A Change of Course
Tuesday December 03, 2013
Texas Prevents People from Voting for no Reason
The Lone Star State has given us perhaps the most arbitrary voting restriction in recent memory - a regulation similar to what you might expect at your local DMV. Under the new law, which was first enforced in local elections last month, a voter must sign a sworn statement saying they are who they say they are if the name on their ID doesn’t match exactly with the name on their voter registration. That means if your voter registration includes your middle name, but your driver’s license doesn’t, you’ll have to sign an affidavit. Ditto if you’re registered as Laurie but your driver’s license says Lauren. Indeed, if your registration has your full middle name (John Jacob Smith), but your driver’s license just has an initial (John J. Smith), you fall within this provision. Having to sign the sworn statement saying that, yes, you are in fact John Jacob Smith (not just John J. Smith) may not sound like much – it only takes about two minutes per voter – but this isn’t being enforced in tiny areas with hardly any voters. This is happening in Texas, the second-largest state in the Union. Over ten thousand residents of Dallas County had to sign an affidavit last month during off-year, local election where only about 6% turned out to vote. If a similar percentage of voters are held up in a presidential election, we could easily see six-hour voting lines. To put things in perspective, Texas now has a stricter ID requirement to vote than the TSA does to let you board a plane. We bet it’s not this hard to buy a gun in the Lone Star state either.
UN Announces a Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People
Friday, November 29 marked the one-year anniversary of the United Nations vote to upgrade the Palestinian Mission to the UN’s status to “non-member observer state.” To mark the event, the United Nations passed a resolution labeled 68/L.12 declaring 2014 the “International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.” The resolution calls on the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People to “organize activities to be held during the year” with various governmental and non-governmental organizations. The resolution follows a Monday night performance by Arab Idol winner Mohammed Assaf and Palestinian musician Nai Barghouti at the UN in celebration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon stressed the importance of ongoing peace talks in a statement, saying, “We cannot afford to lose the current moment of opportunity…I ask all in the international community to work together to translate the solidarity expressed on this occasion into positive action for peace and justice.”
It’s been a rough few weeks for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). For starters, it hasn’t had a Secretary for three months. Last month, the Government Accountability Office released a blistering critique of SPOT, a wasteful program run by DHS’s subsidiary, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that encourages racial profiling and is totally ineffective. And of course, it’s part of the Federal Government, which is already a severe disadvantage in the eyes of the American people. Well the bad news for DHS has continued right into December: a report released Monday by the Department’s own Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found significant lapses in cybersecurity. DHS computer systems are old and outdated, which is ironic given that DHS has been leading the charge to encourage private companies to improve their cybersecurity. OIG has repeatedly criticized these gaps, and DHS has made some progress, but too many problems remain uncorrected. Some DHS computers are still using Windows XP (!!!), which Microsoft itself will stop supporting in less than a month. Just a few days ago, White House cybersecurity advisers issued a similar report, arguing that the government needs to “lead by example” when it encourages better cybersecurity. At DHS, that doesn’t appear to be going so well.
Egypt’s Constitutional Change of Course
Not only are our polls on Egypt being “used and abused,” but so are Egypt’s transitional roadmap and constitutional process. Over the weekend, Egypt’s draft constitution was amended to potentially allow a presidential election to occur before parliamentary elections. The draft leaves out any clear indication of which should occur first, leaving the decision up to Acting President Adly Mansour. The move raises fears that Mansour could ban political parties vying for seats in the parliament, effectively strengthening Egypt’s military rule and posing a threat to parties like the Muslim Brotherhood. The move is a complete reversal from the original roadmap unveiled after the ousting of President Mohamed Morsi, which called for parliamentary elections before a presidential one. While Egypt’s path to democracy is extremely unclear, if anything, the recent events only support our Zogby poll results, which revealed a deeply divided and polarized Egypt since the overthrow of President Morsi. It seems that just as our polls can be used to fit agendas, so too can something as vital as a country’s constitution.
Looking for the Next Class of Arab American Public Servants
We’re only three days out from our December 6 deadline to receive applications for AAI’s Spring 2014 Internship Program. We’ve already received a lot of applications that we’re really excited about, but there is still time for you to encourage a friend or family member to apply. While our internships extend to people of all backgrounds, we’re looking especially to cultivate the next group of Arab Americans interested in public service, politics, and international relations. Over the next few months, and into the 2014 mid-term elections, AAI will ramp up its efforts to engage young people through our internships, summer externships, Emerging Leaders’ Program (ELP), and on the ground in communities in several states. We are really excited about the next crop of Arab American politicos and public servants, and we take our role in their development seriously. So, know any Super Stars? Send them our way. Follow this link to apply for the spring internship and be sure to check back with us in January for summer internship opportunities.
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