Another stolen election? Growing corruption and electoral malpractice are weakening faith in democracy.
Corruption is everywhere. According to Transparency International's 2018 Corruption Perception Index report, about two-thirds of countries in the world have very high levels of corruption. Democratic elections are supposed to be a means of granting citizens the voice to penalize corrupt leaders that are benefiting at the expense of the electorate. However, from my experience in my home country, Zimbabwe, and the results in many other developing countries, elections are frequently failing to hold leaders accountable. Elections strengthen dictatorial rule and further corruption by the ruling party under the guise of legitimized support by the voters. The failure to control corruption and lack of transparent administration of elections are a growing threat to democracy.
Allegations of election fraud are a common feature of the electoral cycle for most African elections. International observers swarm a country in an attempt to ensure that the incumbent government administers free and fair elections. However, this monitoring does not seem to be a significant deterrent for election fraud given how frequently opposition leaders call elections into question. Just this past month, the elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Nigeria were initially postponed, raising concerns of corruption and rigging.
Election fraud manifests itself across the world in different ways. Several African leaders in power have been accused of employing some of the following tactics to maintain power:
If you were somehow unaware, Ralph Northam, the Governor of Virginia, came under fire this week after the conservative website Big League Politics reported a racist photo being displayed on the Governor’s Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook page. The photo, which shows one person in blackface and one person in Ku Klux Klan robes (very presumably Northam and a friend), immediately prompted widespread calls for his resignation nationwide. Almost everyone from the Virginia Democratic and Republican Parties to Donald Trump and several democrats running for president have demanded that Northam step down. But, despite my personal disgust with the photo, my initial reaction was that he shouldn’t resign.
When I saw the photo, the first thing I thought of was a project I did for my AP US History class at the end of my junior year of high school. Two weeks before the exam, our teacher asked my class to prepare a short presentation on an official AP term which we had not yet had the opportunity to cover. For my project, I chose the term “minstrel shows” because, despite not really knowing what they were, I knew that they were somehow connected to African American history. I was (obviously) appalled by my research. And though I had always known that blackface was problematic, I wasn’t able to fully grasp the historical context and significance until I did that project.
Unfortunately, due to a combo of snow days and poor planning by my teacher, I never actually presented my findings to the rest of the class. Instead (and pretty ironically), we spent that hour-long class period that had been allocated for the presentations going over the entirety of African American history since the end of Reconstruction. I am not exaggerating. In a day, we went from the rise of Jim Crow to A. Philip Randolph to Brown v Board of Education to the Black Power movements. And that was the only time we ever discussed such matters in the class.
by Michael Mozelle
The new Representative elect from Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, Barbara Comstock, will have a difficult time living up to the legacy of sitting Representative Frank Wolf (R-Va.). As a 23-year veteran member of Congress, Wolf has been a rare model of bipartisan leadership and legislative effectiveness.
Congressman Wolf was first elected in 1980 during a wave of Republican victories under Ronald Reagan, after serving in the Army and working as an Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior from 1974-75. He faced few serious challenges to his seat during his time in Congress.
He has consistently used his position in Congress to advocate for human rights and religious freedom around the world, particularly in China, unlike many of his more hyper-partisan junior colleagues. Though he holds socially conservative stances on abortion and marriage equality, he falls within the ever shrinking middle ground of ideological moderates in Congress. Such a narrowing of ideological purity does little good for constituents, who may find themselves increasingly unrepresented by the platform of either major party.
According to Vanderbilt Prof. Alan Wiseman and Batten Prof. Craig Volden’s The Lawmakers, Congressman Wolf fell below average legislative effectiveness only once during his career in Congress and consistently ranked well above average between 1981 and 2012.GovTrack.us, a similar site that tracks voting records, placed Wolf in the top 5 percent of Republicans for bipartisan voting.
by Grady Brown
There are a few weeks until the midterm elections, and some Virginians have raised concerns about the state’s voter ID law, passed back in 2013. The contentious bill barely passed the Senate, requiring then Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling to cast the deciding vote.
Lt. Gov. Bolling explained his deciding vote in a press release saying, “I think [the bill] is a reasonable effort to tighten voter identification requirements and assure greater integrity in the voting process.” However, Democrats remained unconvinced. Senator Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) stated, “we still have no evidence of voter fraud. None at all.” Senator John Edwards (D-Roanoke) claimed that the bill was “simply a voter suppression bill.”
Coming into effect this year, the law requires voters to show a valid form of photo identification at their place of polling. Voters may vote provisionally if they lack proper identification, but provisional voters must either mail a copy of their identification or present one in person within three days to County election officials.
Virginia is one of 34 states that has passed a voter ID law. Like many others, the Virginia bill sharply divided Republicans and Democrats. Republicans were primarily concerned with voter fraud in Virginia. The Virginia Voters Alliance recently reported a case of 43,893 duplicate registered voters in both Maryland and Virginia and 164 voters that appeared to vote in both states.