Possible Solutions to Increase Efficiency of Voter Participation and Representation

¨When the State uses high technology, it´s usually working against the population in that personal information is forcefully collected, distorted, and made to intimidate us into thinking that we´re all criminals, without due process. When the general public uses high technology, it´s usually for entertainment, which blinds us into thinking everything is just great.¨

The power of numbers and statistics allows people to gather enough information in order to act on solving or causing an expanding or contracting situation involving a population. As digital and fiber optic technology reach speed of light velocity, people can be quick to react to stimuli in their surrounding areas. One example of a rapid development contrived by social media is the Arab Spring of 2010-present. Some people give credit to social media like twitter for helping connect people before, during and after protests, so that people could offer all types of services, aid, and exchange of ideas. This is one way social media wasn´t used only for entertainment.

As much as some people would like to ¨live off of the grid,¨ which is to say, ¨auto-sufficiency, out of the government´s eyes,¨ people all over the world still have to use state services to obtain simple things like a driver´s license, a passport, pay for taxes, go to a university, graduate high school, and enlist in the military. Registering to vote is probably the last thing on this list of things Americans would want to do involving the State, but would more voter participation procure a society that were more representative, and better?

Voter participation is at an all time low in most countries in the world, the United States in particular is dropping fast possibly due to Congress having record low approval ratings.  What I hope to offer are possible ideas that could advance voter registration and representation to ameliorate, or lessen, systematic racism, sexism, gentrification, xenophobia and all other forms of minority discrimination.

Voter participation is lower in U.S. compared to economic allies.

voting-by-country1

Above: data from 2011 from http://www.idea.int/vt/https://lifeinthecsu.wordpress.com/tag/civic-education/

Here is a list of things that could be changed in the United States to get people into the habit of participating if they want to.

1) Change the voting day to Sunday: The United States is possibly the only country in the world that votes on Tuesday. Most other countries, about 42 of them, that have higher voter participation than the U.S., vote on Sundays. It is the day of the week when more people are available. Although one would imagine that American politicians are against Sunday voting because it is ¨God´s Day,¨ recognize that there is no official religion in the United States, it is not a theocracy, and voting on Tuesday does not seem that efficient. Data has been collected suggesting that 17% of Americans use the excuse of  ¨conflict with schedule¨  for not voting. This could be due to the fact that ¨Election Day¨ is not a holiday – the majority of people still have to work – and work comes before voting for someone who is eventually going to disappoint you anyway.

2) High School graduation rates are up to about 75%,offer registration: I remember being able to register to vote before I graduated from High School. Students who were seventeen-years-old, were able to register to vote at school, if their 18th birthday fell before Election Day in November. Those who were interested registered because student clubs made it their priority to try to register teens. School should be able to offer this service to all students who want to.

3) 85% of Americans have a driver´s license, offer voter registration: Government agencies like the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) U.S. Mail (for passports) and the local city hall are government services that collect all of your personal data: residence, age, height, weight, prior convictions, marital status etc, they should offer to register people to vote. They don´t have to collect data about your political party, but it could easily be a point for voter registration.

4) Give Felons the right to vote back: What are the politicians afraid of? That all the felons in the United States will unanimously vote to legalize crime? Either change the Constitution or honor it. Under the 14th, 15th, & 19th Amendments to the Constitution, the state must not deny a citizen´s right to vote because of their color, race, sex(gender), or previous condition of servitude. Grant them the right to vote! People ignorant enough to regurgitate political talking points about what the Founding Fathers said, did, or wrote in the Constitution, fail to implement and support basic human rights. One would think that going to prison is punishment enough for a crime when in actuality, you become a target for entrapment, abuse, constant surveillance and disenfranchisement. There are about 6 million American felons who cannot vote, even after serving their time in prison.

5) Stop gerrymandering and implementing voter identification laws:  There isn´t much a person can do once an elected official decides during his or her term in office that prohibiting voter turnout by trickery or requiring special identification is best for their citizens. Racism plays a huge part in the repartitioning of local and state districts that are predominately black, latino, asian, white, native american etc, in order to consolidate their constituents. Knowing that the majority of Blacks vote Democrat and happen to live in isolated, concentrated parts of metropolitan areas, Republicans are ¨gerrymandering¨ or redrawing the map in order to exclude African-Americans from voting in a particular area. Voter ID laws are also directed towards people of lower income who might not be able to afford a car, or the price for a voter ID card.

Becoming Naturalized Citizen in the United States has some generally requirements including passing a an exam. Citizens born in the United States generally have no idea what the process of becoming a citizen is, also, an embarrassingly low number of them could not actually pass a citizenship exam or have much knowledge of civics. One of the questions on the Citizenship exam is: ¨What is the greatest or most important right granted to U.S. citizens?¨ The answer: the right to vote. If voting is the most important right, why has it been taken away from so many people? Why is it so hard to get those rights back? It just goes to show that ¨rights¨ can be less important than privileges if they can be taken away for more time than you spend in prison. There are currently 6 million Americans who have had their right to vote rebuked.

