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What the world can learn from Chile’s latest steps towards a true democracy

By Harriet Piercy

Oct 30, 2020

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On Sunday 25 October, the tables turned for Chile, marking an entirely new era and inciting hope for all, including the rest of the watching world. After a year of continuous anti-government protests from Chilean people demanding a radical change in their society, the work put into them has finally paid off. With voices heard and action taken towards creating a truer and improved version of democracy, what is happening exactly, and what does it mean for Chile’s future?

The protests began in October 2019, when hundreds of thousands of people filled the streets of Santiago de Chile demanding important (and needed) changes such as higher wages, pensions, better health care and improved education. In one day alone, more than a million people took to the streets of the capital.

On Monday 26, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera acknowledged a victory for all of those who were seeking a new charter but cautioned that it was only the beginning of what will be a long process towards direct change. He announced that “Starting today, we must all collaborate so that the new Constitution is the great framework for unity, stability and the future.”

The dedicated new convention will begin drafting a new constitution that will be submitted to voters in mid 2022. Despite being considered as one of the most politically stable countries in Latin America, Chile’s current constitution was drafted upon Augusto Pinochet’s outdated military regime from 1980. “Up until now, the constitution has divided us,” added President Piñera.

Augusto Pinochet’s former regime and plebiscite

Former President of Chile and head of the country’s military government, Augusto Pinochet, promoted an unjust system that was plagued by racial and gender inequalities. There was also a severe lack of freedom and respect for indigenous populations, the Mapuche people, all for the sake of fulfilling the government’s false promises towards ‘economic prosperity’. In his determination to exterminate leftism within the country all together, tens of thousands of opponents to his regime were tortured. After 17 years of dictatorship, 1990 saw a plebiscite (referendum) finally put an end to Pinochet’s reign.

After Chile’s transition from dictatorship to democracy, the country experienced several decades of economic growth while striking a fine balance and alternation between the left and right government parties. However, even as these parties peacefully replaced each other and it looked as though troubles were smoothing over, inequality was still deeply rooted within the Chilean society. The middle class had to suffer high prices with their low wages, tax evasion was frequented by the political and corporate elite, which faltered the trust in the government from the rest of the country and inevitably led to this justified social and political unrest.

Chile’s protests

Violence was seen to be increasing as Chilean protestors’ voices were failing to be heard, but in November 2019, fear of the violence becoming worse in the streets led representatives from a broad range of political parties to sign an agreement for social peace as well as a whole new constitution, which now has been approved almost unanimously by the houses of congress. And on Sunday 25 October, the stage was set for the referendum to finally take place, having been delayed due to the COVID-19 crisis.

In an unprecedented move, a profound agreement was also reached allowing women to make up 50 per cent of any subsequent constituent assembly. The electoral votes in favour of establishing a new constitution were much higher than expected and came to a total of 78.3 per cent. Many more people voted for the first time ever, as they adhered to the socially distant rules and queues showing dedication and faith in democratic and institutional change.

Chile has now erupted with celebrations much like the ones of 1989, when the referendum put an end to the dictatorship of Pinochet. Political scientist at University of Chile Maria Cristina Escudero told the Guardian that “We got to this stage as the country is in a crisis. It’s not only that the constitution is illegitimate, but it’s not suitable for the reality we live in—it’s time to change it.”

Chilean constitution

The assembly plans to take office in May 2021, and its new constitution must be approved in a second referendum, which will take place in the first half of 2022, when the president of the republic will be convening an election with 155 new members of the mixed constitutional convention on 11 April 2021. A mix of gendered seats as well as seats for indigenous people will be granted for the first time. The rewiring of the constitution will allow the voices of the public’s frustration and pleas to finally be heard after months of protesting. Thanks to the people and the power of communal voice, Chile will become the first country in the world to have a real parity in the drafting of a constitution.

This is just the start, but it is a start that should lead the way in demonstrating what is, and should be possible for the rest of the world.

What the world can learn from Chile’s latest steps towards a true democracy


By Harriet Piercy

Oct 30, 2020

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US presidential election 2020: voter resources and helpful links

By Screen Shot

Oct 29, 2020

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As Election Day approaches—today, we’re only 6 days away from it—so do the potential consequences this election’s results could have on the US, even long after 3 November 2020. While some of you might have already voted, there is actually far more you could do to do your part in what is one of the most important US presidential elections ever. Here are resources and helpful links you’ll need as a US voter in order to get involved in this year’s election.

1. Register to vote

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? As a US citizen, voting is your responsibility as it represents your chance to shape the future of your country. What kind of American do you want to be, and more importantly, what kind of America do you want to live in? Those two questions will be answered in your vote, so make sure you make the effort to have a say in these elections.

Before you start looking at your voting options, check your voter registration status here to make sure your name is still on the list at the right address. If you’ve never voted before, you’ll need to register first, which you can do here in less than 30 seconds!

Keep in mind that registration deadlines for the general election vary from state to state, so if you still haven’t registered to vote, it may not be too late for you! Simply find your state in the dropdown menu on this page to learn more about your registration deadlines.

Once you’ve registered, check to see where you’re voting from and whether your state requires you to show an ID before you vote. Do not forget your ID, or you might end up going to your local polling station and have your vote denied. You can also find out whether you need one or not on your state’s page, here.

