News  Outside the Bubble Nov. 5

Voter Suppression in the U.S.

American midterm elections will be held November 6; however, states across the country are passing legislation to suppress the voting rights of people of colour. Carol Anderson, chair of African-American Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, GA., told the CBC that she believes laws with the goal of suppressing Black votes are being drafted with “horrific efficiency.”

Georgia has an “exact match” policy, meaning that a voter registration form can be rejected if it contains a single misspelling. On October 24, only two weeks before midterms, a judge ruled that voters must be notified of their status and given a chance to fix the error. 70 per cent of voters denied due to the exact match policy have been Black. The exact match policy is enforced by chief election officer Brian Kemp, who is running for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams. If she wins, Abrams will be the first Black female governor in the entire country. Kemp has been endorsed by President Trump and has a largely white voter base.

Dodge City, Kansas, which is predominantly Hispanic, has closed its only polling place: residents will now have to travel further to access a polling location. This will require voters to take more time off from work in order to vote, and will require access to a vehicle; as, the nearest bus stop is a mile away from the new polling place. Dodge City is currently being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for intentionally misleading voters about the location change.

North Dakota has a new policy in place which will target Indigenous voters. North Dakota was the only state in which voters were not required to register before election day and provide proof of residency in order to vote. Now, voters must provide a residential address, which proves difficult for many Indigenous people, as the five reservations in North Dakota do not use the same addressing system as the rest of the state. The policy, put in place by a Republican-led Legislature, is being introduced prior to the potential re-election of Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, who narrowly won a Senate seat in 2012 due to support from Indigenous communities.

Khashoggi Case Drags On

Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2. Khashoggi was a journalist for The Washington Post, a U.S. resident, and a critic of the Saudi royal family. He went to the consulate to retrieve proof of his past divorce so he could marry his fiancée. Initially, Saudi officials had denied any knowledge of what happened inside the consulate. Later, they retracted their statement, instead saying the journalist died in a fist fight. After weeks of pressure by Turkish prosecutors, they admitted that the murder was premeditated, and identified 18 suspects in the case.

The Turkish government, unhappy with the way the investigation has been proceeding, has insisted that the suspects face prosecution in Turkey, but Saudi Arabia demands that the case be dealt with on their own grounds.

Currently hindering the investigation is the unknown whereabouts of Khashoggi’s body. “I want to bury the body of beloved Jamal. Therefore I am asking once again, where is his body? I believe that the Saudi regime knows where his body is. They should answer my demand,” said Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancée. Despite pressures from Turkish officials, Saudi authorities have not yet forfeited any information pertaining to the location of the body.

The United States has hesitated to get involved in the issue, although they have condemned Saudi Arabia’s resistance to a full investigation. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated it would be a “handful more weeks” before the U.S. could retaliate. Security interests, such as U.S. access to Saudi Arabia’s petroleum resources, could be at stake if the U.S. decides to further their investigation of Khashoggi’s death.

Merkel Resigns from CDU

On October 29, Angela Merkel announced in an address to her party that she will not be seeking re-election as Germany’s chancellor when her office term ends in 2021. Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) suffered heavy losses in regional elections in the German state of Hesse. Merkel took responsibility for the CDU’s losses in the local elections, and confirmed to party members that she will not run again for the leadership of the party come December. The party’s decline in popularity is related to the rising right wing and anti-immigration sentiments, notably in the form of the nationalist Alternative for Germany party. The question is now whether Merkel will be able to last her full term. It is speculated that the current coalition between her party and the Social Democrats may collapse before the next national elections, in which case a snap election would be called.

Whichever direction the upcoming elections take, changes at the top of Germany’s political hierarchy can have important implications for all of Europe; the announcement of Merkel’s resignation itself has shaken confidence in the Euro within the region. Her successor will face major challenges. Reshaping the European Union after Brexit, Europe’s response to refugees, strengthening European unity, and clashes with governments in the west (the United States and the Trump Administration), and to the east (Russia and the Kremlin) are all factors the next chancellor must deal with. Merkel has confirmed that she will not be formally backing any of the candidates for the position.