(list of disenfranchised citizens:http://felonvoting.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000287)

Becoming an actual candidate in an election is a whole other story. U.S. voters cling firmly to red and blue – Republican and Democrat. The Reds and the Blues team up when a possible third party or fringe group intends to wedge their way into their voting block. The current Tea Party, Libertarian Party and Independents are unfortunately satellite parties of Red and Blue in that they use the mainstream parties as their surrogates in order to carry their ideas to the people. Although Red and Blue might be ¨too big to fail,¨ it also helps to force these candidates to discuss tough issues by introducing a third, fourth, fifth, sixth party – might as well form a parliament – to the political scene to represent the 317,000,000 American citizens.

By: Opton A. Martin

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H.O.P.E. for Ghana’s Economic Future Needs to be Strategically Planned for Ecological Sustainability

“Success is Limited when Extravagance Exceeds Sustainability”

Building bigger, higher and faster is not always the solution for economic, social and cultural advancement. New construction projects have to be intelligently planned with a special focus on the environment, social ecology and sustainability.

The Republic of Ghana is a country whose ancient and modern history is something to be proud of: the ancient kingdom of the Ashanti, whose rich language, history and culture formed an empire that mined and traded gold with merchants from North Africa and the Sudan; the independence movements of African nations, where Ghana was at the forefront of self-governance post-colonization and Pan-Africanism ; and its growing sectors in telecommunication and tourism puts it at the top of the list as one of the most stable and friendly places in Africa to live, work and visit.

It seems like recently,  at least for its metropolitan dwellers, that parts of the Republic of Ghana are rapidly converting into an African Silicon Valley in that there is cultural emphasis and economic investment in the field of information and communication technology.  A new project currently in the works is called HOPE City, which is to be built close to the region of Accra, the coastal capital city of more than 2.2 million people.

HOPE (Home, Office, People, and Environment) is a current project for a technology park that has a goal to house 25,000 people,  offer employment opportunities to about 50,000 people, and construct the tallest building in Africa. Construction of HOPE City began in 2013 and has plans to include schools, restaurants, a university, a hospital, tech centers and more.

With a price tag of about $10 billion, this ambitious project can be a complete success not only if it all goes according to plan, but if it is ecologically sound. One important factor that owners, developers and urban planners often forget to include in their blue prints are aspects of ecological sustainability.  HOPE City is an excellent place to display how an African based and African-owned entrepreneurial enterprise can empower the skilled, educated and eager millennial generation in investing their time and energy to making their homeland truly great.

Ghana is a perfect place to continue this ICT revolution in that it has a lot of benefits many other countries in that region of West Africa do not share:

>RLG Communictions is a state-of-the-art Ghana-based tech company that makes laptops, computers and mobile phones.

> Ghana is engaging in government transparency to reduce corruption.

> The Akosombo dam in Ghana produces a lot of  hydroelectric energy for Ghana and for export.

> Ghana is a relatively stable democracy with an ever diversifying economic system: minerals, petroleum, ICT, agricultural goods, tourism, research and  manufacturing.

> Its rich culture, use of local languages and English, can help it relate it to its neighbors and their economies.  Nigeria for example could benefit from a fellow West African technology and logistics hub to build upon their own economy by trading and diversifying.

The 2020 vision for Ghana includes rapid industrialization in all industries in order to propel it into the 21st Century as a stable and technologically advanced democracy. A few things to beware of would be an excessive waste of natural resources, income inequality, and the suppression of freedom of speech. All of these factors can hamper socioeconomic growth in a place where the plight of Sub-Saharan Africa could be completely turned around.

Although Ghana has been experiencing growth from the extraction of hydrocarbon fuels, they should make it their philosophy to power HOPE City from sustainable and renewable energy sources by installing wind turbines and solar panels nearby.  In addition to energy needs, proper recycling and urban architecture must be conducive to pedestrian traffic in order to reduce dependence on personal vehicles (include a commuter rail in the project?). New structures should also adapt the idea of including rooftop and vertical gardens. The leaves of trees and plants reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, while helping to maintain a lower temperature anywhere from 3ºC   to 11ºC  by a process known as transpiration. Reducing the temperature by a natural process  reduces the energy needed to cool structures, and provides an ecological environment that adds to the livability factor of a new human development.

Income inequality should be tackled by providing living spaces that are as I mentioned before, friendly to pedestrian traffic. A sprawling, ever-expanding cityscape, where personal vehicles are necessary for obtaining necessities (food, clothes, medicine, hospitals, schools, etc.) is not sustainable. As we are currently seeing in the United States, one of the most developed countries in the world, that urban sprawl is one of the causes of income inequality, crime, and poor health.

Freedom of speech, expression, religion, assembly, and the freedom to promote digital and print media, are probably the most important aspects of evolving a state socioeconomically and culturally. New ideas need to be diffused unhampered by repressive forces in order to influence more people to do better than their predecessors. The government of Ghana will have to allow for people to freely and openly criticize, protest, and demonstrate without fear of repression.

As time goes forth one can only hope and imagine what a techno-ecological revolution could bring to not only the people of Ghana, but to all those in West Africa whose skills and entrepreneurship could propel themselves beyond what no other has done before.

 

By Opton A. Martin