Posts Tagged ‘Electoral Registration’

Voter Registration and the Campaign of Disenfranchisement and Intimidation against Working Class and Black Voters in Florida

February 1, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has written another excellent piece on how the Tories’ changes to the system of electoral registration has left many Labour supporters unable to vote. Which is precisely why they were introduced in the first place. Nevertheless, there is still enough time to register until three weeks before the elections.http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/01/electoral-registration-change-delivers-advantage-to-conservatives-lets-level-the-odds/ Hope Not Hate have also been running a campaign, in concert with the trade unions, to encourage everyone disenfranchised by the voting reforms to register: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/vrdrive/

Don’t be fooled. This was one done deliberately so that the young, the working class and ethnic minorities – the groups least likely to vote Tory, wouldn’t get the vote. The reforms are similarly to those introduced by the Republicans in America to exclude those groups. Again, the pretext was to stop voting fraud. But some of the Republicans were so blas√© about the real reasons for the reforms, that they brazenly admitted it. One Republican congressman from the American Deep South actually stated, on American news, that they did it to attack the Democrats, the party in America that traditionally attracts these voters. The Young Turks did a piece on this about half a year ago, which I put up on this blog.

And when all else fails, the Republicans will go back to more traditional methods of crookedly securing an election win: abuse and intimidation of the voters at the election booths. They did this way back in Florida, in the election that narrowly secured Dubya his first term in the White House. Everyone remembers the presidential election in that state for the controversy over the way the voting machines worked, and how the various marks punched into the ballot papers were interpreted. All the fuss about ‘pregnant’ and ‘hanging’ chads. What wasn’t reported was the way working class, and particularly Black voters, were wrongfully harassed and thrown out of the voting booths after being told, again wrongly, that they had no right to vote. Jeffrey Sinclair wrote an entire chapter on the scandal, What You Didn’t Read About the Black Vote in Florida’, in the book he and Alexander Cockburn wrote about the current dire state of politics and political journalism in America, End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate.

Among the incidents they uncovered was a case where a man, who was taking his family to vote in his car, was stopped by the cops and told that he couldn’t take that many people down to the voting booth without a chauffeur’s licence. he was forced to go home. By the time he got to vote, it was too late.

Another man was refused entry to polling station on the grounds that he ineligible to vote, as he was a convict. Again, another lie.

And there was a massive campaign against Black and Hispanic voters, where tens of thousands were turned away before they could exercise their democratic rights at the polls. Details of this vile debacle were gather by the NAACP – National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in a five hour hearing. Election workers demanded to see the IDs of Blacks coming to vote, but made no such demands of Whites. Haitians coming to vote were told that they need to forms of identification. Police roadblocks were set up around the Black neighbourhoods in Tallahassee. The cops also sought to intimidate Blacks coming to vote by asking them if they were criminals. Some polls were moved without notice from their official positions, and the polls closed early in Black neighbourhoods. A number of Black college students were sent away after being told that they couldn’t vote, even though they had registered in the summer. Many others were also given the excuse that they couldn’t vote, because they weren’t on the rolls. They later found out that they were. Stacey Powers, the news director of a local radio station in Tampa Bay, and a former policewoman, said that while visiting a number of local polling stations on the day she saw Blacks being refused entrance to the polls on the grounds that their names weren’t on the lists. When she informed them that they had the right to vote, as long as they signed an affidavit, she herself was thrown out. Charles Weaver, the publisher of a local newspaper in Fort Myers, the Community Voice, said he saw poll watchers threatening voters by saying that they knew where they worked, and were going to get them fired. In one of area, Duval County, which has a functional illiteracy rate of 47 per cent, those asking for help with their ballots were insulted by the election workers as ‘dumb’ and ‘retarded’. About 2,000 recent Haitian immigrants were prevented from voting because of the complexity of ballot papers and the fact that there no interpreters made available, who spoke their native Creole French. In other areas, which did have translators and interpreters, these were told not to talk to speak to them. If they did, they were thrown out. Other Haitians were threatened with deportation.

And when these stunts didn’t work, there was always deliberately obstructive bureaucracy. One woman and her husband, who had moved to Florida from NYC, did not receive their elections cards, despite having registered in time and making repeated enquiries. After being repeated stonewalled, the woman left the offices of the registration authorities, unable to vote.

Across Florida, more than 187,000 votes were declared invalid. Over half of these were from Blacks. 12,000 people were denied the right to vote, on the ground they were former criminals. Nearly all of them were Black, and nearly all of them were no such thing. 8,000 of these maligned people did manage to re-register, but 4,000 didn’t bother. The list of supposed ex-cons was compiled Database Technologies, a subsidiary of ChoicePoint. This company has also been under investigation for misusing information taken from state computers. Its CEO, Rick Bozar, made a donation of $100,000 to the Republican National Convention.

Adding insult to injury for all this was the complete indifference of the election authorities and the Democrats, who would have benefited from the disqualified votes. The Justice Department did not do anything to investigate the charges, despite the fact that the Attorney General is charged with enforcing the Voting Rights Act. And Jesse Jackson was told by his bosses in the party to stop mentioning the issue after he’d complained about it for two days.

St. Clair compares the whole charade to the demonstration election held in the South and Central American US client states, when they were under the control of US-backed Fascist dictators. These used to hold ‘demonstration elections’ to show that they were democracies. Just before the elections took place, the death squads swooped to arrest or kill any potential troublemakers. After the opposition and the poor were duly cowed, the election took place, the ruling Nazis re-elected, and western observers went back to report how everything was normal, peaceful and democratic there under the benign rule of El Colonel or whoever. It wasn’t quite that bad in Florida, but nevertheless, the Republicans and their official collaborators used fraud and intimidation to get back in.

It’d be tempting, but wrong, to see this as simply something that could only happen in America. The problem is the Tories have taken so much of their policies and campaign strategies from America, that I’m afraid there’s a real danger that they’ll start importing their dirty tricks as well. They have, after all, taken on their campaign to disenfranchise British Blacks, other ethnic minorities and the poor through copying the Republican registration reforms. I would not like to put it past any of them not to try something like this. Remember Stalin’s line: It’s not who votes that counts, but who counts the votes.

Make sure you’re registered to vote, and be very careful to make sure there are no dirty tricks in your area. And if there are, inform the proper authorities and every available civil rights and, if you’re Black or Asian, anti-racist organisations. They may not try a stunt like this at the election, but they should be ruthlessly exposed if they do. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

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Jolyon Rubinstein and Politicians’ Failure to Connect with the Young

February 11, 2015

This is a continuation of the comments I posted on my reblog of Tom Pride’s interview with Jolyon Rubinstein. Rubinstein is on a campaign to get the politicos to take the young seriously. He laments that while there are certain politicians across the House in all parties, who want to get more young people interested in politics, the majority don’t. In his interview with Mr Pride, he seems to feel that the established position among the parties is that they don’t trust the young, as engaging them would upset the ‘status quo’.

Patronising with Pop Stars

I think he has point. When politicians have tried to engage the young, it’s been patronising and rather half-hearted. The prime examples of this was when various Tory MPs suddenly started telling the world, who their favourite pop musicians were. Almost as if there’d been a meeting at Central Office, which said, ‘Okay, chaps, next on the agenda: young people. They like pop music, so you’ve all got to have a favourite band or pop star. The PR people have had a look at what’s in the charts, and compiled a list of who you’re going to like.’ It was hardly surprising that the bands selected include the Spice Girls and the Scissor Sisters. They were in the charts and were highly popular. The Scissor Sisters seem to have been deliberately chosen to show that the Tories were now at ease with gays. Of course the bands they chose weren’t anything too challenging or potentially controversial, like Public Enemy, NWA, Megadeath, or the Mission. They were either too obscure, or would have put too many potential voters off, in the case of Public Enemy and NWA, with their angry, racially alienated stance. And the bands definitely did not include PIL.

MPs Younger but Not Interested in Young People’s Problems

The other way the parties have tried to appeal to the young is by having progressively younger Prime Ministers and members of their cabinet. I’ve got a feeling that when he was elected, Blair may have been Britain’s youngest prime minister. Cameron, Osborne and Clegg are also young. Well, young-ish. They’re still in the ’40s. As they should be. I want senior politicians old enough to have a proper, lived experience of the world and its trials and problems. Age shouldn’t necessary be a barrier. It shouldn’t matter how old the MP is, provided that they actually have some understanding of what life really is like for most young people. Simply saying that they are concerned with young people’s problems, because they’re parents, or from talking to parents and young people themselves, simply and unostentatiously, and actually showing they have, would overcome a lot of this alienation.

But they don’t. They simply dole out to the under 30s the same patronising flannel they give to the rest of the population. They might state that they understand their problems, but the very next thing they say in their next breath shows that they don’t. They then go back to talking in the abstract about economic predictions, without actually seeming to take on board that this has real consequences for their audience. They seem just interested in the abstract, economic reality without taking on board that to their audience, this means whether they can afford a proper house, decent clothes for the kids, run a car. Or for the unemployed and disabled, getting enough to eat that month.

Distrust of Youthful Radicalism

And I think Rubinstein is right about the parties distrusting the young. Young people have dangerous ideas. They can be dangerously and embarrassingly radical. Bliar deliberately closed down democracy in the NUS, probably because too many of the delegates were too extreme. And the Tories had troubles with their youth wing becoming increasingly racialised and supporting apartheid and racial nationalism.

Possibly going further, they may well be afraid of the spirit of ’68 and the radicalism of the 70s. The ’60s were a revolutionary decade, where youthful rebellion merged with and supported a number of then-radical, liberal causes: feminism, Civil Rights and ant-racism, militant peace movements against imperialism and particularly the Vietnam War. The election of Thatcher and Reagan was partly a reaction against all that, and succeeding administrations have tried to stress how responsible and sober they are, rather than youthful radicalism and revolt. Even as these administrations have taken over some of the liberal causes, like equality for women and ethnic minorities.

Tory Portrayal of Blair as Punk

You can see how much the Conservatives in particular hated youth culture, its fashions and political radicalism, by the cover of one of the books written by one of the Tory journos attacking Blair. Blair at the time was busy reforming the House of Lords, or stuffing it with his own supporters, whichever way you want to look at it. He was also engaged on other constitutional reforms, like suggesting possibly that judges might after all look a bit better if they didn’t have the horsehair wigs stuck on their heads. This was too much for that particular defender of the British Constitution. The cover showed Blair as some kind of punk or rocker, in black leather jacket and combat trousers. The terrible, slovenly, ignorant sprogs of the great unwashed were out there, and about to tear down tradition and decency. Kenny Everett’s thick punk character, Sid Snot, had risen up and somehow got into No. 10. If Middle England didn’t act pronto, he’d be followed by Harry Enfield’s Kevin and Perry. Quick! Give them proper haircuts and make them do National Service!

All of this has created a political culture in which young people are marginalised and distrusted, no matter how youthful country’s leaders are. Politicos don’t have to adopt their dress or youth culture to engage with them. My guess is that when it comes to conducting business, most people would prefer to see their politicians and public officials dressed conservatively in jacket and trousers. That said, I used to work in the Benefits Agency just before they passed the law requiring everyone to where suitable business clothing to work. You did see some of the younger staff wearing jeans and T-shirts for rock and pop bands. My guess is that while some of the older clients may have found it objectionable, most of the people actually going in probably couldn’t care less what the civil servant opposite them was wearing, so long as they were able to get them some money and properly process their claims.

Mass Politics in Decline from Concentration on Rich Donors

Another contributory factor in the alienation of young people from politics is undoubtedly the fact that the parties have concentrated on getting funding and support from rich, frequently corporate donors, rather than party subscriptions. The result has been that party membership generally has plummeted. The local Conservative Associations in particular have stated that they feel they are ignored and sidelined by the Tory party machine. Rubinstein has identified part of it in his recognition that people feel that the only thing that’s important to politicians is money, not people.

Politicians desperately need to reconnect with the young, along with much of the rest of the population. Indeed, just about everyone, who didn’t got to public school and has an income less that ¬£50k. But as the Tories are doing their level best to stop people from registering to vote, and even taking the franchise away from resident Irish people and Commonwealth citizens, I can’t see Cameron taking any initiative in this direction at all.

UKIP Candidate: Restrict Franchise and Get Rid of Lower Classes’ Right to Vote

February 3, 2015

This is old news, but it’s now very relevant, considering the Tories now want to strip Irish people and others from the Commonwealth countries resident here of their right to vote. It doesn’t stop with them. Last May, according to the Politics blog, the Kipper candidate for West Hampstead said that certain people shouldn’t be entitled to vote. Like women and the lower orders. The candidate, Magnus Nielsen, said: “I sometimes think the people who fought for the vote in 1832 and 1888 and so forth, trying to extend the franchise were probably doing the wrong thing,” He recommended removing the vote from certain people, as this would increase its value.

The article’s entitled Strip public of the vote says Ukip candidate, and it’s at http://www.politics.co.uk/news/2014/05/13/strip-public-of-the-vote-says-ukip-candidate.

I can remember it being debated on this blog how long it would be before the Tories started trying to strip ordinary British people of the right to vote after their reforms of the current system of electoral registration. I doubt very, very few Tories would ever voice such views openly, but as the Kippers are drawn largely from the Tory Right, it wouldn’t be in the least surprising if there weren’t a lot of sympathy there for Nielsen’s reactionary ideas.