Tag Archives: voting

Asian American Voices Take on Voting Rights in US Elections

Over the years, America has seen a nationally growing community of minority populations. The 2016 elections caused a huge wave of anger and frustration within these communities and led to protests and action against injustices caused by lack of voter turnout and disparity in elections. People protested and voiced out their anger and fear of not having a space to grow on an equal footing as those that were privileged. These events led up to the 2020 election, a time where Kamala Harris, the first Asian-Black woman elected Vice President in the history of this nation. 

South Asian Americans are one of the fastest-growing populations in the U.S with a 45% growth in the last decade. These numbers show the growing influence of Asian Americans in the electoral processes of the States. Meera Kymal reported for India Currents that though Indian Americans represent just over 1% of the US population, they have donated more than $3 million towards the 2020 presidential campaigns. Minority voices have demanded equality and representation in their communities. At the Ethnic Media Services briefing on April 30th, John C. Yang, President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), stated that the 2020 election saw an increase of 40% in voter turnout when compared to the 2016 elections. 

The For the People Act and the John L.Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act will only give more equality and accessibility to minority communities to break language barriers and make their vote count. Both these bills seek to make the electoral process secure and prevent foreign interventions or money from influencing the electoral process and vote. They also provide better access to voting by mail and overall enhance the voting process and security. 

“Language barriers are one of the biggest impediments to the Asian American vote, with 1/3rd of Asian Americans being what is called limited English proficiency” John C. Yang, President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC).  

Mr. Yang further states that previous elections have witnessed a lack of translators or sign indicators for those that are not proficient in English, limiting their access to ballots. While this was taken care of in the 1965 voting rights act, a lot more can be done for those that aren’t proficient in English. “In every election poll, monitors have observed missing Asian language signage and interpreters, which limits our access to the ballot. Ensuring effective language assistance is paramount to closing that consistent barrier in national and local elections,” he stated. 

The For The People Act and John L.Lewis  Voting Rights Advancement Act will improve and expense the voting opportunities for Asian communities making it more accessible to them. The previous election also saw an increase in turnout due to voting by mail. Such steps can be enhanced and practiced more efficiently if the two bills were to pass in Congress. 

What better month to discuss this topic than AAPI heritage month! It is important to remember that the influence of Asian American communities strongly impacted the 2020 elections, and the passing of these two bills in Congress will only enhance the opportunity for better representation and understanding of the Asian American community in the States. 


Swati Ramaswamy is a recent graduate from UC Davis and is an aspiring creative writer who loathes speaking in the third person. 


 

Key South Asian Players in the New Administration

South Asians in the house! — my cousin cheers between mouthfuls of samosa and peanut chutney as Kamala Harris is sworn in as Vice President of the United States on screen. It’s a day as celebratory as it is surreal — especially for the ‘South Asians in the house’, who are scattered across the country watching one of the most unprecedented inaugurations in history. I knew I was going to see a female president or vice-president hold that Bible on camera during my lifetime. The world has seen female presidents and Prime Ministers from Golda Meir to Indira Gandhi to Angela Merkel; the world is growing up, and growing out of the trappings of a patriarchal society. Although we’re late, I knew I would have the honor of watching America catch up. 

But watching a South Asian-American woman help shatter America’s legislative glass ceiling was a wholly different honor altogether. 

According to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Indian-Americans make up less than 1 percent of the United States’ registered voter base. It’s a fact that’s difficult to forget, considering how under-studied and under-appreciated South Asian Americans are as a voter demographic. Civic engagement organizations have a history of not visiting South Asian American neighborhoods out of fear of ‘mispronouncing their names’. In the past, South Asian-American politicians at the local level have been questioned for their religious or ethnic identities, rather than their qualifications or political stances. Although the 2020 elections have marked a tremendous increase in political participation among our community, historically South Asian Americans have often been under-represented and overlooked at the polls. 

The new administration is a game-changer for our community — and not simply because of Kamala Harris. Here are some members of the wave of South Asian Americans introduced by the Biden-Harris administration. 

Garima Verma 

Formerly a content strategist for the Biden-Harris campaign, Garima Verma was named by First Lady Jill Biden as the Digital Director for the Office of the First Lady at the White House. Born in India, Garima grew up in Ohio and the Central Valley of California. Her journey in marketing and brand strategy shows her passion for both civic engagement and digital storytelling, as Garima has worked for major corporations like Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and nonprofits like the St. Joseph Center alike. Hopefully, Garima will bring her unique talent of telling compelling stories through the digital medium to the First Lady’s team. 

“While in the entertainment space at both Paramount Pictures and ABC, my passion has always been working on diverse and boundary-pushing content that allows more people to feel seen and heard, and to authentically engage and empower those communities through marketing campaigns,” Garima says. “My ultimate goal is to combine my love of marketing and storytelling with my passion for social impact and advocacy in a meaningful and impactful way.” 

Neera Tanden 

Massachusetts-native Neera Tanden has contributed to America’s political landscape for years, from advising Hillary Clinton’s 2016 primary campaign to drafting the Affordable Care Act during the Obama administration. For her work in founding the Center of American Progress (CAP), Tanden was named one of the 25 “Most Influential Women In Washington” by the National Journal in 2012. She has used her platforms to advocate for universal, multi-payer healthcare, and cites her childhood experiences living on welfare as a reason behind her passion for healthcare reform and economic empowerment. As Biden’s pick for budget chief, Tanden hopes to bring her years of political experience to the US Office of Management and Budget.

After my parents were divorced when I was young, my mother relied on public food and housing programs to get by,” Tanden said in a 2020 tweet. “Now, I’m being nominated to help ensure those programs are secure and ensure families like mine can live with dignity. I am beyond honored.”

Her nomination, however, did not come without controversy. Tanden has been often criticized by her Republican counterparts for her outspoken nature on Twitter, where she fired back at Lindsey Graham for calling her a ‘nut job’ and referred to Mitch McConnell as ‘Moscow Mitch’. Many Republicans criticize Tanden for her ‘partisan’ approach to politics — an ironic appraisal, considering how nearly every politician has contributed to the radioactive battlefield that is Twitter in recent years. 

