Saturday, June 16, 2018

Poor and no vote

"The principle of 'one person, one vote' applies in theory, but is increasingly far from reality," UN special rapporteur Philip Alston says in the report. 

The net result of gerrymandering of electoral districts to privilege particular groups of voters, and the imposition of artificial and unnecessary voter identification requirements, among other factors, is that "people living in poverty, minorities and other disfavoured groups are being systematically deprived of their right to vote", the report says.

"In the US, there is overt disenfranchisement of more than six million felons and ex-felons," writes the Australian professor, who is co-chair of the New York University School of Law's Centre for Human Rights and Global Justice. This "predominantly affects black citizens since they are the ones whose conduct is often specifically targeted for criminalisation," he writes.

The US has one of the lowest voter turnouts in elections in the developed world - 55.7 per cent in the 2016 presidential election. Only about 64 per cent of America's voting-age population was registered in 2016. This contrasts sharply with other advanced countries. Canada and Britain are at 91 per cent, Sweden is at 96 per cent and Japan is at nearly 99 per cent.

Low voter turnout is also explained by "the perception that election outcomes will have no impact on the lives of poor people", the report says. There is a broad absence of party representation for low-income and working-class voters.

About 40 million Americans live in poverty, 18.5 million in extreme poverty, and 5.3 million in "Third World conditions of absolute poverty", the report says. At the bottom are indigenous people.
 "Indigenous peoples, as a group, suffer disproportionately from multidimensional poverty and social exclusion. The 2016 poverty rate among American Indian and Alaska Native peoples was 26.2 per cent, the highest among all ethnic groups," the report said. Indigenous peoples also have the highest unemployment rate of any ethnic group - 12 per cent in 2016, compared with the national average of 5.8 per cent.

Stanford Centre on Poverty and Inequality researchers Charles Varner, Marybeth Mattingly and David Grusky wrote in a spring 2017 paper that the poor in America were "becoming a more deprived and destitute class, one that's disconnected from the economy and unable to meet basic needs".

No comments: