Posted on November 02, 2018 in Countdown

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Tragedy in Pittsburgh

Last week’s devastating hate crimes committed in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, demonstrate the escalation of racism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism in this country. In solidarity with those affected in these despicable acts of violence and with our civil rights partners, AAI has engaged in multiple actions and shared some of our research findings on hate crime. On Tuesday, AAI Executive Director Maya Berry spoke at an event organized by Bend the Arc Jewish Action and other groups in front of the White House. Based on our own research into state-level hate crime statistics, we are regrettably expecting  another major increase in the FBI’s 2017 hate crime statistics due out later this month. Hate crimes against multiple communities have contributed to this expected increase, what will be the first three-year consecutive annual increase in hate crime since 2001. Our important hate crime work continues in local communities and you can expect our updated research to be released later this year with our forthcoming 2019 Hate Crime Index.

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Born in the USA

As election day nears, everyone is trying to sway voters in their favor. For Trump, that means dropping the dog whistle for the bullhorn again. In this case, he released a new anti-immigrant, racist ad so bigoted that we will not be linking to it. He also dropped his plan to undermine the Constitutionally-protected birthright to citizenship (you know, the one guaranteed by the 14th Amendment). Unlike the countless press outlets who spent a lot of ink or tweets giving his political trick the very attention he desired a few days before the election, we will not. Really. Major media outlets, please stop holding the bullhorn for him.  

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Promoting Democracy Through Ballot Initiatives

Across the country, voters will be asked to consider ballot initiatives on a range of issues. In two states with lots of Arab Americans, Michigan and Florida, there is an opportunity to support ballot initiatives that will grow democratic participation and representation. In Michigan, Proposals 2 and 3, led respectively by Voters Not Politicians and Promote the Vote, will be voted on Tuesday. Proposal 2 takes on gerrymandering, a practice that leads to unrepresentative districts and unaccountable officials. A yes vote will amend the state’s constitution to create an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. Proposal 3 removes barriers to voting and implements safeguards for elections, including automatic voter registration and allowing any voter to cast an absentee ballot. A yes vote on both ballot initiatives will implement a package of democracy reforms that will make elections more secure and help every eligible Michigander vote. In Florida, the proposal on everyone’s mind is Amendment 4, the Voting Restoration Amendment led by Second Chances Florida, that restores the eligibility to vote to people with past felony convictions who have paid their debt to society a chance to participate in the democratic process again. As part of our democracy work, we are excited to support these ballot initiatives that make voting more accessible and support the democratic engagement of more eligible voters. That’s a win for all of us.

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The Devil Went Down to Georgia

Everyone wants a piece of the Georgia elections peach pie lately -- Oprah, Mike Pence, Will Ferrell, Michael B. Jordan, even us (which one of those is not like the other? It’s not us, because we’re definitely celebrities). And this week, Former President Jimmy Carter took a slice when he personally urged Brian Kemp, Georgia Secretary of State and the Republican candidate for governor, to resign from his position overseeing the state’s elections. Carter came in hot with a letter to Kemp, writing that Kemp overseeing the election in which he is a candidate “runs counter to the most fundamental principle of democratic elections – that the electoral process be managed by an independent and impartial election authority.” Not only was Carter president, he also served as governor of Georgia himself and his organization, the Carter Center, is dedicated to monitoring democratic elections in countries across the world. So, yeah, President Carter knows what he’s talking about. In the debate last week, Kemp denied all allegations about his engagement in voter suppression, calling it all a “farce.” We’ll just have to see what comes out of the final debate this Sun—wait, Kemp just ditched that one, too. But on Tuesday, the people of Georgia will speak. Keep an eye out for what they’ll say.

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Finally, Did We Mention the Midterms are 5 Days Away?

Yes, we did. You know the election is just a few days away by now, and we need a plan, so here’s a division of labor proposal for you. We will: (a) Continue our voter mobilization efforts, (b) promote our bilingual voter protection hotline in case anyone in our community runs into a problem while voting (844-YALLA-US), (c) document and call out bigotry in campaign rhetoric and in policy, and (d) monitor the performance of Arab American candidates in the election. You will (a) check your voter registration status & make sure everything is in order, (b) grab 5 friends & go to the polls on election day, and (c) vote. Sounds like a plan? Awesome!

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