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“Brexit Is A Warning To Young American Voters”: Historically Low Young Voter Turnout Trend

The results of the Brexit referendum shine a light on the importance of the youth vote, and young Americans should learn from them as we approach our own crossroads in November.

Seventy-five percent of voters 24 and younger were against the Brexit, and for remaining in the European Union. British voters 49 and younger also favored the Remain option, according to polls conducted before the vote.

A poll taken before election day showed that 34 percent of pensioners backed Remain, and 59 percent backed the Brexit.

“Young people voted to remain by a considerable margin, but were outvoted. They were voting for their future, yet it has been taken from them.” Liberal Democratic leader Tim Farron said of Britain’s referendum decision to leave the European Union.

British youth overwhelmingly took to social media to express feelings of helplessness about facing a future they did not choose. Many were angry that older voters who have enjoyed the benefits of the European Union decided on a different, uncertain path for the future generations.

“This decision was made by an aging population who has spent decades reaping the many benefits of the EU. These people have voted for a future that is not their own,” wrote university student Alana Chen in a Facebook post. “They will not be here to feel the full effects of the devastation they have caused with their votes. It’s us, the student generation that now have to live with something we voted against. Tell me how that’s fair?! Our country is crumbling and we’re completely helpless to stop it. Utterly devastating.”

Political journalist Nicholas Barret wrote in a now-viral reaction to the vote: “The younger generation has lost the right to live and work in 27 other countries. We will never know the full extent of the lost opportunities, friendships, marriages and experiences we will be denied. Freedom of movement was taken away by our parents, uncles, and grandparents in a parting blow to a generation that was already drowning in the debts of our predecessors.”

Even voters who chose the Leave option have expressed regret after their side won.

“I did not think that was going to happen, I didn’t think my vote was going to matter too much because I thought we were just going to remain,” a young man named Adam told the BBC.

Voting preferences showed a strong correlation with age. East coast areas, which have the largest pensioner populations, scored the highest pro-Brexit votes. YouGov poll results in the days before the vote told a clear story:

Age breakdown on Brexit polls tells underlying story. Older generation voted for a future the younger don’t want: pic.twitter.com/kMPECqQF6u

— Murtaza Hussain (@MazMHussain) June 24, 2016

The Guardian broke down the British youth vote:

Voter ages are not recorded, but in urban areas where the average age was 35 and under, electoral commission data showed overwhelming support for remaining in the EU. This was particularly marked in the London local authorities of Lambeth, Hackney and Harringey, where the average age is between 31 and 33, and which all voted over 75% in favour of remaining in the EU.

Oxford and Cambridge, the councils with the highest percentage of 18- to 25-year-olds, were also remain strongholds, as was Tower Hamlets, which has the highest percentage of 21- to 30-year-olds. According to YouGov polling before the referendum result, 64% of under-25s said they wanted the UK to remain. With a life expectancy for that generation of 90, younger voters have approximately eight more decades to live compared with the voters who most favoured leaving, the over 65s.

For all their agreement on the right direction for Britain, youth turnout to vote was, perhaps predictably, low. In the largest turnout election in decades in Britain, the number of attainers, or newly eligible voters, fell by 40 percent.

The vote was also held over the summer, when many young people are in summer vacation from college.

According to a Times poll taken at Glastonbury music festival, 22 percent of the young attendee’s did not vote, with 65 percent of those saying they wanted to vote to Remain but did not register in time. They would have added about 15,000 votes to the Remain side.

Michael Sani, a member of the youth voting group Bite the Ballot, said that young voter turnout was negatively affected by the direction of both campaigns, which ignored youth engagement because of the historically low turnout of young voters.

“If no one inspires you, that is how you end up being marginalized, divided and fearing,” Sani told The Guardian. “This generation are so passionate, they care so much about issues, but they are just not empowered to use the means of communication to get through to make real change. Both campaigns have been a disaster in terms of meaningful engagement on such complex issues.”

Prime Minister David Cameron, who has announced his resignation after the Brexit, missed his chance to appeal to young voters. The Cameron-lead government rejected requests from Labour, Liberal Democrats, and the Scottish National Party to allow 16- and 17-year olds to vote in the referendum.

As America faces its own vote in November — one that has been compared to Brexit by presumptive Republican candidate Donald Trump, who backed the Leave option — young people can have a voice in what is sure to be a decisive moment in American history.