Shanthi Kalathil 

Formerly a senior democracy fellow at the US Agency for International Development, Shanthi Kalathil has been named as the White House’s Coordinator for Democracy and Human Rights in the National Security Council. Kalathil’s years of dedication towards advocating for human rights and worldwide democracy demonstrate her preparedness for this role. She is known for her commitment towards addressing techno-authoritarians, or the role that modern technology plays in reinforcing the rigidity of authoritarianism. In fact, she addresses this phenomenon in her 2003 book, Open Networks, Closed Regimes: The Impact of the Internet on Authoritarian Rule. Within an increasingly digitized society, Kalathil’s careful attention towards the Internet in relation to human rights is certainly a step forward for the White House. She also carefully avoids implicit biases while addressing human rights abuses in other countries, discussing the importance of separating “the Chinese people from the Chinese party-state” in a podcast published by the National Democratic Institute. 

“You know one area where I think all democracies have to be careful is in making sure that there is a clear distinction between referring to the Chinese party-state and the Chinese people. Whether it’s the Chinese people within China or people of ethnic Chinese descent all around the world, that would be one area in which I think there does need to be great care”, Kalathil said. “I think in all policy discussions, it’s important to use a scalpel rather than a sledgehammer, to really deal with very specific problems and specific issues that pose a challenge to democracy, but that we shouldn’t conflate broad-based backlash.” 

The United States government has a history of intervening in the human rights abuses committed by the other regimes of the world as an effort to maintain peace and justice. Kalathil’s balanced, nuanced approach towards democracy and human rights will certainly enrich her platform. 


Uzra Zeya 

American diplomat Uzra Zeya has been nominated by the Biden-Harris Administration to serve as the Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights. Like Tanden, Zeya has years of political experience under her belt, as she was the acting assistant Secretary and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor during the Obama Administration. Before that, she worked in Paris’s Embassy of the United States. Her work in diplomacy has taken her all over the world, from New Delhi, Muscat, Damascus, Cairo, and Kingston. Similar to Tanden’s experience, Zeya is also a contentious choice for this position. In 2018, Zeya quit her job in the state department, owing her resignation to the racism and gender bias promoted by the Trump administration. Calling the administration a ‘pale male’ club, Zeya advocated for the diversification of her department. 

“In the first five months of the Trump administration, the department’s three most senior African-American career officials and the top-ranking Latino career officer were removed or resigned abruptly from their positions, with white successors named in their place,” Zeya wrote in an article for Politico. “In the months that followed, I observed top-performing minority diplomats be disinvited from the secretary’s senior staff meeting, relegated to FOIA duty (well below their abilities), and passed over for bureau leadership roles and key ambassadorships.” 

If chosen as the Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, Zeya hopes to use her prior political experience to address key global issues such as peace in the Middle East, Russia’s increasing aggression in Europe, and climate change. 

In my 25+years as a diplomat, I learned that America’s greatest strength is the power of our example, diversity & democratic ideals,” Zeya said in a 2021 tweet. “I will uphold & defend these values, if confirmed, as Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights.

Vidur Sharma

A former health policy advisor on the Domestic Policy Council, Vidur Sharma has been named by Biden as a testing advisor for the White House’s COVID-19 Response Team. Sharma played a key role in shaping health policy during the Obama administration, where he advocated for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. A Harvard graduate, he also has years of experience working in the medical industry, as he has worked for Avalere Health, CareMore Health, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in the past. As a testing advisor at the White House, Sharma will promote equity in the healthcare space, as he was a Deputy Research Director for Protect Our Care, an organization dedicated to “increasing coverage, lowering health care costs, and addressing racial inequities in our..system.” 

Amid a global pandemic, equity will play a major role in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. As the coronavirus is reportedly 2.8 times more likely to kill people of color, implicit biases in our healthcare system can have potentially fatal consequences. The Biden-Harris administration, in fact, recently established a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force to aid “medically and socially vulnerable communities.” Sharma’s emphasis on inclusivity and equity certainly fits the values of the administration and will help ensure that the vaccine and coronavirus treatment plans reach all Americans.

Closing Thoughts 

There are so many threads of commonality among the South Asian Americans introduced to the White House — all passionate about government reform, all aware of our nation’s existing inequalities, all incredibly qualified for their positions. As a South Asian American hoping to enter America’s legislative process later in life, our community’s representation at the national level is both empowering and inspiring — a fond reminder that America, after years of underrepresentation for minority groups — is finally catching up.

Kanchan Naik is a senior at the Quarry Lane School in Dublin, California. She is the 2019-2020 Teen Poet Laureate for the City of Pleasanton, as well as the Director of Media Outreach for youth nonprofit Break the Outbreak. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of her school newspaper, The Roar, as well as the Global Student Editor for the summer edition of Stanford’s Newsroom by the Bay publication. 

On the Presidential Debate: “Candron Enkolo!”

Unrestricted international travel – the one thing that has been denied to millions across the world – has been mine, these past few months, through the act of reading for hours in an uninterrupted fashion. I read the political news of the day and then jump backward in time to read Tamil writings from the 5th-8th centuries. My mind reads modern English words, phrases, and paragraphs at lightning speed as I devour political news, and then slows down as I read and sound out unfamiliar words and verse in classical Tamil.

The psychic reading worlds that I move in could not be more different. And yet, the two worlds collided in a remarkable fashion in my head at the conclusion of the first Presidential debate between President Trump and Democratic nominee, Joe Biden. At the very end of the debate when asked about voting these were a snapshot of the responses. 

Trump ranted, “As far as the ballot is concerned it is a disaster…they are sending millions of ballots all across the country. There is fraud, they found them in creeks, they found some with the name Trump in a waste paper basket, they are being sent all over the place…this is going to be a fraud like you’ve never seen..there are many states all run by Democrats….one percent of ballots cast in 2016 were invalidated. We don’t like ‘em we don’t like ‘em and they throw them out.” 

To this charge on mail-in voting, Joe Biden declared, “There is no fraud.”

