizing Network and National Community Advisory released this comprehensive report on “Secure Communities,” the controversial immigration enforcement program that has come under increasing fire from immigration advocates as an ineffective and expensive dragnet. The report claims that "S-Comm multiplies the force of unjust immigration laws and enforcement policies that tear families apart,” and calls for the program to be terminated, for the current Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General audit of the program to be completed, for the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General to begin an investigation into the FBI’s role, and for states and localities to "not be compelled to participate."

Ballot-Measure Laws: Effective Reforms Are Few and Far Between - A State-by-State Report Card - This third annual report card by the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center (BISC) highlights ways in which states can protect their ballot initiative processes from fraud by enacting reforms that increase transparency. The report finds that, currently, “most initiative states continue to be ripe for fraud, receiving grades of D or F,” and calls for state lawmakers to strengthen ballot measure laws to meet higher standards and increase transparency, accountability, oversight, and enforcement.

Washington, D.C., Extends Its Lead in Economic Confidence - This new state-by-state survey of polling data by Gallup provides a snapshot of the economic mood in all 50 states, and in Washington D.C., which it found to far outpace the national mood in the first half of 2011. Other states with a relatively high Economic Confidence Index compared to the rest of the nation include those with low unemployment rates such as North Dakota, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Gallup explains Washington, D.C.’s uniquely high score by noting the devastating effect of state and local government job losses, concluding that “those living in and around D.C. benefit from having the federal government as their major industry,” and that “unlike state and local governments, the federal government has continued to grow even as many other industries have not during the recession and its aftermath.”

Election Legislation 2011: Threats and Opportunities Assessment Update - This new report by Project Vote gives a great overview of election legislation that moved in the 2011 session. Though conservative legislatures passed several restrictive measures designed to hinder voter participation in time for the 2012 elections, online registration and restoration of voting rights also saw gains this year. Hopefully, current public outrage at blatant right-wing legislation to suppress the vote will help pave the way for progressive reforms in 2012.