The Civil Liberties Union is a non-partisan organization defending civil rights guaranteed by the Constitution and our laws. It’s political impact fairly can be said to be “liberal” as that phrase is understood in today’s politics. ACLU brings numerous suits, almost always against governments; at today’s meeting at the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts it was noted that suits against the current Federal administration have numbered “about 200.”
Aside from litigating, ACLU has a program to establish civil rights through political action, all nonpartisan and all directed towards preservation of personal liberty. At today’s meeting, National Political Director Faiz Shakir outlined some of the actions ACLU has undertaken or is planning for 2019. The key tool is ACLU volunteers, and the goal of ACLU is to mobilize and organize volunteers to achieve certain goals.
Those goals include: significant criminal law reform, some of which recently passed; increased voting through permitting ex-convicts to vote and easier registration of voters by various means; preserving rights of women to obtain abortions; suggesting or drafting legislation with pro-civil liberties themes; funding key state legislative initiatives through volunteers and advertising, including voting district gerrymandering; contacting potential presidential candidates now, at an early stage of their efforts, when they will be more open to forming opinions; and, encouraging legislation to limit the use of advanced technologies to surveil the general population by biometric technologies.
In the Massachusetts General Court (our legislature), many bills have been introduced this session worthy of study relating to protection from electronic surveillance, treatment for addiction, protection from forfeiture of property by the government for criminal connection unless a conviction has been obtained, rights of immigrants to attend court without ICE arrest, abortion protection, and a bill to permitting both registration and voting on election day itself.
One take-away: speakers suggested Massachusetts has a special obligation to limit use of spying technologies on the general population, as so much of this technology is being developed by our local universities and is being deployed without statutory limits.