2020 primary elections cause political shake-up

CLAUDIA WALTER
STAFF WRITER

This week has seen the 2020 primaries heating up with the switch of Virginia, a formerly republican red state, to a democratic blue. This voting result is consistent with the surge of more suburban populations attending the polls, which has been seen nationwide. The democrats are in control of the top three statewide offices as well as the House of Delegates and the Senate within Virginia after Tuesday’s election.

An important takeaway from this election is the money put into voter mobilization efforts in Virginia from a Democratic Super PAC, Forward Majority, allowing for more blue voters to turn out in greater numbers.

“A total of 1.2 million Virginians cast votes for Democratic state Senate candidates on Tuesday, while 892,000 chose Republicans, according to the state board of elections. More than 1.1 million voters supported Democratic House of Delegates candidates, while 985,000 chose Republicans,” stated the Washington Post. “Democrats flipped two seats in the state Senate and five seats in the House, ensuring majorities in both chambers. They also gained several seats and took control of the boards of supervisors in both Loudoun and Prince William counties.”

But what are the implications for this switch? More liberal policy changes are to be expected in the state alongside potential ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Virginia is a key state due to its tendency to be majority Republican in its House and Senate seats. Its proximity to Washington DC also shows significance in overall voting trends.

The next important event in the 2020 Democratic Primaries is the fifth debate, which will be taking place in Georgia and is co-hosted by MSNBC and The Washington Post. This increase in debates with next year’s caucuses nearing shows the importance in state leanings from this point onwards.

This election also holds value due to the power of redistricting that is given to the Independent Bipartisan Advisory Commission on Redistricting in Virginia. How these new districts are drawn directly ties into how each party will fare in each section. A new bipartisan commission has been proposed as a constitutional amendment to draw congressional maps and this will require each party’s vote before it is cemented fully.

The most vital aspect of this democratic win in Virginia is how their governmental actions will be perceived by other states. “That could have broader implications given the national election. People will be watching to see what the Democrats do in power now that they have it,” said Mark Rozell, dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University.

Virginia should be placed alongside other key partisan elections that happened in 2019, including Mississippi and Kentucky. The gubernatorial race in Kentucky shows the decline in percentage points for Republican incumbent Bevin, who is losing favor in the polls due to the moderate campaign of Democrat Andy Beshear.

For the students of Alma College, we should remember that our vote counts more than ever in both primary and national elections. 2020’s election is not a guarantee for any party just yet and everyone should make an effort to let their voices be heard civically. 

Tensions rise due to Nat Geo journalist death

CLAUDIA WALTER
STAFF WRITER

On October 4th, a National Geographic journalist was shot in the leg while interviewing a drug dealer in Juarez, Mexico. The individual was caught in an ambush during an interview, wherein the journalist was injured, and several others were killed. The interview was conducted in a “safe house” known for storing drugs that had been previously inspected by police last year.

While the American journalist knew of the risks of interviewing members involved in organized crime, they persisted despite the risk. In terms of danger for journalists, Mexico is the deadliest and five other journalists have been killed within Mexico this year.

President Obrador has frequently questioned the role of media which some have considered to be ammunition for local authorities to seek out journalists to prosecute or harm.

This rhetoric seems to mirror the dialogue within the United States regarding fake news and the president’s opinion of the media in general. Reporters Without Borders, an international non-profit that conducts political advocacy through freedom of information and press, recently expressed that journalists within the United States itself were also subject to levels of abuse and violence.

Through the undermining of journalists, the fate of democracy itself stands on unsteady ground. The country’s place on the World Freedom Index dropped three notches from its position last year, in part due to the problematic environment surrounding journalists.

Even before president Trump, the attitude towards journalism and free press advocates was on the decline. “… the Obama administration was aggressively using the 1917 Espionage Act to prosecute more whistleblowers than any previous administration combined,” states RSF Interim Executive Director Sabine Dolan.

While the United States may not be under an authoritarian regime, the climate of fear had led to the treatment of journalists as scapegoats for other more pressing issues facing our democracy.

This issue matters for students attending Alma College because it reflects the dangers of modern America as well as the world in general. Facets such as freedom of speech, information and press are no longer a guarantee. Whether a person is publishing an article on drug dealers in Juarez or writing about local events, there is the risk of intense scrutiny and violence due to the overall negative connotation with journalism.

It is suspected that journalists are targeted in order to prevent writing that could show a certain cartel in a negative light. The overall Mexican crime wars have shown that the violence surrounding drugs within the country is significant and so far, unstoppable.

Regarding future interviews within Mexico, reports have expressed that police will do patrol ride-alongs with journalists in dangerous neighborhoods, however they will not be assisted if their intent is to document illegal activity.

The names of the National Geographic journalist and the deceased have not been released to the public as of the writing of this article.

Constitutionality of electing judges

CLAUDIA WALTER
STAFF WRITER

There is contention within the Michigan political system regarding the election of judges and its overall constitutionality and ethics.

This issue has become more prevalent in the political system as of late due to the Michigan Secretary of State making a statement on the activity, highlighting the lack of investigation into shady practices by judges. Since these judges are elected in a similar way to other political candidates, potential problems like acceptance of “dark money,” empty campaign promises and overall disdain for individual rights over interest groups.

When reaching out to the political science department on this topic, professors like Dr. Gorton stated that the practice of electing judges doesn’t go against the Constitution at the federal or the state level but exists as an old check on elites to restore power to the common people.

However, while the process of electing judges doesn’t violate any specific laws, it can lead to acts of partisanship in a field where the individuals need to pay closer attention to the law.

“…these judges can receive contributions from interest groups in the same way that political parties can, leading to campaigns that could ultimately lead to impartial rulings,” said William Gorton, professor of political science.

This practice runs the risk of alienating the voter who may not know much about the political background of these judges, especially because their parties are not listed on the ballot like other candidates. This secret partisanship can almost nullify the campaigns of these judges and thereby makes the whole process useless.

This issue is not limited to Michigan and it exists across the country at a federal and state level. Former Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor actively campaigned against the practice of electing judges during a tour through the states and mentioned some key issues. Her words on this trail still hold true today.

“When you enter one of these courtrooms, the last thing you want to worry about is whether the judge is more accountable to a campaign contributor or an ideological group than to the law,” said Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

At the forefront of these issues is the increase in pro-business rulings due to campaign monetary contributions, a decrease in judicial diversity as well as a stronger inclination for these elected judges to rule in favor of death penalties.

The Supreme Court has ruled on this issue back in 2015 in Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar, wherein it was decided that personal campaign contributions could be prohibited by states in order to keep the courtroom fair and impartial. While this case balances free speech against government interests through the due process clause, it still leaves a lot open at the state level in terms of how to follow through with the precedent.

How does this impact the average student attending Alma College? Gorton responded with, “this affects every individual in some way due to the way this partisanship skews rulings beyond a completely fair case.” If one were to find themselves in a serious legal case with an elected judge, they are at the mercy of the individual judge’s ideological beliefs over impartiality.

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