Category Archives: Elections

Voting as a Right

There has been a lot of talk around what some would call liberals’ obligation to vote for Barack Obama this November, followed by a lot of critiques from a marginalized Left. Between his pension for drone strikes and his slow pace on gay rights and immigrant rights, on top of his utter failure to take any sort of stand for far-left ideals, I can see why a lot of people on the Left don’t want to cast that vote. While a vote for Obama can act as a vote against the Republican Party, just how much do we reward Democrats for being slightly less terrible than Republicans? I’m intrigued by this debate, but it’s not what this post is about.

Long ago the idea of voting as a privilege was cast off, with the franchise extended to a number of minority groups. But the remnants of that idea, the idea that only the elite are blessed with the vote, still remain. Many Americans have the opportunity to vote now, but that opportunity is limited in a host of ways, including voter ID laws and disinformation campaigns aimed at confusing voters. In a country where the vote takes place on a work day, with inflexible hours, and rigid rules regarding absentee voting and polling places, it is far easier for the privileged to vote.

It is this fact that leads many to feel obligated to vote, despite the weary mantra that our votes don’t count (and between the electoral college and big-donor-funded candidates, a lot of these votes don’t). That we have the opportunity to vote means that we need to use that opportunity. To be American is to vote.

But democracy doesn’t end with casting a ballot. That’s just where it begins. If your fed up with the two parties, then there’s a lot that you can do beyond just voting for the lesser evil. And in a first-passed-the-post system, I’m certainly not talking about voting for a third party. But if you can’t stomach voting for Obama, particularly if you live in a state not listed as a gradient on polling maps, I don’t care what you do. I hope you’ll still vote in your local and state elections, because that is where tons of liberal reform could actually happen (seriously, foster those ideas in your community). And I hope you go beyond the simple act of voting and decide to take on the act of organizing for change outside the electoral system. The fact of the matter is, voting is a right – and that’s all it is. To be American is to have the right to choose who you vote for – and to choose whether or not you want to vote at all.

We have the right to vote for whomever we want, and that right should matter. Voting should play a role in choosing effective leaders, and it should serve as a voice for what we want to see in our government. To that end, choosing not to vote isn’t surrendering that voice – it’s shouting something entirely different. It’s a protest of a rigged system, and it’s a protest of a party that isn’t listening.

Voting Rights for Everyone!

This afternoon I, presumably like a lot of people, raised an eyebrow when I read that officials were estimating a 119% voter turnout in today’s Wisconsin recall election. My mind first jumped to Tammany Hall and ballot stuffing, and I remembered a clip in Gangs of New York in which the Irish were getting haircuts by Mad-Eye Moody between votes. It turns out that such a high turnout number is actually possible in Wisconsin because the state allows same-day voter registration, something I didn’t even know existed. Election Day Registration, it turns out, is an option (in some form or another) in eight states and Washington, DC. This is hugely awesome, and I wish more states did this.

Arizona, like a lot of states, has some restrictions on voter registration. In the Copper State, on top of registering 30 days before elections, on election day you will also need one ID with your name, address, and photo or two forms of ID with your name and address. And a hope that you don’t accidentally go to the wrong polling station or you don’t have an early ballot sitting at home somewhere. Add on the misinformation floating around out there, and even registered voters can face obstacles to voting. Allowing same-day registration helps make it easier for people moving to still vote in their new districts, especially since students often move right around primary season in many states. I think the more people that can vote, regardless of who they’re voting for, the better.

That’s why I’m a huge supporter of #16toVote, or really any age to vote. I figure we’re all affected by government, we should have the ability to choose them. Lowering the age to 16 gives voting rights to people who often work, go to school, drive, and do a number of other things that are directly affected by the government. Plus, voting’s awesome. If you want to vote, you should be able to, regardless of your age. Or your citizenship.

In the United Kingdom, you don’t have to be a citizen to vote. Citizens of Commonwealth countries and Ireland can vote in all elections, and citizens of European Union countries can vote in local and regional elections. Immigrants live under the same laws as all of us – even undocumented immigrants drive on our roads and pay the same sales tax. Shouldn’t they have the right to vote? After all, taxation without representation is what our democracy was founded on. Plus, some states used to allow alien suffrage less than a century ago.

I guess the best decision would be to abolish voter registrations. North Dakota hasn’t had voter registration since 1951. That’s better than denying residents the vote because of some technicality involving school or poll stations or identification. I don’t know what methods they have of restricting by age or citizenship, but I’m sure they exist. If suffrage has spread from white, male, landowners over 20 to include women, people of color, and 18-year-olds, I figure it’s not outlandish to ask for a youth vote or for immigrant rights. Even if it might take a while.