They will either follow the historically low young voter turnout trend that contributed to Britain’s exit from the EU, and has been a consistent factor in American politics, or they could learn from this seismic moment in British history and break the pattern.

 

By: Germania Rodriguez, The National Memo, June 24, 2016

June 25, 2016 Posted by | Brexit, Donald Trump, European Union, Young Voters | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Battle For Voting Rights Continues”: A Non-Problem Invoked To Create A Massive New Problem Of Obstructing Legitimate Votes

Many find politics frustrating because problems that seemed to be solved in one generation crop up again years or decades later. The good thing about democracy is that there are no permanent defeats. The hard part is that some victories have to be won over and over.

And so it is with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a monument to what can be achieved when grass-roots activism is harnessed to presidential and legislative leadership. Ending discrimination at the ballot box was a way of underwriting the achievements of the Civil Rights Act passed a year earlier by granting African Americans new and real power to which they had always been constitutionally entitled.

“The results were almost unimaginable in 1965,” writes Ari Berman in “Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America,” his timely book published this month. “In subsequent decades, the number of black registered voters in the South increased from 31 percent to 73 percent; the number of black elected officials increased from fewer than 500 to 10,500 nationwide; the number of black members of Congress increased from five to 44.”

And, yes, an African American was elected president of the United States in 2008 and reelected in 2012. He was powered by the ballots of Americans of color who would not let anything turn them around from their polling places.

President Obama’s victory has been routinely cited by those who were already insisting that the Voting Rights Act was outdated. They turned out to have a powerful ally in Chief Justice John Roberts, whose record on the issue Berman analyzes closely. If the United States could elect a black president, wasn’t that a sign that there was no longer a need for a strong Voting Rights Act?

Berman quotes Ed Blum, a tireless activist in the effort to weaken the Voting Rights Act. Before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Blum referred to Birmingham, Ala.’s, legendary commissioner of public safety as a figure of the past: “‘Bull Connor is dead.’ And so is every Jim Crow-era segregationist intent on keeping blacks from the polls.”

In fact, Obama’s election called forth a far more sophisticated approach to restricting voting. Republicans closely examined how Obama’s political organization had turned out large numbers of young African Americans who had not voted before. Their participation was facilitated by early voting, and particularly Sunday voting.

So legislatures in many states where Republicans had full political control went to work to make it harder for African Americans, Latinos and young people to vote. Of course, that is not what they said they were doing. They invented a scarecrow, “voter fraud,” to justify voter ID laws. These laws disadvantage inner-city residents and favor suburbanites who get driver’s licenses as a matter of routine. They also used all kinds of excuses to roll back early voting.

“No matter how much evidence emerged to the contrary, the voter-fraud myth would never die,” Berman writes. Indeed. The fraud specter is so useful to those who want to restrict voting that the facts don’t trouble them. As a result, a non-problem is invoked to create a massive new problem of obstructing legitimate votes.

This month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled that Texas’s voter ID law “has a discriminatory effect” and amounted to a poll tax. But it also sent the case back to a lower-court judge asking her to meet a high standard of showing that the law was passed with an explicitly discriminatory intent. You can bet that the Texas voting case or another in North Carolina, or both, will make their way to a Supreme Court that has already gutted the Voting Rights Act once in a 2013 decision written by Roberts.

Will he do it again? And will voters in 2016 realize just how important a president’s power to name future Supreme Court justices is to the very right they will be exercising on Election Day?

It would have been lovely if Berman’s book could simply have celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. Instead, it is even more useful as a guide to what still needs to be done. He tells the story of the charismatic leader of the North Carolina NAACP, the Rev. William Barber II, who led the state’s innovative Moral Monday protests.

“What do we do when they try to take away voting rights?” Barber asked at a rally.

The crowd responded: “We fight, we fight, we fight.”

There is no alternative.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 19, 2015

August 28, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Democracy, Voting Rights Act | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

”Your Vote Is Your Weapon”: Honor Julian Bond’s Legacy By Protecting Voting Rights

The fight for voting rights was always a key cause for Julian Bond over his distinguished life.

In 1965, as communications director for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Bond coordinated the group’s media response from Atlanta after SNCC Chairman John Lewis nearly died marching for voting rights on Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama. Bond made sure the country knew about the atrocities in Selma and finally did something about it.

Later that year, Bond won election to the Georgia House of Representatives, at twenty-five, illustrating the power of the new Voting Rights Act (VRA). After the legislature refused to seat him, for saying he agreed with a SNCC letter denouncing the Vietnam War, Bond appealed to the Supreme Court and won two more elections before the Court unanimously ruled that Bond deserved his seat.

