Discounted Lyft to the polls

Published in RINewsToday.com on November 7, 2022

Just before the upcoming mid-term elections, Lyft, a ride sharing services company announces it will offer ride redemption codes valued up to 50% of the cost of a ride to and from voting locations (up to a maximum of $10). The code can be used for discounted rideshare, as well as bike and scooter rides, making it as easy as possible for anyone and everyone to vote.

Riders can preload the code by going to VOTE22 at: https://ride.lyft.com/invite/VOTE22  by going here before Election Day for the discount code that gets applied to their ride to the polls on November 8th. When you request the Code, you have to put in your cell phone number – then you will receive a text giving you a link to download the Lyft app. Codes will be available to be used during voting hours in every time zone. Riders must have the Lyft app on their phone – you can download it wherever you download applications to your phone – or in the apps of one of the participating local bikeshare systems – or follow the link you’ll get by going to VOTE 22 link.

According to Lyft, the company’s Voting Access program was created to address real transportation barriers:  In 2016, an estimated 15 million people registered to vote but didn’t do so because of transportation issues. 

Other studies also confirmed that transportation issues keep people from voting. A study from 2020 found that individuals without access to a car vote at significantly lower rates than those who have one. These barriers are faced by individuals across the demographic spectrum from young to older voters.  An estimated 11.2 million seniors have travel-limiting disabilities that make it difficult to leave home. And 29% of young voters surveyed by Harvard University said they didn’t vote because they didn’t have a ride.

These numbers are even more severe for young people of color, who are 30% more likely to cite transportation as a barrier to voting than young white people. 

Lyft’s initiative is part of the company’s broader 2022 LyftUp Voting Access Program, first introduced last February.

When Lyft initially announced its LyftUp Voting Access Program on Feb. 22, 2022, the San Francisco-based called for strong federal legislation to counter the numerous campaigns nationwide to restrict voting rights. “That’s why we are part of the Business for Voting Rights coalition and have activity supported the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would provide federal voting protections for all.  Lyft is firmly opposed to any laws limiting voting by mail, reducing the number of days people can vote, or pushing any other restrictions on access for eligible voters — particularly those disproportionately impacting Black and Brown communities,” noted the statement announcing this new private sector voting initiative. 

According to Lyft, through the 2022 LyftUp Voting Access Program, the company will provide access to discounted rides on Election Day (Tuesday, November 8, 2022) across the nation.  The company will also donate free or heavily discounted ride codes to nonprofit partners whose communities traditionally face barriers when getting to the polls. Partners include, but are not limited to: League of Women Voters, National Federation of the Blind, Warrior Scholar Project, National Council on Aging, Voto Latino Foundation, Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote), and NAACP. These partners will distribute ride codes directly to people in their networks whom they identify as most in need of transportation. 

In addition, Lyft says it will also work with partners like When We All Vote, Vote.org, and the Civic Alliance to help riders and team members register and prepare to vote. The company will also provide relevant information and guidance to drivers who earn on the Lyft platform about registering to vote on time and when, where and how to vote during each stage of the election.

“Older adults want to participate in our democracy, but many do not have transportation to get to polling stations,” said Ransey Alwin, NCOA president and CEO.

Lyft’s Voting Access Program will help ensure that older adults have access to transportation necessary to make their voices heard where it matters—at the voting booth,” says Alwin.

“We believe that everyone’s voice—and vote—deserves to be heard, and transportation should never be a barrier,” said Lyft’s Director of Social Impact Lisa Boyd.

Using Lyft Voting Access Ride Codes

The Lyft promo code can be used for rides to and from voting polls. The ride code below covers a value of up to 50% of the total cost, up to $10 maximum, to polling stations. It is valid from 5am and 8pm. There are no location restrictions, and the voting access ride codes are valid through Election Day (Tuesday, November 8, 2022). https://ride.lyft.com/invite/VOTE

NOTE: Local candidates usually have convenient assistance to take voters to the polls – call your local senator or rep or candidate for help.

If you know you’ll need help with transportation on voting day – plan now for how you will get there!

Will Social Security survive the midterms?

Published in RINewsToday on October 31, 2022

With the midterm elections just a week away, the sputtering economy and inflation top the public’s agenda. If voters hold President Joe Biden and Democratic lawmakers accountable for these concerns, voting for Republican candidates might just give control of Congress to the GOP.  By controlling the legislative agenda of both chambers, the GOP could drastically impact the future of Social Security and Medicare, warns the Washington, DC-based Center for American Progress (CAP), a public policy research and advocacy organization.   

House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) signaled on Oct. 18 during a Punchbowl News interview that the GOP would use next year’s debt limit threat as a bargaining chip to force spending cuts to entitlement programs including Social Security and Medicare, warns CAP, sounding the alarm in an Oct. 21st website article.

CAP’s article reported that McCarthy’s statement reveals how he might use the upcoming debt-limit debates next Congress to make cuts in entitlement programs if he takes control of the House’s legislative agenda next Congress. “You can’t just continue down the path to keep spending and adding to the debt.  And if people want to make a debt ceiling {for a longer period of time}, just like anything else, there comes a point in time where, okay, we’ll provide you more money, but you got to change your current behavior.” When pressed on whether the GOP would seek cuts to entitlement programs in a debt ceiling fight, the House Minority Leader refused to take Social Security and Medicare cuts off the table, saying “he wouldn’t predetermine anything,” he said.

Over the past ten months some Republican lawmakers have transparently outlined their plans to change the entitlement programs, noted CAP, detailing these examples:  

Nearly 75% called for slashing and privatizing Social Security, raising the retirement age to 70, and ending Medicare as we know it as part of the Republican Study Committee FY 2023 budget, says CAP.  

According to CAP, statements made by two Republican Senators might gain traction in a GOP controlled Congress.  Specifically, Rick Scott (R-FL), Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, might gain support for his “Rescue America” plan, that would sunset Social Security and Medicare after five years, and recreate it every five years.

Over four months ago, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a key Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, promised “entitlement reform is a must for us to not become Greece” if the Republicans control the upper chamber,” noted CAP. 

CAP also noted that Republican Senate and House candidates in hotly contested races also called for changes to Social Security and Medicare and prescription drug reforms that lower drug costs for seniors. 

Added CAP, “Forty seven percent of Republican candidates for U.S. House running in toss-up districts, according to the Cook Political Report, actively support ending Social Security or Medicare as we know it.”

House and Senate Republicans are calling for the repeal of the recently enacted Medicare drug reforms. “In a Sept. 2022 story in Axios, several House Republicans called for repealing the prescription drug reforms included in the [recently enacted] Inflation Reduction Act.  Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), the ranking member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, saying, “I would image that will be a top priority for Republicans in the new [Congress],” says CAP.

Even before the dust settles after the upcoming midterm elections, Republican Senators have sponsored legislation to eliminate Medicare prescription reforms, says CAP.  “Senate Republicans Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mike Lee (R-UT), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), and James Lankford (R_OK) have sponsored legislation to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act’s prescription drug provisions, including the creation of a $2,000 out-of-pock cap on prescription drug spending for Medicare Beneficiaries; a crackdown on drug companies that increase drug prices in the Medicare program faster than inflation; and empowering Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices,” notes the web article.  

Can Rhode Island’s new congressman stand up to House GOP leadership?

Throughout the CD2 campaign, RI General Treasurer Seth Magaziner has tried to tie former Mayor Allan Fung to the GOP agenda to cut Social Security and Medicare.  Fung has called his Democratic opponent “a liar,” stating that his own mother relies on her Social Security check. During his debates, the GOP candidate says,  “Do you think I would ever do anything to hurt my own mother?” he says.

Fung calls for bipartisan support to strengthen Social Security – like “Scrapping the Cap” that will tax persons at higher incomes, and for the expansion of coverage for dental work, vision care, and hearing aids.  

Fung also distances himself from the far-right Republicans by consistently saying he has a long history of being a political moderate and taking a balanced approach and working across the aisle to get things done. He pledges to co-sponsor bipartisan legislation.

While Fung stays razor focused on tying Magaziner, President Biden and Congressional Democrats to causing high inflation rates and a sputtering economy, Magaziner says don’t forget about Social Security and Medicare.

In an interview with Politico Fung said, “I’ve always been that middle-of-the-road, common sense-type person. They’re talking like, ‘Oh, there’s this radical Republican.’ That’s not me.”

Politico continues, “Fung is among a small cadre of centrists looking to revive the mantle of New England Republican in the House. They’re largely running away from Trump and social conservatism, hitting their Democratic opponents on record-high prices and betting that inflation worries over everything from home heating oil to fertilizer will resonate in the region’s mix of tiny blue-collar cities, wealthy suburbs and family farms.”

Fung talks frequently about his intent, if elected to be involved in the “Problem Solvers Caucus”,  an independent member-driven group in Congress, comprised of representatives from across the country – equally divided between Democrats and Republicans – committed to finding common ground on many of the key issues facing the nation. He hopes to have a leadership role in this group, bringing a more moderate Republican influence to Congress.

As a moderate freshman congressman, can Fung be a strong voice to the GOP leadership against any proposal that would make cuts to Social Security and Medicare?  As a moderate freshman congressman, can Magaziner be a strong voice to the Democratic leadership?

It’s clear that after a Congressman (Langevin) with considerable years of clout in congress, both candidates will have a path in front of them to create their own influence and strength.

Voters 50+ most powerful, election deciders; true for all Rhode Island cities, towns

Published in RINewsToday on October 24, 2022

Every political pundit knows that seniors are the most reliable voters. AARP Rhode Island’s latest analysis of voter records from the office of the Rhode Island Secretary of State clearly confirms this observation. Age 50 and over voters accounted for more than 70% of Rhode Island voters who turned up in the September 13th primary election, says Rhode Island’s largest aging advocacy group.

“This year’s 50+ numbers increased over the last midterm election in 2018, when Rhode Islanders aged 50 and over accounted for 67% of those who voted,” says AARP Rhode Island. 

“In this year’s primary, 72% of voters statewide were 50 years old or older. This held true in analysis of the Congressional District 2 voters, where 72% of CD2 primary voters also were 50 or older,” says AARP Rhode Island, noting that municipal percentages ranged from 59% (Providence), 69% (Pawtucket and Cranston), 74 % (Warwick), 79% (Bristol) to 87% (Narragansett).  

“Voters 50+ consistently show up at the polls in much greater numbers than their younger counterparts – and then some,” said AARP Rhode Island State Director Catherine Taylor in an Oct. 18 statement announcing the voting analysis.

“This extremely powerful voting bloc has made it clear that key issues such as protecting and strengthening Social Security and Medicare, improving nursing home safety, achieving retirement security, and providing means for people to live in their own homes with independence and dignity as long as possible are powerful motivators when they vote. It is undeniable that Rhode Island candidates who want to win must pay attention to issues that matter to 50+ voters,” says Taylor.

“The 50+ are our most powerful voters – and they will be the deciders in the 2022 elections,” Taylor added.

AARP Rhode Island’s “Voters 50+: Our Voices Decide” campaign has provided tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders information on how, when and where to vote at www.aarp.org/RIVotes. Here they also can view videos of gubernatorial and CD2candidates answering questions that reflect older voters’ top concerns as determined by AARP’s most recent statewide Vital Voices Survey.  

AARP Rhode Island captured some 50,000 views of the eight Video Voter Guide videos posted on Facebook and on its Web page for the Primary and General Elections.

According to Maureen Maigret, Policy Advisor for the Senior Agenda Coalition of RI, the AARP data shows the continued importance older voters have in election outcomes. “This will surely carry over to the November 8th election. Older adults are motivated to vote  because they see it as a civic duty and understand how government decisions made by elected officials impact not just their lives, but that of their family members and their community,” says Maigret.

“After the election, protecting Social Security and Medicare must be a major focus of advocacy at the federal level. Seniors also care about strengthening programs to promote independent living in the community and caregiver supports which are both national and state issues,” adds Maigret.  “And they care that our children and grandchildren have access to quality educational opportunities as they represent the future of our state, country and the world,” she says.

Disabilities won’t keep older voters from voting

The second “State of Voters with Disabilities Survey”,  released by Easterseals in partnership with AARP, found that 92 percent of Americans with disabilities age 50+ plan to vote in the 2022 midterm election. The majority say they will use early voting methods and/or require specific accommodations to vote. 

“Tens of millions of Americans with disabilities plan to vote in the 2022 midterm election, but nearly half (43 percent) require specific accommodations to vote, and 62 percent are concerned that changes to voting laws could negatively impact their ability to cast a ballot,” said Kendra Davenport, Easterseals president and CEO in an Oct. 4, 2022, statement announcing the survey findings. “This bipartisan population is highly motivated to participate in the democratic process, but they are very concerned about the barriers in their way to fully exercise their right to vote,” she says.

According to Easterseals, the survey was conducted among a nationally representative sample of people with disabilities, and an oversample of adults with disabilities 50+, from August 23-29, 2022, by Pathfinder Opinion Research. Combined with Census estimates for this population, the survey results show there are an estimated 33 million registered voters with disabilities with nearly 30 million planning to vote in the 2022 U.S. midterm election.

“Recent changes in election laws are impacting voters’ ability to successfully cast their ballots this year. That’s why AARP is dedicated to providing all voters 50+ with trusted information on when, where and how to vote during this election cycle,” said AARP’s director of Advocacy Engagement and Inclusion, Lisa Simpson in a statement. “It’s more important now than ever for all voters 50+ to use their voice and power to vote,” she said.

Sixty one percent of American voters with disabilities 50+ rely on early voting methods to participate in the election by using absentee main-in voting, ballot box drop or early voting in person prior to Election Day. Only 39 % will vote in person.

Additionally, the researchers say that a significant number of voters with disabilities, 43%, require at least one accommodation in order to vote, such as transportation assistance to a voting location, in-person voting assistance from a voting official, a wheelchair at their voting site, and a braille ballot or sign-language interpreter.

“If people with disabilities voted at the same rate as other Americans, there would have been 1.75 million more voters in 2020,” said Lisa Schur, professor and co-director of the Rutgers Program for Disability Research. “Part of the disability gap is due to inaccessible voting systems, which not only make it physically difficult to vote but also send a psychological message that people with disabilities are not welcome in the political sphere,” she says.

Voters with disabilities demonstrate broad, bipartisan support for various policy reforms that would make it easier to vote.  Ninety percent support allowing voters who are older and/or have disabilities to receive assistance from people they trust to request, fill out and return their absentee ballots while 82 % support expanding the use of absentee ballot drop boxes. Finally, 70% support allowing any registered voter to vote by mail with an absentee ballot with no reason given (available in RI).

Be an educated voter

For updates on the upcoming 2022 midterm election, go to AARP.org/elections. Follow local events sponsored by AARP Rhode Island and its advocacy efforts, go to states.aarp.org/rhode-island. You can also text RIVOTES to 22777 to receive a one-time text message with a link to Rhode Island voter information. (Message and data rates may apply.)