I couldn’t believe that a sitting President would in such a cavalier manner dismiss the act of voting. Was he not responsible to ensure that there was indeed no fraud? The next day, the political pundits went after who won and who lost the debate. Trump was a bully, some said. Biden missed points when he could have made a stinging comeback others said. Ping-pong. You hit – I hit back. I was not interested in any of that. 

When I heard that exchange, my mind careened backward all the way to the words of the fictional character Kannagi in the Tamil epic Silappadikaaram.

Candron enkolo? Candron enkolo?”(Wise men, where are you?) she screams in agony on discovering her husband Kovalan is killed by the king’s men.

The Silppadikaram is considered one of the five great Tamil epics written by a Jain Prince Ilando Adigal.  In the story, Kannagi and Kovalan are married with the blessing of the elders in their families. Their young lives are upended rudely when Kovalan falls in love with Madhavi, a courtesan dancer and he soon leaves Kannagi. After spending years with Madhavi, Kovalan realizes the folly of his ways and returns to his dutiful wife Kannagi.

They soon leave the kingdom ruled by the Cholas and travel to the land ruled by the Pandyas and enter its largest city Madurai. Here, Kovalan decides to sell his wife’s silambu (anklet) to make a fresh start in life and takes it to a jeweler in the marketplace. The cunning jeweler who also happens to be the royal jeweler sees the similarities between the Queen’s anklet and that of Kannagi’s. The jeweler had stolen the queen’s anklet and when Kovalan entered his workshop, he saw the perfect opportunity to frame the unsuspecting Kovalan for the theft. The jeweler hurries to the king and accuses Kovalan of theft. Dragged by the king’s men into court, Kovalan’s head is severed with one stroke and when Kannagi finds her husband dead, she screams in anger – “Candron enkolo?” (Wise men, where are you?)

The morning following the debate I wish that there had been 535 messages on social media and in every publication across the country. The 435 members in the House and 100 senators should have signed one statement which had just one sentence. “From now till election day, I will personally work to make sure that your vote is counted, regardless of whether it is a mailed-in ballot or if it is a ballot cast in person.” 

Without the protection that my vote and every other vote will be counted, how can we even say that we live in a democracy? Forget the fact that we want a Republican or a Democrat based on our political beliefs. Where are the checks and balances in action that we read about in civics textbooks? Each one of the 535 representatives has been accorded the power they enjoy because of thousands of votes that have been cast in their favor. I should be able to take the fact that my vote will be counted for granted in a mature Western democracy. 

When a sitting President talks of his own administration and says that they are sending millions of ballots all across the country and that there is massive fraud, where is the massive counter-response from legislators? To a President who relishes in the spectacle of political theater, can I not expect every legislator to stand in dramatic fashion as one to say, “Your vote will be counted. I will work to ensure that basic right for all the people I represent in my district, in my state.”

Candron enkolo?” –  Wise men, where are you? Kannagi howled within the fictional plot. Of course, these words were spoken at a time when only men could be counted amongst the king’s advisors and as those who upheld justice. 

Today, I ask – Candron enkolo? – Wise men and women of both parties, where are you? 


Nirupama Vaidhyanathan is a former editor of India Currents magazine. 

US and India Benefit From the Same Democratic Process

Although many feel the democratic urgency of voting this election cycle in the US, it is not uncommon to hear, “My vote won’t count anyway.”

Associate Professor of Political Science at SFSU and Researcher, Jason McDaniel addresses the importance of local elections as a “foundation for democracy” and a “pathway to racial-ethnic equity.” Whether it be, city, county, or state jurisdiction, local law supersedes federal law and can more accurately represent the sentiment of its community. 

However, at the local elections in Berkeley, San Francisco, Oakland, and San Leandro, your vote actually has more bang for its buck. 

Why? Because of their implementation of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV).

Entrenched in the SF Voting Data, McDaniel cautions that RCV can be a contributor to the confounding nature of ballot response but its results are that of a lower democratic deficit. He finds that complexities within the SF local election and lack of information lowers voter turnout for communities of color.

The US follows the First Past The Post (FPTP) voting system, in which you vote for one candidate and the candidate who receives the most votes wins the election. At the Ethnic Media Services briefing on October 6th, McDaniel reviewed Rank Choice Voting, also known as Instant Runoff Voting. 

When RCV is used, candidates are ranked from 1-10 (depending on the number of candidates). If a candidate immediately has an outright majority (50 percent plus one), then that candidate is declared the winner of the election. However, if none of the candidates have an outright majority, then the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and their votes are redistributed based on their voters’ second choice rankings. The process continues until one candidate’s adjusted vote number hits an outright majority.

Dr. Jason McDaniel’s example of RCV from the Mayoral Election in SF (red indicates eliminated candidate)

Ranking candidates requires more knowledge of all platforms and of RCV. McDaniels comments, “Reformers who want to change democracy often overestimate what voters care about…The vast majority of voters don’t have strong preferences for more than one or two candidates.” The idea of voters having multiple informed preferences in nonpartisan, local elections is quite novel, unheard of, and is likely a barrier to participation. Research shows that it is possible to recover the loss of voter participation.

Benefits can outweigh the implications of using RCV in a few ways:

  1. This particular method of voting can mitigate “spoiler” candidates, where a candidate that may be a third choice wins an election to a split vote.
  2. The candidate that wins better represents the majority.   
  3. Voters can cast “sincere” votes, unbridled by the burden of a “wasted vote”. Independent third-party candidates can be represented by a genuine vote, but if they are dropped during the process of RCV, then another candidate with a similar platform can receive that vote.
  4. It can reduce negative campaigning because it may lie in the interest of multiple parties with resembling platforms to advocate for one another.
  5. It can reduce polarization by rewarding moderate candidates. There is no research to support this yet.

Why stop at local elections?

India, which generally employs FPTP voting, explored a version of Rank Choice Voting in electing their 14th and current President, Ram Nath Kovind. President Kovind is only the second Dalit president elected in Indian history. RCV secured a notable win for someone like Kovind, who overcame countless adversity in his path to a presidential win, while accounting for the public vote in a substantial way. After his win, Kovind addressed the Indian populace, “My win should prove that even honest people can get ahead in life.”

An ongoing dialogue around voting processes can be beneficial for our communities and for reform. If not to change the process, then to better educate everyone around us. 

Anni Chung, SF resident and CEO of Self Help for the Elderly, “Rank Choice Voting has always been a mystery to me, even now, after all these years.” 

Voting can only be effective if understood. Keep the conversation going and go out and vote this November 3rd!


Srishti Prabha is the Assistant Editor at India Currents and has worked in low income/affordable housing as an advocate for children, women, and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.

Record One Million Registered Voters In Santa Clara County

The County of Santa Clara officially reached a record high of  one million registered voters for the upcoming November 3 Presidential Election. This number reflects  83% of the total 1,204,687 eligible voters in Santa Clara County. It is a significant increase compared  to July 2016, when we had 799,477 out of 1,188,753 (or 67% of eligible voters) registered to vote.  

“Reaching one million registered voters is a milestone moment in diverse Santa Clara County,” said  Supervisor Cindy Chavez, President of the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors. “We can’t  stop there. Now we must keep moving forward and do everything possible to make sure those million  registered voters cast ballots to make their voices heard. Voting in Santa Clara County has never  been easier with our 100 Vote Centers. Reach out to your families and neighbors to help them have  their voices heard on November 3.”  

Registrar of Voters Shannon Bushey called reaching the million-voter mark “a major milestone for  Santa Clara County.”  

“We’ve seen the percentage of registered voters climb higher and higher and that’s exciting for us  here at the Registrar’s Office – it means more and more Santa Clara County residents are becoming  active participants in our democracy and we are excited to welcome our new voters,” Bushey said.  “This is a major milestone for Santa Clara County reaching nearly 83 percent of eligible voters.”  

The last day to register to vote is October 19. Voters can register online at registertovote.ca.gov.  Voters should re-register whenever they change their name or address. Any voter can also call (408)  299-VOTE to check on the status of their voter registration or go to voterstatus.sos.ca.gov if they  have a driver’s license or social security number already on file.  

All registered voters are mailed ballots with a free postage paid return envelope and will have an  option to mail it in, return it at one of our 98 ballot drop-off boxes, one of the 100 vote centers  throughout the county, or at the Registrar of Voters’ office. 

Early in-person voting started this week at the Registrar of Voters’ Office located at 1555 Berger  Drive, Bldg. 2, in San Jose. Vote Centers will be open October 31 – November 2 from 9 a.m. to 5  p.m. and on Election Day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. You can find the Vote Center and drop box locations that are nearest you.  

Vote Centers will open on October 31. ROV and Vote Center staff will take extra steps to ensure that  safety measures are followed at all locations. Vote Center layouts have been re-designed to allow for  distancing between voting booths and machines. We have maximized one-way routes inside Vote  Centers to allow for a seamless voting experience that adheres to social distancing protocols.  

Health guideline posters will be placed inside and outside of the Vote Centers. Personal Protective  Equipment (PPE), such as disposable masks, gloves, and self-serve hand sanitizer will be provided  for all voters. Vote Center workers will also be issued PPE, including face shields, disposable masks,  disposable gloves, and disinfectant spray. Voters will use a stylus to operate the electronic voter sign in pollbook and touch screen voting machine, which will be sanitized after each use. Voter service  areas and voting equipment will also be wiped down between voters. Finally, curbside voting will be  available for voters who cannot leave their vehicle or comply with safety procedures.  

With one million registered voters in Santa Clara County, it is becoming increasingly important to  make sure everyone can vote safely. We encourage voters to vote from home.  

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Should the Election Be Postponed in Light of a Pandemic? No!

Should the Presidential Election Be Postponed in Light of a Pandemic? No!

by Mani Subramani

There is absolutely no need to postpone the November 2020 elections on account of the Coronavirus.

Firstly the COVID-19 pandemic is roughly 2 times as virulent in its spread as the common flu and about 20 times more fatal among the elderly and most vulnerable.  So as long as the risk of transmission can be reduced 100 fold, voting should be at least as safe as voting during a normal flu season.  This is not achievable if we do everything business as usual. However, with sufficient social distancing (6 feet) and sanitizing, the transmission rate can be reduced sufficiently to make elections safe.  To avoid long lines at the polling places states can keep voting open early for a full week or encourage mail in ballots or both. Federal government should allocate funds as part of a stimulus or supplemental to cover the additional costs. 

At the time of this writing, we are number three in terms of total number of infections behind China and Italy.  Unfortunately, it would not be surprising if we are number one when you read this.  However, based on the experience of other nations the viral spread should peak in three months or less. In spite of the bungling and scattered response and utter lack of leadership by this administration, thankfully many state governors are acting in a manner that is appropriate to the seriousness of the outbreak.  This should ensure a peak of infections sometime this summer hopefully with a minimal fatality rate like that of Germany or Switzerland.  

Mani Subramani is a veteran of the semiconductor equipment industry.  He enjoys following politics and economics.

This article is part of the monthly Forum Series, where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.

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Should the Presidential Election Be Postponed in Light of a Pandemic? Yes!

by Rameysh Ramdas

In light of the Coronavirus pandemic and the associated economic meltdown, President Trump and Congress must postpone the November 2020 election. Yes, Democrats would loathe giving the President a few more months, but it is the right thing to do in these circumstances. The Constitution does not prohibit this action but says it should come from the states. Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Ohio, Puerto Rico and Rhode Island have postponed their primaries.

While the logistics of conducting campaign rallies will be a challenge, given the restriction of the number of people who can gather, more importantly, this will allow the President, his administration and state leaders to focus on containing the virus and in reviving the economy.

Yes, a postponement is only possible with great difficulty and cannot be done by an executive order. All the states must agree and their legislatures approve the measure. But the cost of the effort is well worth the benefits it brings to the nation and the world at large. And, this has to be done now as in many states, voting starts months earlier. 