He became one of the most well known politicians in America, but that didn’t stop Bond from continuing the painstaking, unglamorous work of democratizing the South. In the 1970s, he traveled extensively with Lewis on behalf of the Voter Education Project, registering black voters and encouraging them to run for office in forgotten places like Waterproof, Louisiana and Belzoni, Mississippi.

I wrote a lot about Bond’s work on voting rights and trips with Lewis in my new book Give Us the Ballot:

Their stops included civil rights battlegrounds like Belzoni, where fifteen years earlier George Lee, the first black to register in Humphreys County, was shot to death in his car after leading a group of blacks to register at the county courthouse. As Lewis and Bond spoke during an evening rally at a small black church, Belzoni’s mayor, Henry H. Gantz, a well-dressed middle-aged white man, unexpectedly burst through the door and walked down the center of the aisle. In the past, Gantz might’ve arrested everyone in the church for unlawful assembly. Instead, he clasped Bond and Lewis by the hand and told them: “Welcome to Belzoni. You two are doing wonderful work. You’re fighting bigotry and injustice. You’re a credit to your race.”

“He didn’t come down to the church to hear us speak,” an amused Bond said to the stunned crowd afterward. “He came down to be seen hearing us speak. He likes being mayor of Belzoni. He wants to go on being mayor of Belzoni. The reason he came to that church was that the black people have a weapon. It’s not a two-by-four; it’s not a gun or a brick. This weapon is the vote. You go down to the mayor’s office and hit him with a two-by-four, and he’ll remember it the next day. But if you hit him with the vote, he’ll remember it for the rest of his natural-born life.”

Bond and Lewis shockingly ran for Congress against each other during a special election for Atlanta’s 5th Congressional District—the hub of the city’s civil rights movement—in 1987. The fact that best friends competed for the same seat showed how few opportunities there were for black politicians in the South even decades after passage of the VRA. There were only two black members of Congress in the South at the time, “so it was this seat or none,” Bond told me. That began to change after Lewis’s upset victory, and there are twenty black members of Congress representing the South today.

Bond remained committed to the power of the vote when he became chairman of the NAACP, attending the signing ceremony where George W. Bush signed the VRA’s reauthorization in 2006. But seven years later, Bond watched in disbelief as the Supreme Court gutted the centerpiece of the VRA.

“This is a bad, bad day for civil rights,” Bond said. “There’s a proven record of discrimination in many states in this country. We can see during the last election these attempts at voter suppression nationwide in states both North and South. To imagine that this problem has been solved—or even more, to imagine that Congress, which is so dysfunctional, could deal with correcting this, is a myth.”

Chief Justice John Roberts “has done all he can do to frustrate the right of black people to vote, and it’s a sad commentary on him and on our judicial system that he’s allowed to do so,” Bond said during a speech at Dartmouth.

I asked Bond, for a 2013 profile of Lewis, if the attack on voting rights in states like Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin following the 2010 election surprised him. “I was naïve to think voting rights were untouchable,” Bond responded. “I didn’t dream that Republicans would be as bold and as racist as they are.”

On August 6, 2015, the 50th anniversary of the VRA, Bond urged the Congress to restore the landmark civil rights law. He tweeted, “Thanks to the Roberts Supreme Court and Congress we are celebrating the anniversary of the VRA without the VRA. Commit to its restoration!”

Protecting voting rights today would be a fitting way to honor Bond’s remarkable civil rights legacy.

 

By: Ari Berman, The Nation, August 17, 2015

August 23, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Julian Bond, Voting Rights Act | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Every Candidate Should Have A Plan”: Structural Racism Needs To Be A Presidential Campaign Issue

This year, as with every other year, nearly every presidential candidate is white, with the only exceptions being long shots in the mushrooming Republican field. Most candidates are making at least rhetorical efforts to present themselves as allies in the increasingly amplified struggle for black liberation. Hillary Clinton has spoken forcefully of a universal voter registration plan, and her husband told the NAACP this week that the 1994 crime law he signed in his first term as president “made the problem worse,” jailing too many for too long. Rand Paul, an advocate of prison sentencing reform, has embraced Martin Luther King, Jr.’s frame of “two Americas.” Last month, Ben Carson, the only black candidate, published an op-ed after the Charleston church murders, writing, “Not everything is about race in this country. But when it is about race, then it just is.” On July 2, Rick Perry made a speech that is as close to an apology to black voters for ignoring them as a Republican may deliver this entire election season.

