Monday, October 25, 2010

If Portland Maine had any honor and good sense...and other voting matters

Reporter’s Question:  Should Portland Maine allow non-citizens to vote?
Concerned Citizen’s Answer: It would serve a much greater purpose if Portland Maine were buried in six-feet of Portland cement than allow any non-citizen to vote.
Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never, in nothing, great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. ~ Winston Churchill
If Portland Maine had any honor and good sense the question never would have been asked.  ~ Norman E. Hooben
Portland, Maine, weighs letting noncitizens vote
By CLARKE CANFIELD Associated Press Writer
October 24, 2010 8:43 AM
PORTLAND, Maine — Like his neighbors, Claude Rwaganje pays taxes on his income and taxes on his cars. His children have gone to Portland's public schools. He's interested in the workings of Maine's largest city, which he has called home for 13 years.
There's one vital difference, though: Rwaganje isn't a U.S. citizen and isn't allowed to vote on those taxes or on school issues. That may soon change.
Portland residents will vote Nov. 2 on a proposal to give legal residents who are not U.S. citizens the right to vote in local elections, joining places like San Francisco and Chicago that have already loosened the rules or are considering it.
Noncitizens hold down jobs, pay taxes, own businesses, volunteer in the community and serve in the military, and it's only fair they be allowed to vote, Rwaganje said.
"We have immigrants who are playing key roles in different issues of this country, but they don't get the right to vote," said Rwaganje, 40, who moved to the U.S. because of political strife in his native Congo and runs a nonprofit that offers financial advice to immigrants.
Opponents of the measure say immigrants already have an avenue to cast ballots — by becoming citizens. Allowing noncitizens to vote dilutes the meaning of citizenship, they say, adding that it could lead to fraud and unfairly sway elections.
"My primary objection is I don't think it is right, I don't think it is just, I don't think it is fair," Portland resident Barbara Campbell Harvey said.
In San Francisco, a ballot question Nov. 2 will ask voters whether they want to allow noncitizens to vote in school board elections if they are the parents, legal guardians or caregivers of children in the school system.
Noncitizens are allowed to vote in school board elections in Chicago and in municipal elections in half a dozen towns in Maryland, said Ron Hayduk, a professor at the City University of New York and author of "Democracy for All: Restoring Immigrant Voting Rights in the United States."
New York City allowed noncitizens to vote in community school board elections until 2003, when the school board system was reorganized, and several municipalities in Massachusetts have approved allowing it but don't yet have the required approval from the Legislature, he said.
The Maine ballot questions asks whether legal immigrants who are city residents but not U.S. citizens should be allowed to vote in municipal elections. If the measure passes, noncitizens would be able to cast ballots in school board, city council and school budget elections, as well as other local issues, but not on federal or statewide matters.
The Maine League of Young Voters, which spearheaded the drive to force the question on the ballot, estimates there are 5,000 to 7,500 immigrants in Portland, roughly half of whom are not U.S. citizens. They come from more than 100 countries, with the two largest groups from Somalia and Latin America.
On a recent day in a small lunchroom at the Al-Amin Halal Market, a group of Somali men ate lunch and talked in their native language. A sign advertised the day's offerings, including hilib ari (goat), bariis (rice) and baasto (spaghetti).
Abdirizak Daud, 40, moved to Minneapolis 18 years ago before coming to Portland in 2006. He hasn't been able to find a job. Some of his nine children have attended Portland schools, and he'd like to have a say in who's looking over the school system and the city, he said.
But between his limited English and the financial demands, Daud hasn't been able to become a citizen.
"I like the Democrats. I want to vote for Democrats, but I don't have citizenship," he said.
To become a citizen, immigrants must be a lawful permanent resident for at least five years, pass tests on English and U.S. history and government, and swear allegiance to the United States.
Supporters of Portland's ballot measure say the process is cumbersome, time-consuming and costly. The filing fee and fingerprinting costs alone are $675, and many immigrants spend hundreds of dollars more on English and civics classes and for a lawyer to help them through the process.
Allowing noncitizens to vote fits with basic democratic principles, Hayduk said.
Historically, 40 states allowed noncitizens to vote going back to 1776, but an anti-immigrant backlash in the late 1800s and early 1900s resulted in laws that eliminated their voting rights by 1926, Hayduk said.
"We look back in history and we say that was a bad thing that we didn't allow African-Americans to vote, or we didn't allow half the population, women, to vote, or we didn't allow younger people to vote," he said. "We've modified our election laws to become more inclusive to incorporate more members of society."
The Federation for American Immigration Reform, a Washington, D.C., group that advocates tougher immigration enforcement, says voting is a privilege and should be limited to citizens.
"People who are legal immigrants to the United States after a five-year waiting period can become citizens and become enfranchised," spokesman Ira Mehlman said. "But until then, being here as a legal immigrant is a conditional agreement, sort of like a trial period. You have to demonstrate you are the type of person we would want to have as a citizen, then you can become a citizen and vote."
Then there’s Canada… where they’re making it a little more difficult to vote. (Note: Check out those'll get enough information from them that will make you capable of passing the voting test. ~ Storm'n Norm'n)

Citizenship Test to Now Test Rights and Privileges of Citizenship | 新試題或考起中台移民

Adults applying for Canadian citizenship are required to demonstrate “an adequate knowledge of Canada and of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship”.  This knowledge is demonstrated through a 30-minute test that is known as the “Citizenship Test”.  The test contains 20 questions, of which applicants must answer 15 correctly. In November, 2009, the Conservative government introduced a new citizenship study guide called Discover Canada: the Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship.  In March, 2010, a new test was introduced to reflect Discover Canada.  This test was much harder than the previous one, and test-takers were required to demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the political, geographical, and cultural characteristics of Canada.   As the test was more difficult, the pass-rate predictably fell.
On September 30, 2010, the government amended the Citizenship Regulations to introduce further changes to the citizenship test.  Pursuant to the amendments, the “rights and privileges of Canadian citizenship” will now be tested.
The Amendments
Previously, the relevant portion of the Citizenship Regulations read:
15. The criteria for determining whether a person has an adequate knowledge of Canada and of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship are that, based on questions prepared by the Minister, the person has a general understanding of
(a) the right to vote in federal, provincial and municipal elections and the right to run for elected office;
(b) enumerating and voting procedures related to elections; and
(c) one of the following topics, to be included at random in the questions prepared by the Minister, namely,
(i) the chief characteristics of Canadian social and cultural history,
(ii) the chief characteristics of Canadian political history,
(iii) the chief characteristics of Canadian physical and political geography, or
(iv) the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship, other than those referred to in paragraphs (a) and (b).
Pursuant to the amendments, the section now reads:
15. (1) A person is considered to have an adequate knowledge of Canada if they demonstrate, based on their responses to questions prepared by the Minister, that they know the national symbols of Canada and have a general understanding of the following subjects:
(a) the chief characteristics of Canadian political and military history;
(b) the chief characteristics of Canadian social and cultural history;
(c) the chief characteristics of Canadian physical and political geography;
(d) the chief characteristics of the Canadian system of government as a constitutional monarchy; and
(e) characteristics of Canada other than those referred to in paragraphs (a) to (d).
(2) A person is considered to have an adequate knowledge of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship if they demonstrate, based on their responses to questions prepared by the Minister, that they have a general understanding of the following subjects:
(a) participation in the Canadian democratic process;
(b) participation in Canadian society, including volunteerism, respect for the environment and the protection of Canada’s natural, cultural and architectural heritage;
(c) respect for the rights, freedoms and obligations set out in the laws of Canada; and
(d) the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship other than those referred to in paragraphs (a) to (c).
So what’s new?
First, as has become the fashion with the Conservative government, the test for determining adequate knowledge of Canada and the test for determining awareness of the privileges of citizenship have been broken out into two sections. This undoubtedly improves clarity and is more reflective of the corresponding provision in the Citizenship Act.
Second, the amount of testable subjects to determine “knowledge of Canada” has been expanded upon.  While potential citizens previously essentially only had to understand the voting system and one other characteristic of Canadian history as enumerated in s. 15(c), the regulations suggest that they will now be expected to know all the topics contained in Discover Canada. As well, new topics have been added. Prospective citizens will be expected to know key points about Canadian military history and to know the characteristics of Canada’s system of government as a constitutional monarchy.  Personally, I can’t wait to see a question asking “In 2008, which Prime Minister prorogued Parliament to avoid the prospect of a coalition government?”
Previously in this blog, I jokingly recommended that people needing to become familiar with Canada need only watch the video below:
As a result of the amendments, I am now recommending that people upgrade to this video:
Third, the test for determining the “responsibilities and privileges of citizenship” have also been expanded upon.  When the “Strengthening the Value of Canadian Citizenship Act” was introduced, I commented on how I thought that the Bill’s title completely misunderstood how citizenship is valued by prospective immigrants, and, indeed, probably by most Canadians.  I argued that the value of Canadian citizenship wasn’t determined by difficult it was to obtain, but rather by how strong Canada’s economy and how greatly are individual liberties are protected. I have a similar issue with the “responsibilities and privileges of citizenship” section.  Previously, this meant testing voting and an understanding of Canada’s electoral system.  Now, a plethora of new subjects from volunteerism and architecture are introduced.  Since when is volunteerism and the protection of Canada’s architectural heritage a feature of being a Canadian citizen? Personally, I think the old system of testing an understanding of the democratic process, the ability in which to participate in is what distinguishes citizens from permanent and temporary residents, is the only topic that should be tested under the “rights and privileges of Canadian citizenship section”.
Mandatory Questions Removed
Previously, the citizenship test contained certain mandatory questions which needed to be answered correctly by applicants in order to pass. These questions tested the applicant’s knowledge of “the right to vote”, the “right to run for elected office”, and “voting procedures related to elections”. Remarkably, these three questions, which I believe are the only true questions that test an understanding of the rights and privileges of Canadian citizenship, are no longer mandatory.
Applicants who have failed the test for incorrectly answering one (or more) of the mandatory questions, and who have as of October 14th have not yet been scheduled for a hearing or retest will no longer need to re-write the test, and will instead be referred to a citizenship judge.
Applicants who have failed the test for incorrectly answering one (or more) of the mandatory questions and who as of October 14th have been scheduled for a retest will also no longer have to have to re-write the test.
Where a hearing resulting from a re-test has been scheduled, then the citizenship judge will decide whether they will conduct a paper review or proceed with a full hearing.
The Chinese-Canadian newspaper Sing Tao has picked up this story.
對於公民及移民部剛修訂公民入籍考試內容,有移民律師指對中國大陸及台灣的移民仍會感到太深,因此不及格率仍會很高;另有律師指不明白,為何新修訂的入籍 考試中,要考加國的軍事歷史及義工精神(volunteerism)。而有入籍考試導師則指出,修訂之後,最困難的將是口試部分,考生需要具有一定的英語 表達能力,才能過關。
移民律師錢路表示,由3月15日生效的新版入籍考試內容,實在是非常難,雖然他沒有實際的數字,但他相信不及格率一 定很高,他指《發現加拿大:公民權利和責任》不錯是一本很好、更是很值得看的書,但要讀懂它,必須具備本地中學畢業,還要成績好的學生程度,對於來自中國 大陸及台灣的一般移民來說,這本書肯定是過於艱深。
另一位律師穆偉士(Steven Meurrens)指出,據他所知,入籍考試的及格率一直以來都超過一半,新版入籍考試實行後,合格率確實出現輕微下降。
...and one more [This from: Achieving Balance In An Unbalanced World]
Is Voting a 'right' or a 'privlege' ?
Is there a 'right' to vote? Or should we take a different view and argue that it is a 'privilege' to vote? Let's see.
If voting is a 'right', especially if you call it a 'civil right' then by definition it can not be taken away. Rights can not be lost, for then they would not be 'rights'. Privileges can be lost (ask any teenager!), but not rights. Also, 'rights' belong to everyone equally, so if you have any rules about voting, it can not be a 'right'. Many countries have a minimum voting age. Well, since many countries are filled with convicted criminals that can not vote, as well as underage people that can not vote, voting can not be legally considered a 'right'.
Well then, it is a privilege? If so, there are rules on earning it and on losing it. How does one 'earn' the privilege to vote? Is it by being a landowner? Is it by being born male, or by being old enough? How old is old enough? Is it 18 or 21 years of age?
Do any of these rules, or the many other ones tried by countries over the centuries ensure quality voters? Many of us know people of voting age that are just plain, well, not intelligent voters. We also know people too young to vote that are very careful and intelligent about casting their vote. I know dumb landowners and intelligent renters. If you want to call voting a privilege, I assure you that any line you draw for people to cross in order to 'earn' that privilege will be a flawed line. I offer you the argument that voting is not a privilege.
Voting in political elections is not a right, nor is it a privilege. Then what is it? I contend that it is a grave responsibility. Those that do not agree, should not be allowed to vote. Those that do agree, should be allowed to vote. They should strive hard to make 'informed' decisions which are best for them in the long-term.
If you have comments on this that you would like to share, please email me .
For those with a spiritual bend to them, let's continue this with a new subject, but using the same arguments. Is it a 'right' or a 'privilege' to be called a "Child of God"?
Many would say it is a 'right', but if so then they would also believe in 'Universal Salvation' to be consistent. If one person is a "Child of God" (I mean this in the way that the Jewish people over the centuries referred to themselves, as well as the way that Christians often do it today, and the way that members of other religions use the phrase.) then all are "Children of God" if it is a right. Oh, note that the phrase "birthright" refers to inherited privileges, not to 'rights'.
Some say that being a "Child of God" is a privilege, which means that it can be lost, or some line has to be drawn which must be crossed for YOU to become such a "Child". Who draws the line? Who monitors it? How do we know when someone has crossed it going in the wrong direction?
If you believe that you are a "Child of God", and you are priviledged, then you will stop acting in a Godlike fashion and become . . . pig-headed to all who don't respect you. You will accurately tell me, and several have, that God will never flush you.
My point in all this is not what God will do, but what you are doing! Let's not rely on God 100% of the time, and do nothing about anything! If a room is full of darkness, is it not time to bring in some light? If people are hungry, doesn't someone have to grow some food to feed them?
God does not steer a parked car!
Again, I say that it is neither, it is a responsibility. You do not 'chose' to become a "Child of God", you are "called" to be one. It is a responsibility that many seek, but few are given, and NONE can chose. None. Just as not a single human being in history has ever chosen their physical parentage, none of them can choose their spiritual parentage. God calls you and you either answer the call or fight it.
You are not great because you are called, nor are you called because you are great. As a Christian, you are not perfect, you have merely accepted the fact that you are merely human, need forgiveness, and are willing to serve the highest ranking being in existence, instead of staying self-centered.
Is the movie "Lord of the Ring: The Fellowship of the Ring", after Saruman the Wizard is presented the first of his Uruk-hai Orcs, he asks him this one question: "Whom do you serve?"
I believe that God will ask us the same question, not because He doesn't know, but because we will have to confront the issue at the judgement throne. For those of us that continued to serve ourselves until our last breathe, the destination will be different than for those that can honestly say that serve their Creator.

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