Yes, this would have been unthinkable and deplorable in a normal time, but this is a pandemic of epic propositions. A prudent approach would be to have the elected officials on combating this calamity and start reviving the economy and the stock market. I urge the Administration and state legislatures to think outside the box and focus on the epidemic now.

Rameysh Ramdas, a resident of the SF Bay Area, has a keen interest in Politics and Current Events. 

This article is part of the monthly Forum Series, where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.


Image license can be found here.

Should the Election Be Postponed in Light of a Pandemic? Yes!

Should the Presidential Election Be Postponed in Light of a Pandemic? Yes!

by Rameysh Ramdas

In light of the Coronavirus pandemic and the associated economic meltdown, President Trump and Congress must postpone the November 2020 election. Yes, Democrats would loathe giving the President a few more months, but it is the right thing to do in these circumstances. The Constitution does not prohibit this action but says it should come from the states. Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Ohio, Puerto Rico and Rhode Island have postponed their primaries.

While the logistics of conducting campaign rallies will be a challenge, given the restriction of the number of people who can gather, more importantly, this will allow the President, his administration and state leaders to focus on containing the virus and in reviving the economy.

Yes, a postponement is only possible with great difficulty and cannot be done by an executive order. All the states must agree and their legislatures approve the measure. But the cost of the effort is well worth the benefits it brings to the nation and the world at large. And, this has to be done now as in many states, voting starts months earlier. 

Yes, this would have been unthinkable and deplorable in a normal time, but this is a pandemic of epic propositions. A prudent approach would be to have the elected officials on combating this calamity and start reviving the economy and the stock market. I urge the Administration and state legislatures to think outside the box and focus on the epidemic now.

Rameysh Ramdas, a resident of the SF Bay Area, has a keen interest in Politics and Current Events. 

This article is part of the monthly Forum Series, where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.

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Should the Presidential Election Be Postponed in Light of a Pandemic? No!

by Mani Subramani

There is absolutely no need to postpone the November 2020 elections on account of the Coronavirus.

Firstly the COVID-19 pandemic is roughly 2 times as virulent in its spread as the common flu and about 20 times more fatal among the elderly and most vulnerable.  So as long as the risk of transmission can be reduced 100 fold, voting should be at least as safe as voting during a normal flu season.  This is not achievable if we do everything business as usual. However, with sufficient social distancing (6 feet) and sanitizing, the transmission rate can be reduced sufficiently to make elections safe.  To avoid long lines at the polling places states can keep voting open early for a full week or encourage mail in ballots or both. Federal government should allocate funds as part of a stimulus or supplemental to cover the additional costs. 

At the time of this writing, we are number three in terms of total number of infections behind China and Italy.  Unfortunately, it would not be surprising if we are number one when you read this.  However, based on the experience of other nations the viral spread should peak in three months or less. In spite of the bungling and scattered response and utter lack of leadership by this administration, thankfully many state governors are acting in a manner that is appropriate to the seriousness of the outbreak.  This should ensure a peak of infections sometime this summer hopefully with a minimal fatality rate like that of Germany or Switzerland.  

Mani Subramani is a veteran of the semiconductor equipment industry.  He enjoys following politics and economics.

This article is part of the monthly Forum Series, where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.

Unintentional “No Party Preference” Voters May Need To Re-Register With Preferred Part

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – Voters who believe they mistakenly received a notice in the mail from the Registrar of Voters indicating their options for voting in the March 3, 2020 Presidential Primary Election as a “No Party Preference” voter may need to re-register in their party of choice. 

The Registrar of Voters’ Office began receiving numerous calls and emails in response to a postcard sent to voters registered as “No Party Preference,” or NPP. Some voters who received the postcard questioned whether it was authentic or sent in error because they did not recall registering as NPP. 

After reviewing the issue, the Registrar of Voters is confident that the postcard was sent to the correct voters but believes that some voters may have unknowingly had their party registration changed to No Party Preference as a result of automatic voter registration through the Department of Motor Vehicles. 

The Registrar of Voters does not know how many voters may have had their party preference changed in this manner, but since the postcard was mailed, the office estimates it has been contacted by approximately 300 voters who may have been impacted. 

Voters who believe that they may be impacted are encouraged to re-register to vote to make sure that their records are updated before the March primary. “We want to assure our voters that the notice was genuine,” said Registrar of Voters Shannon Bushey. “If they received this postcard, they need to take action to request a crossover ballot or re-register with their preferred party.” 

After the 2018 statewide rollout of automatic voter registration through the Department of Motor Vehicles, some voters may have inadvertently had their party registration changed. This issue occurred if voters skipped the party preference question, which caused their party to default to No Party Preference, even if they had previously been registered with a qualified political party. As well, shortly following the launch of the live connection into the statewide voter registration database, the DMV discovered that they had data conversion issues with the transfer of information. Such registration updates can occur while completing or updating a driver’s license, ID card, or change of address transaction by mail or at the DMV. 

Board of Supervisors: Mike Wasserman, Cindy Chavez, Dave Cortese, Susan Ellenberg, S. Joseph Simitian County Executive: Jeffrey V. Smith 

Voters wishing to check their registration status may do so online under the “Register to Vote” tab at www.sccvote.org. Re-registration may be completed online at registertovote.ca.gov. Regular registration for the March primary ends February 18, 2020. After that, voters may register or re- register at the Registrar of Voters’ Office or any Vote Center and cast a Conditional Voter Registration Provisional Ballot; however, the process is streamlined if registration occurs before the February 18 deadline. 

Nearly 300,000 Santa Clara County voters are registered as No Party Preference, and their primary election ballots do not include candidates for President. The postcards mailed last week, which are required by the California Elections Code, outlined what steps are needed to cast a crossover vote in the presidential contest for American Independent, Democratic, and Libertarian parties. The Green, Peace & Freedom, and Republican parties opted to not allow crossover voting. NPP voters who wish to cast a ballot in the presidential primary for any of those parties must re-register with that party. 

Early voting at the Registrar of Voters’ Office will begin on February 3; Vote Centers will open beginning February 22. These new Vote Centers are a central part of the new Voter’s Choice Act (VCA) being introduced to Santa Clara County voters in 2020. Under VCA, every voter receives a Vote by Mail ballot along with more days and more ways to cast their ballot at the Vote Centers. 