Republicans aren’t stopping there. They announced a “Committed to Community” initiative earlier this week, a partnership with black broadcasting giant Radio One to make a direct appeal to African American voters, who turned out at a higher percentage than white voters in 2012. They may very well be doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, but you’ll forgive me if I have my doubts that they suddenly realize, after generations of the “Southern Strategy,” that black voters matter.

I suspect it isn’t the party’s sudden rediscovery of a conscience that’s behind this. I think it’s this past year. Friday marks one year since NYPD police officer Daniel Pantaleo killed Eric Garner on a Staten Island sidewalk. The death of the 43-year-old father of six from a supposedly prohibited chokehold was captured on oft-played video, and his pleading— “I can’t breathe!” over and over, until he suffocated—became a mantra that energized a movement. #BlackLivesMatter dates back to the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012, but Garner’s death last July began a year in which Americans unaware of how fragile and frightening living a black life can be could no longer ignore reality. And it set a template for how we would come to digest all of the violence and injustices done in silent service of structural racism, which continues to survive as the deaths mount.

Sandra Bland took a road trip to Texas last week to take a job, and instead became a hashtag. It happened over the course of a weekend. This is a process we’re terribly familiar with: A black person finds her or himself in an encounter with police that proves injurious, harassing, or, all too often, fatal—and if we’re lucky, someone has a camera on it. It has become formulaic.

A bystander took video of the 28-year-old Chicago native’s Friday arrest for allegedly not signaling before making a lane change. Bland, who reportedly had just landed a new job as a college outreach officer at her alma mater, is heard questioning their rough treatment, which went unreported by the arresting officers. “You just slammed my head into the ground,” she tells an officer. “Do you not even care about that? I can’t even hear!”

Police found Bland dead in her jail cell on Monday morning, allegedly suffocated by a garbage bag. There are a lot of practical reasons to question the law enforcement narrative on this, but a year of seeing what we’ve seen is more than enough to make anyone suspicious not only of what the cops say, but about whether any of them will ever suffer any consequences for it.

We’ve become familiar with this pattern because abuse and death resonates, first across social media and then ricocheting through traditional media with an urgency that can feel discombobulating to those unaccustomed to seeing black lives mattering to people who aren’t living them. Increased media attention means people remember names. Before they would have forgotten them or not even bothered to learn. Justice is sought where shoulders once simply shrugged. Media organizations like the Guardian and the Washington Post count those killed by police, doing the job a government should.

We haven’t gotten the candidate statements on Bland’s case yet, but they’ll come. The remarks will be taciturn and consoling, and will call vaguely for change. But we need to demand more from each and every presidential candidate, and they will need to offer more than rhetoric. The violence has not slowed. The inequity has not lessened. It’s just lain bare with each new death, with every numbing video. We’ll never end racism and racial discrimination. But we can make policies to end the ways racism infects the very structure of American life. Those policies need to be on the platform of every presidential candidate.

If you look at a typical presidential campaign site under a heading like “Issues,” you’ll see that there isn’t a bullet point that lists a candidate’s plans to attack the complicated issue of structural racism with specific steps. This should change. And in this, candidates can take a lesson from President Obama.

His administration, even as it nears its end, recently offered an example of how a politician can chalk up wins against structural racism. Two weeks ago, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro announced that previously unenforced Fair Housing Act rules would now become requirements. As the Los Angeles Times reported, HUD will now require towns and cities to study patterns of segregation and how they are linked to access to jobs, high-quality schools, and public transportation—then submit specific goals for improving fair access to these resources. This is a policy, not a speech.

It is not an empty appeal to voters. It is not telling them, as Perry did, that the poor, brutalized, and marginalized amongst us are that way because they had faulty political leadership. That is avoidance, perpetrated by people who would have us mistake political courage for actual courage.

Structural racism needs to be a campaign issue. It needs to be something every 2016 candidate is asked about on the trail, in debates, in town halls, and hell, even at the local ice cream shop. Even if they can’t offer firm plans this summer, someone running to be the de facto leader of her or his party should at lease seize the opportunity to shape the Democratic or Republican agenda on this issue.

If ending structural racism is a priority for either party, there is no need to dance around the issue. Because right now, the most a lot of families can hope for their loved ones is that they manage to navigate a country that clearly doesn’t care much for their bodies or their lives. If they can’t, the only kind of justice they’ll see is financial. (On Monday, Garner’s family reached a settlement with New York City for $5.9 million.)