2. Postal ballots: the safest or most dangerous way to vote?

Until recently, voting by mail was claimed to be the safest way to vote. Why? Because voting by mail meant that you wouldn’t need to go to your polling station on Election Day, which would in result expose you to less coronavirus-related risk. And while this was certainly true for those who voted early using postal ballots, the situation might have already changed as election officials in many states say it is now too late for voters to return absentee ballots by mail and are instead encouraging them to deliver their ballots by hand or vote in person.

State rules differ on how late ballots can be received and whether they can still count. Absentee ballots must be received on Election Day in more than 24 states, including a handful of key swing states such as Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, some states approved new rules that will allow ballots postmarked by Election Day to be counted, so long as they are received within a specified time window after 3 November. But this means that in 29 states, if your ballot isn’t received on Election Day by the close of the polls, then it won’t be counted. In 28 of those states, it is now taking more than 6 days for local first-class mail to get delivered.

In case this wasn’t clear enough, in Michigan for example, more than 3 million ballots were requested. How many of them were returned? Just over 2 million ballots, which means that a million ballots are still out there. Will they get there in time to be counted? Probably not. As if this wasn’t dodgy enough, California is now investigating unauthorised ballot boxes installed by Republicans.

When it comes to elections, better be safe than sorry. If you’re reading this now and wondering whether you should try voting by mail, here’s your answer: don’t, it is too late already. Just make sure you go to the right polling station, with your ID, on Election Day. You’ll have to queue and probably wait for a long time, but trust us, it will be worth it.

If you still have your ballot with you and are wondering what to do with it if you can’t send it, make sure to bring it with you to your polling station on Election Day and deliver it by hand.

3. What’s the difference between absentee ballots and vote by mail ballots?

Both are ways that voters can cast a ballot by voting from home and returning their ballot through the mail. While states like Washington, Oregon, Utah, Hawaii and Colorado conduct all-mail elections and automatically send registered voters a ballot, most states ask that you first fill out a request form in order to have a ballot sent to you. That’s called absentee voting. The only difference is whether or not you have to request a ballot yourself, but both follow the voting by mail processes.

4. What if I requested a vote by mail ballot but decided in the end to vote on Election Day?

It depends on the state you vote in. While many states will still allow you to vote in person if you bring your vote-by-mail ballot to your polling place in order for them to invalidate the mail ballot and count your in-person ballot instead, others might specifically apply different rules. Check with your state’s election office to learn what rules apply in your state. If you forget to bring your mail-in ballot, or if you lose it, keep in mind that you can still cast a provisional ballot in-person on Election Day.

5. Key states

The presidential election will come down to what voters do in a few specific states, which are commonly called key states. Below is a list of those states and why they’re so important, however, remember that the individual races in every state are very important too, so you need to get involved no matter where you live.

Arizona could give Democrats their best chance to flip a traditionally red state.

This year, winning Florida would mean Democrats would only need to flip one more battleground state.

Michigan is where Trump won by the smallest margin of victory in 2016. Democrats flipped eight statewide seats in 2018, which means it’s now one of their best chances to flip a state in 2020.

North Carolina was unique in 2016, electing Trump along with a Democratic Governor and Attorney General, which is a strong sign that voters can potentially be swung.

Although Trump surprised everyone with a Pennsylvania win in 2016, Democrats have flipped seats since then and momentum is on their side.

In 2016, Trump won Wisconsin by less than one point and a Democrat won the governorship by less than one point in 2018 meaning Wisconsin could be the closest battleground state of all.

No matter where you live, you can directly support the work of organisers, volunteers, and candidates in the six key battleground states that will be most important to delivering a progressive majority in 2020. Just pick a state, sign up, and you’ll get everything you need to make a big difference this November. Find out more information about exactly how you can get involved and help those states by clicking on one of them or here.

6. Become a poll worker

Over half of poll workers in 2016 were over the age of 60, which also happens to be the group in the greatest danger from COVID-19 this year. Considering the fact that the US needs at least 1 million poll workers on Election Day, this means that more poll workers are urgently needed! If you’re young, healthy and willing to help, sign up to be trained and work as a poll worker at your polling location here.

7. Volunteer

You could also help by volunteering at a specific state’s Voter Protection Department. From hotline volunteers to poll observers, polling stations are looking for staff, so why not help and protect voting rights? Find out where you can volunteer here.

8. Donate

If you’ve got a dollar to spare but you’re not sure who to donate it to in order for it to have the biggest impact possible, then you’ll want to have a look at this page. On there, you’ll find out more information about funds you could help by donating.

9. Still confused?

Don’t worry, it happens to all of us, especially when it comes to the US presidential election—remember the chaos of the two presidential debates? If you feel like you still need more information about this year’s candidates, what they stand for or how they actually become President in the first place, it’s all on here! Take your time, get informed so you can get involved.

This really is the most important election in US history. After a first term in which Trump has openly defied Congress and the courts, twisted foreign policy to serve his political interests and openly dismissed electoral norms, his return to power would, in effect, legitimise the gutting of the institutions of law.

Re-election would justify his view that as president, he can do whatever he wants. It would destroy the kind of democracy that has existed in the US in the past. Your vote matters more than ever before, and so does your implication in the process. Make sure you have an impact.

US presidential election 2020: voter resources and helpful links


By Screen Shot

Oct 29, 2020

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