Completing the postcard or voting a crossover ballot does not change a voter’s registered party affiliation. Voters who complete this postcard will continue to be registered as No Party Preference and will have an opportunity to request a crossover ballot in each future presidential primary election. All requests for new ballots to be mailed must be received not later than February 25, 2020. 

For more information, contact the Registrar of Voters’ Office at (408) 299-VOTE (8683) or toll-free at (866) 430-VOTE (8683), or visit sccvote.org. Voters may also visit the California Secretary of State’s website for further information on NPP voting here

“NO PARTY PREFERENCE” VOTING FOR A PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE While all voters can vote in the March 3, 2020 Presidential Primary Election, voting for a presidential candidate is dependent on political party registration status. 

If you are registered with a political party: 

You can vote for a candidate running for president in that party. 

These parties ALLOW a “No Party Preference” voter to cast a crossover vote in the Presidential Primary Election: 

  • American Independent 
  • Democratic 
  • Libertarian 

These parties do NOT ALLOW a “No Party Preference” voter to cast a crossover vote in the Presidential Primary Election: 

“No Party Preference” voter to cast a crossover vote in the Presidential Primary Election: 

  • Green 
  • Green 
  • Peace & Freedom 

You were sent a postcard to select a party ballot. By filling out the postcard, you will receive your party preference ballot by mail for this election only and your registered party will not change. You can also select the party ballot at the Registrar of Voters’ Office or at any Vote Center in Santa Clara County. 

  • Republican 

If you want to participate in the Presidential Primary Election for these parties you must re-register in that party. Registration deadline is February 18, 2020. After that date, voters can still re-register but they will cast a Conditional Ballot that needs to be reviewed before it is counted. 

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Trump in a Landslide? Absolutely Not!

Trump in a Landslide? Absolutely Not!

By Mani Subramani

Moody’s model predicted the wrong outcome in the 2016 elections. “In response to the miss, Moody’s expanded the range of potential voter turnout and made several other changes to how it assesses voter reaction to economic conditions. If applied now, Moody’s says the altered models would have called 2016 for Trump,” says this article. That’s the nature of statistical models – they are sometimes wrong!   

Americans are tired of Trump style over substance approach. They are sick of him labeling critical media outlets as fake news, overruling US institutions (CIA) in favor of foreign entities (Putin), disrespecting decorated veterans (Senator McCain), making crude remarks about women, denying climate change, peddling fake conspiracy theories about the deep state and now, potential impeachable offenses!  

In order to justify Trump’s behavior one needs to disbelieve all media outlets, ignore the obvious effects of climate change, accept incompetent foreign policy, believe the fake theory that coal jobs are coming back and that globalization can be reversed. 

Trump has always been a conman with a solid base of supporters. Proving the adage that you can fool some people all the time, and all the people some of the time.  Let’s hope, for the sake of this great democracy, that he cannot fool all the people all the time!!

A lot has been made of US economic strength under Trump. However, these analyses ignore several factors. With the exception of a three quarters of 3+% growth, it has been around ~2% to below 2% in the most recent quarter –  a rate which Trump characterized as “weak” while campaigning in 2016.  

Similarly unemployment rate decline, which began in 2010, has just continued to decline and now stabilized around 3.6%. On the other hand budget deficits have exploded. Three consecutive years of rapidly rising deficits threatens to break the trillion dollar mark this year. Having this occur during an economic expansion shows dangerous underlying economic weakness. In sharp contrast, after a high in 2009 the deficits steadily reduced under Obama. Proving once again that whatever Trump does, he does horribly. Exactly what you would expect from a man who specialized in serial bankruptcies! 

This does not mean the voters are going to hand the election to the Democratic nominee. The nominee needs to articulate the message that an irresponsible and crooked leader has wastefully spent the public treasure on wealthy individuals and corporations who spent it on stock buybacks. 

This money would have been better spent on addressing inequality, health security, infrastructure, job training and securing the world for future generations for all Americans. Such investment would lead to sustained economic growth, jobs of the future and improved quality of life.  

In July 2019 the support for impeachment was around ~40%. Recent polls show a majority supporting impeachment. The Democratic nominee must inspire a robust voter turnout. There are a few candidates in the pool who are articulating populist ideas well and practicing good retail politics.  They are quite capable of unseating Trump. 

Mani Subramani is a veteran of the semiconductor equipment industry.  He enjoys following politics and economics.

Trump in a Landslide? Yes!

By Rameysh Ramdas

Recently, the highly predictive Moody’s election model projected President Trump would easily win re-election by a wider margin and could even win a Reagensque landslide.

Despite my Democratic Party affiliation, I must regrettably agree with Moody’s model. With unemployment at a historic low of 3.5%, the S&P has risen 28% since the day he was elected, and we are on the cusp of ending the trade war with China with a deal, and possibly a denuclearization accord with North Korea.   

Whether it is due to Trump’s policies is arguable, but Trump has certainly boosted consumer and business confidence to new highs. Many areas in the nation face acute labor shortages in this expansion. It was a streak of political genius that he ran and won with a catchy slogan- “Make America Great Again.” Those four words were more powerful than the lengthy policy prescriptions that Hillary patiently presented.

With this economic tailwind behind our nation, the Democrats seem determined to lose in 2020. A motley crew of far left wing zealots like Senator Warren, Reps Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Tlaib are driving the direction of the party and forcing candidates to fall in line.  Warren wants to almost criminalize wealth creation and corporations in this country. This is the only nation on earth where a graduate student like me could land with a meager $520 and today, 30 years later, live in a million plus dollar home and achieve a successful career while still enjoying all the rights and privileges of native-born fellow Americans. 