A year after Eric Garner’s death and mere days after Sandra Bland’s, our presidential candidates cannot deny America’s racial realities. If you’re running for president, you can no longer plead ignorance. You’ll have to confront it.

 

By: Jamil Smith, Senior Editor, The New Republic, July 17, 2015

July 19, 2015 Posted by | Criminal Justice System, Election 2016, Racism | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Voter-Fraud Witch Hunt In Kansas”: Voters Could Be Charged With A Felony For Mistakenly Showing Up At The Wrong Polling Place

In fall 2010, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach held a press conference alleging that dead people were voting in the state. He singled out Alfred K. Brewer as a possible zombie voter. There was only one problem: Brewer was very much alive. The Wichita Eagle found the 78-year-old working in his front yard. “I don’t think this is heaven, not when I’m raking leaves,” Brewer said.

Since his election in 2010, Kobach has been the leading crusader behind the myth of voter fraud, making headline-grabbing claims about the prevalence of such fraud with little evidence to back it up. Now he’s about to become a lot more powerful.

On Monday, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed a bill giving Kobach’s office the power to prosecute voter-fraud cases if county prosecutors decline to do so and upgrading such charges from misdemeanors to felonies. Voters could be charged with a felony for mistakenly showing up at the wrong polling place. No other secretary of state in the country has such sweeping prosecutorial power, says Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.

“It means a person and an office with no experience or background in criminal prosecutions is now going to be making a determination of whether there’s probable cause to bring a criminal case against an individual who may have just made a paperwork mistake,” Ho says. “There is a reason why career prosecutors typically handle these cases. They know what they’re doing.”

Kobach claims there are 100 cases of “double voting” from the 2014 election that he wants to prosecute, but there’s been scant evidence of such fraud in Kansas in past elections. From 1997 to 2010, according to The Wichita Eagle, there were only 11 confirmed cases of voter fraud in the state.

Such fraud has been just as rare nationally, even according to Kobach’s own data, noted The Washington Post:

Kansas’ secretary of state examined 84 million votes cast in 22 states to look for duplicate registrants. In the end 14 cases were referred for prosecution, representing 0.00000017 percent of the votes cast.

Kobach says he needs this extraordinary prosecutorial power because county and federal attorneys are not bringing enough voter-fraud cases. But Kansas US Attorney Barry Grissom said last year that Kobach’s office had not referred any cases of voter fraud to his office. “We have received no voter fraud cases from your office in over four and a half years,” Grissom wrote to Kobach.

Kobach has been a leading proponent of his state’s strict voter-ID law, which decreased turnout by 2 percent in 2012, according to the Government Accountability Office, with the state falling from 28th to 36th in voter turnout following its implementation.

He’s also been the driving force behind Kansas’s 2011 proof-of-citizenship law for voter registration, which requires voters to show a birth certificate or passport to participate in the political process. Twenty-five thousand voters had their registrations “suspended” in the 2014 election because of the law; even the right-wing group True the Vote claimed that only 1 percent of the list were verified non-citizens.

Those wrongly on the list included Da Anna Allen, an Air Force vet. She told The Wichita Eagle:

“It just caught me off guard that I was not registered. I served for a week on a jury trial, which basically told me I was a registered voter. I’m a disabled veteran, so it’s particularly frustrating. Why should I have to prove my citizenship when I served in the military?”

After the Supreme Court found that Arizona’s proof-of-citizenship law violated the National Voter Registration Act, Kansas and Arizona instituted a two-tiered voting system, arguing that those who registered through the federal NVRA form could not vote in state or local elections. That system has it roots in the Jim Crow South.

Kobach, who wrote Arizona’s “papers, please” anti-illegal immigration law, alleges “in Kansas, the illegal registration of alien voters has become pervasive.” That defies common sense, as Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe pointed out. “Why would an illegal alien want to go to vote and draw attention to himself?” Howe asked.

Kobach has asked the Supreme Court to restore the proof-of-citizenship law. The Court will decide on June 25 whether to take the case. If Kobach succeeds, proof-of-citizenship laws will spread to more states, and Kobach’s voter-fraud crusade will become even more influential.

 

By: Ari Berman, The Nation, June 11, 2015

June 15, 2015 Posted by | Kris Kobach, Sam Brownback, Voter Suppression | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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