What’s Happening in Uganda Tomorrow?

On Friday, Uganda will be holding presidential elections.  Even eight months ago when I was in Uganda it was big news.  So, what’s going on in Uganda?

Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda for over twenty years and leader of the National Resistance Movement, will be running for re-election yet again.  He is running against a slate of opposition figures, chief among them Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change.  But what’s important about this election?

Despite having won every election since seizing power, Museveni’s victory margin has been diminishing.  In the last election he only won with 59% to Besigye’s 37%.  With notable corruption and a diminishing economy in addition to failure to secure the north and west against rebellions, Museveni faces the possibility of winning only a plurality in tomorrow’s election.  According to Ugandan law, if there is no clear majority than the front-runners compete in a run-off election.  If this is the case, it is likely that the less viable opposition figures such as Norbert Mao and others would throw their support behind Besigye, ushering him into the presidency.

That said, Museveni is consolidating control.  In both 2001 and 2006 the Supreme Court of Uganda ruled that the elections were flawed with corruption and vote-rigging, but both upheld the election returns for various reasons.  This election season there have already been rumors that the NRM has been buying votes in certain regions.  There are even cases of Museveni personally handing out envelopes of money to prospective voters and of Parliament receiving funds that slant towards NRM victory.  This in addition to a possible repeat of Museveni’s announcements a couple of years ago that any districts that did not vote for him would risk not receiving national funds for programs.

It looks like Museveni is setting up the elections in his favor.  Regardless, there may be some room for the opposition to sneak a victory.  But, even if that happens, he may not relinquish power.  Besigye has been exiled before and accused of treason, a strong run against the President could result in similar consequences.  With the vote taking place tomorrow, I’ll be keeping my eyes on how things unfold.

Election Reactions

The numbers are rolling in – and things are looking remarkably like the polls predicted.  I’m still watching the news hoping some races will get narrower, but let’s be honest.  A lot of people I liked took hits today.  Some people I dislike took hits today.  Some milestones were made.  Some things failed.  Biggest news is definitely the insane gains the GOP made in the House – I’m hearing it was the biggest gain since the 1940s.  Let’s break it down in the rough view of an Arizona college student on the rest of the country.

Progressives took a hit.

Russ Feingold lost after a good 18 years in Congress.  I have been a fan of Feingold’s for a while, and I support a lot of the things he did.  With him gone there are a dwindling number of champions for the issue of the LRA in east-central Africa.  And that’s ignoring his opposition to the PATRIOT Act, the Iraq war, and pork barrel spending and his support for campaign finance reform and healthcare.  Jack Conway lost to Rand Paul in Kentucky’s Senate race.  I guess this was kind of expected, but I still would have liked to see some new progressives get into the upper chamber.  People like Grayson and Sestak, to whom I paid less attention, also ended up losing.

Blue Dogs took a bigger hit.

It’s also worth nothing that more than half of the moderate Democrat Blue Dog Coalition is gone, which leaves the Progressive Caucus with an advantage within the party. But this makes bipartisanship a little harder to imagine.

Corporate Candidates took a hit too.

Linda McMahon, Meg Whitman, and Carly Fiorina all seem to have lost.  The businesswomen from WWE, eBay, and Hewlett-Packard spent a combined $230 million of their own money in addition to donations and party contributions.  I guess money isn’t all you need to win a campaign?

The House Switched

The House, as widely expected, is red.  I’ve heard from 56 to 70 House seats switching to the GOP, but I don’t know what the final count is.  Regardless, it’s a massive sweep bigger than 1994’s rout against Clinton.  But, looking at how Clinton was able to point the finger at Gingrich’s House in 1996, I’m hopeful that the new House and Obama will find some kind of way to cooperate.  I’m also hoping the two houses, with Democrats holding onto the Senate, find a way to work together.  I’m also hoping that this lame duck session of Congress will see some steps forward like passage of the DREAM Act.  I guess we’ll see!

Problems at the Polls

In Virginia, someone broke into Tom Pariello’s office and mixed up door hangers meant for distribution – resulting in people being directed to the wrong polling location – he lost by a fairly slim margin.  There were cases in Iowa and Michigan in which students were told their residency was questionable and denied the right to vote (or were forced to submit provisional ballots).  And activists at a predominantly black college polling location in South Carolina harassed voters and tried to discourage voting.  These kinds of issues make me sad because it’s pretty clear that they were not denied for any legitimate reason – and in the cases of sabotage and harassment, well that’s always inexcusable.

“Firsts” and “Lasts”

While they are not likely to hold many similar views to me because of my assumptions based on their party affiliation, there have been a few significant steps today.  Oklahoma elected its first female governor.  Alabama elected its first black, female representative to Congress.  The GOP is sending its first black Representative from the South.  New Mexico elected the first female Hispanic governor.  However – once again the U.S. Senate will have absolutely no black people.  I guess this isn’t surprising since there have been six total, two of which from the Reconstruction Era and one of which was appointed for a year.

Misc.

Oklahoma banned Sharia law…… which is weird.  And Washington voted down the millionaire tax, which kinda sucks.  And Rhode Island voted to keep the official name “the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” – I’m pretty indifferent about that one.  Oh, and the House will not have any Nazi reenactments, nor will the Senate have witches.  That’s all for now.  As I digest my own local elections (and mull over why people elected businessmen to the Arizona Water Conservation Board), I’ll do another post – Arizona edition.  To all of you that voted, thanks for doing your civic duty!  Even if I disagree with the way you voted, I love to see a good turnout.  I hope to see you all in two years, rocking that booth!

Voting

Tomorrow will probably be the biggest election day I have seen.  Definitely the most important in my short voting life.  Last week I mailed in my ballot – complete with 11 Democrats, 3 Republicans, and 1 Libertarian and with 6 “no” votes and 4 “yes” votes in propositions.  Now, I’m sitting back and waiting for the ridiculous attack ads to fade out for what I’d like to be 18 to 20 months but in reality is probably maybe a year.  I’m also going to be sitting down and slowly watching a lot of people I like probably not return to office and a lot of people I don’t like get in.  This afternoon Kentucky will close its polls and the projections and numbers will begin to fly.

Even two years ago I knew that 2010 would be a loss for the Democratic Party.  In modern American history the new President’s party has only gained seats in the following midterm elections twice: in 1934 and 2002.  Even though we are in a recession and still fighting in two wars (who are we kidding, Operation Iraqi Freedom?) I don’t think gaining seats was ever really on the table for the Dems this year.  Not that I’m 100% happy with how they’ve been acting either.

The Democrats, with their supermajority in both houses of Congress, didn’t pull off nearly as much as I would’ve liked to see in the past two years.  I might be guaranteed health care, the SEC might be drafting a report on conflict minerals legislation, and Pell Grants might have been expanded.  But the DREAM Act hasn’t been passed and “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” is still very much in effect. I don’t have a public option for my health insurance and Race to the Top is no better than No Child Left Behind.  Clean energy legislation never showed up and we just released the moratorium on offshore drilling.  Now, I didn’t expect to see all of these things – but a couple would have been nice.

In Arizona, Democrats seem to be on the run.  Personally, I don’t think it’ll be the near complete rout that some are predicting.  Currently, my governor doesn’t know how to debate or answer questions. And the last county attorney to get elected is off his rocker.  So I think some people, even if they’re not happy with Democrats in Washington, might still keep a few shades of blue in Phoenix.  Point is, I hope my least favorite political party doesn’t sweep my state.  If xenophobic obstructionist birthers get too much power I’ll be a bit worried.

Regardless of what you think, I’d like to make one request: go vote! Whether you want to stand beside me or try to counter my vote – get those ballots in!

Arizona Votes

Arizona is the product of the progressive era.  As a result of the bipartisan wave of people asking for a more democratic democracy, Arizona’s constitution has all sorts of “by the people” parts to it.  The initiative, referendum, and recall are all pretty basic parts of Arizona’s law.  The initiative is the ability of people to petition for amendments and the referendum is the ability for legislators to bring up proposals that voters must approve.  As for recall, Arizona was actually denied statehood until the territory took the ability to vote to recall judges out of the constitution – but in the state’s first election it was reinstated.

Every election we have a plethora of propositions brought up by initiative or by referendum.  I know last election I talked a bit about the fun ones (like the idea of counting every missing vote as a no-vote for finance-related propositions) and the bad ones (defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman).  This year we’ve got the expected “hands off our healthcare” proposition.  But we also have an effort to make the right to hunt part of our constitution – right up there with speech and bearing arms; there’s also putting an end to affirmative action and stopping early childhood development and health programs.  I’m not usually a fan of most propositions, and this election cycle isn’t any different, it seems.

I’m not sure if other states are like Arizona.  I know most don’t have the ability to vote appointed judges out of office.  I’m assuming most people in other states don’t vote every four years for the office of State Mine Inspector (I have heard there are up to 120,000 abandoned mines in Arizona).  Do you all have the option to vote for school boards?  How about justices of the peace? What’s weird about your state’s political process?