The Democrats promise a “Medicare for Allthat essentially strips people of their choice of employer provided health care and impose fines if they do not enroll in Medicare. The Democrats would cripple life and commerce in the U.S with their  maniacal focus on climate change, forgetting that China, India and Mexico are the major polluters of this planet. The Democrats want to also make college tuition free, even for millionaire’s kids or those underperforming 

The average American, while certainly willing to make reasonable accommodations, is more focused on providing for their family, educating their kids, retaining their jobs in this rapidly changing workplace, having a secure retirement and on being able to pass on their life’s savings to their loved ones without the Government raiding them. The Democrats and their agendas are completely divorced from this reality. 

At the end of the day, as the old adage goes, Americans vote with their pocket books. Till Trump keeps our pocketbooks filled, the majority will gladly re-elect him in a heartbeat.  The Democrats have given me, this moderate, middle of the road Democrat nothing to say “Yes” to! 

Mark my words, with the Democrats not relating to mainstream  and rural America, and if the economy continues to boom and associated optimism continue to hold up, President Trump will be reelected, and yes, possibly in a landslide. 

Rameysh Ramdas, a resident of the SF Bay Area, has a keen interest in Politics and Current Events. 

Trump in a Landslide? Yes!

Trump in a Landslide? Yes!

By Rameysh Ramdas

Recently, the highly predictive Moody’s election model projected President Trump would easily win re-election by a wider margin and could even win a Reagensque landslide.

Despite my Democratic Party affiliation, I must regrettably agree with Moody’s model. With unemployment at a historic low of 3.5%, the S&P has risen 28% since the day he was elected, and we are on the cusp of ending the trade war with China with a deal, and possibly a denuclearization accord with North Korea.   

Whether it is due to Trump’s policies is arguable, but Trump has certainly boosted consumer and business confidence to new highs. Many areas in the nation face acute labor shortages in this expansion. It was a streak of political genius that he ran and won with a catchy slogan- “Make America Great Again.” Those four words were more powerful than the lengthy policy prescriptions that Hillary patiently presented.

With this economic tailwind behind our nation, the Democrats seem determined to lose in 2020. A motley crew of far left wing zealots like Senator Warren, Reps Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Tlaib are driving the direction of the party and forcing candidates to fall in line.  Warren wants to almost criminalize wealth creation and corporations in this country. This is the only nation on earth where a graduate student like me could land with a meager $520 and today, 30 years later, live in a million plus dollar home and achieve a successful career while still enjoying all the rights and privileges of native-born fellow Americans. 

The Democrats promise a “Medicare for Allthat essentially strips people of their choice of employer provided health care and impose fines if they do not enroll in Medicare. The Democrats would cripple life and commerce in the U.S with their  maniacal focus on climate change, forgetting that China, India and Mexico are the major polluters of this planet. The Democrats want to also make college tuition free, even for millionaire’s kids or those underperforming 

The average American, while certainly willing to make reasonable accommodations, is more focused on providing for their family, educating their kids, retaining their jobs in this rapidly changing workplace, having a secure retirement and on being able to pass on their life’s savings to their loved ones without the Government raiding them. The Democrats and their agendas are completely divorced from this reality. 

At the end of the day, as the old adage goes, Americans vote with their pocket books. Till Trump keeps our pocketbooks filled, the majority will gladly re-elect him in a heartbeat.  The Democrats have given me, this moderate, middle of the road Democrat nothing to say “Yes” to! 

Mark my words, with the Democrats not relating to mainstream  and rural America, and if the economy continues to boom and associated optimism continue to hold up, President Trump will be reelected, and yes, possibly in a landslide. 

Rameysh Ramdas, a resident of the SF Bay Area, has a keen interest in Politics and Current Events. 

Trump in a Landslide? Absolutely Not!

By Mani Subramani

Moody’s model predicted the wrong outcome in the 2016 elections. “In response to the miss, Moody’s expanded the range of potential voter turnout and made several other changes to how it assesses voter reaction to economic conditions. If applied now, Moody’s says the altered models would have called 2016 for Trump,” says this article. That’s the nature of statistical models – they are sometimes wrong!   

Americans are tired of Trump style over substance approach. They are sick of him labeling critical media outlets as fake news, overruling US institutions (CIA) in favor of foreign entities (Putin), disrespecting decorated veterans (Senator McCain), making crude remarks about women, denying climate change, peddling fake conspiracy theories about the deep state and now, potential impeachable offenses!  

In order to justify Trump’s behaviour one needs to disbelieve all media outlets, ignore the obvious effects of climate change, accept incompetent foriegn policy, believe the fake theory that coal jobs are coming back and that globalization can be reversed. 

Trump has always been a conman with a solid base of supporters. Proving the adage that you can fool some people all the time, and all the people some of the time.  Let’s hope, for the sake of this great democracy, that he cannot fool all the people all the time!!

A lot has been made of US economic strength under Trump. However, these analyses ignore several factors. With the exception of a three quarters of 3+% growth, it has been around ~2% to below 2% in the most recent quarter –  a rate which Trump characterized as “weak” while campaigning in 2016.  

Similarly unemployment rate decline, which began in 2010, has just continued to decline and now stabilized around 3.6%. On the other hand budget deficits have exploded. Three consecutive years of rapidly rising deficits threatens to break the trillion dollar mark this year. Having this occur during an economic expansion shows dangerous underlying economic weakness. In sharp contrast, after a high in 2009 the deficits steadily reduced under Obama. Proving once again that whatever Trump does, he does horribly. Exactly what you would expect from a man who specialized in serial bankruptcies! 

This does not mean the voters are going to hand the election to the Democratic nominee. The nominee needs to articulate the message that an irresponsible and crooked leader has wastefully spent the public treasure on wealthy individuals and corporations who spent it on stock buybacks. 

This money would have been better spent on addressing inequality, health security, infrastructure, job training and securing the world for future generations for all Americans. Such investment would lead to sustained economic growth, jobs of the future and improved quality of life.  

In July 2019 the support for impeachment was around ~40%. Recent polls show a majority supporting impeachment. The Democratic nominee must inspire a robust voter turnout. There are a few candidates in the pool who are articulating populist ideas well and practicing good retail politics.  They are quite capable of unseating Trump. 

Mani Subramani is a veteran of the semiconductor equipment industry.  He enjoys following politics and economics.

Santa Clara County Introduces New Voting System

Big changes are coming to the ballot box for the 2020 Primary elections in Santa Clara County – changes that will affect where you vote and how you vote. 

Santa Clara will join a small but growing number of California counties implementing changes mandated by the California Voter’s Choice Act, which aims to make it easier for voters to vote.  These changes go into effect by the March 2020 primary election, as approved by the County Board of Supervisors in April this year.

While there are concerns that the new system might cause confusion and reduce voter participation, the counties that implemented the new model in November 2018 election saw turnout increase by 12 to 19 percent, according to a survey conducted by the Santa Clara County Registrar’s staff. However, several counties statewide saw an increase in turnout which could be attributed to the current political climate. 

Here is what you need to know about the New Vote Center starting with the March 2020 primary election:

  • If you are a Santa Clara resident, instead of casting a ballot at one of nearly 850 neighborhood polling places, you will be able to go to any of 125 voting centers throughout the county, open for multiple days to give you a larger window to cast your ballot
  • The Vote Centers will be equipped with an electronic book that lets poll workers see whether a person has voted at any other location across the county or submitted a vote-by-mail ballot.
  • If you need a replacement ballot, or a ballot in another language, you can have one printed for them on the spot.
  • Every voter will also be automatically sent a vote-by-mail ballot, regardless of whether they signed up for one.
  • Voters can also register to vote at the center at the last minute. 

Santa Clara county residents will also be using an all-new voting system for the 2020 Primary elections with the goal of increasing participation and election security.  

Each Vote Center will have a minimum of three ADA-compliant ballot-marking devices that include a touchscreen tablet and individual printer. These devices provide a simple and intuitive interface for voters.  After marking a ballot on the touchscreen, voters will print the ballot in their voting booth. The voters deposit their paper ballot into the ballot tabulator which will warn the voter about potential errors, allowing the voter to correct the error.

Election Night results will come much faster for the voters because the new system allows for counting at each Voter Center.  Previously, all the ballots were sent to the Registrar’s main office for tabulation. 

The California Secretary of State’s Office has undertaken exhaustive and extensive end-to-end testing to certify the security of the new system. The new voting system is not connected to the internet and cannot receive or transmit any electronic election data.

Fair and free elections are a hallmark of American democracy and the American people’s trust in their government is contingent on their confidence in the election process.   Registrar of Voters, Shannon Bushey thinks that voters will like the new system. “We are looking forward to this change,” she said “….and we appreciate the increase in performance and processing speed the new voting system will bring, as well as its stringent vote-security measures.”

For more information on these changes, contact the Registrar of Voters’ Office at 1-408-299-VOTE (8683) or toll-free at 1-866-430-VOTE (8683), or visit www.sccvote.org

Anjana Nagarajan-Butaney is a Bay Area resident with experience in educational non-profits, community building, networking and content development and was Community Director for an online platform. She is interested in how to strengthen communities by building connections to politics, science & technology, gender equality and public education.

 

 

 

 

 

Indian Americans Not Shy About Testing Political Waters in Mid Terms

Indian Americans have set the stage for a potentially record-breaking year in U.S. politics as nearly 100 of them are on ballots accross the nation in next week’s mid-term elections. And many are first-timers.

There’s even a race for Congress pitting two Indian Americans against each other, the battle for Illinois’ 8th Congressional district east of Chicago. Long held by popular Democratic incumbent Raja Krishnamoorthi, he is being challenged by Republican newcomer Jitendra “JD” Diganvker. An entreprenuer and Uber driver, Diganvker once supported Krishnamoorthi. He now faces an uphill battle against his well-funded opponent. Diganvker said he entered the political fray after witnessing the struggles of average Americans.

“To support my family, I began driving for Uber, logging over 10,000 rides since last year and learning the value of the gig economy. Talking to my Uber partners and riders, I gained a unique understanding of the needs and frustrations of everyday Americans. These are the people who go to work every day, take care of their families, and believe in the American dream. Yet they feel like politicians in DC and Illinois are failing them,” he said.

Other first timers include:

Josh Kaul, a former federal prosecutor and candidate for Wisconsin Attorney General. A Democrat, he says he is running to make Wisconsin safer by tackling issues such as opioid and meth abuse, sexual assault, consumer fraud, and pollution. And he’s putting the state’s current Attorney General, Brad Schimel, squarely in his cross hairs.

Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni is running for Texas’ 22nd House seat covering the south central suburbs of Houston. His opponent is incumbent Republican Pete Olson, first elected in 2008.

“This election is the most important one in our lifetimes,” says Kulkarni, a former U.S. Foriegn Service Officer. “After serving America for almost 15 years overseas, I could no longer serve under an administration that is violating the basic values that made America the great country it is today. When a judge is told he can’t do his job because he’s Mexican-American, or when the administration refuses to condemn a Nazi rally in Charlottesville, we have to take a stand and speak out for true American values.” he said.

“I’m running for Congress because I believe our country is one that treats those who are less fortunate with compassion, that is reasonable in the way we deal with each other and treats all people with decency and respect.”

In Arizona, newbie politician Anita Malik, a former tech company chief operating officer and journalist, is running for Scottsdale, Arizona’s sixth Congressional district northeast of Phoenix. A Democrat, Malik says she’s running because she believes the “district needs a representative who will listen to constituents and then represent them.” She also says she “understands the small-business culture” of the district and wants “to fight for families.”

The Indian American vote will be important for all these candidates, but according to Gautam Raghavan of the Indian American Impact Project and Fund that has endorsed several South Asians, Indian American voters aren’t that different from other Americans when it comes to issues that concern them including health care, education, immigration.

He said recent polls by organizations such as APIA (Asian and Pacific Islander) Vote reveal that “Indian Americans are, among Asian Americans, the most enthusiastic about voting and the most worried about divisiveness in America today.”


Paul Kilduff is a freelance writer based in San Francisco, California. He has written for the East Bay Times, San Francisco Chronicle, East Bay Monthly and many other publications. He has also worked in radio as a reporter, host and producer and even finds time to draw cartoons.