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Voting for change

February 20th, 2014

With the primary elections taking place March 4 and early voting happening Feb. 18-28, controversies have stirred regarding the alleged buying of votes by politiqueras in Hidalgo County.

According to Elijah Casas, recent graduate and current Republican candidate for State Representative District 41, politiqueras are hired by candidates to push campaigns for office and bring in votes.

The 24-year-old candidate graduated in December 2013 as a political science major with  minors in business administration and legal studies. Through his undergraduate work, Casas said he has worked to expose the corruption in local political processes.

“I have worked with various projects, such as Voto Honesto, to expose and bring to light the corruption which exists in the political processes in the Rio Grande Valley,” Casas said.  “Corruption which has recently found local, state and national media attention with many local ‘politiqueras’ now facing federal voter fraud charges.”

However, according to a New York Times news article published in May 2008, the paying of politiqueras to round up votes is a controversial, but legal, tool employed by candidates seeking victory. These “electoral soldiers,” as referred to in the article, are paid with what is known in the political vernacular as “street money.”

In the Valley, previous federal and local candidates have used politiqueras to aid their campaigns.

During the presidential elections in 2008, Senator Hillary Clinton paid at least 460 Hispanics during her campaign in South Texas, based on a review of Federal Election Commission records.  The records showed that the Clinton campaign made payments of $100 to $200 to 170 people in McAllen and Brownsville.

Recently, one of three local politiqueras arrested by the FBI after an investigation of vote buying in December, plead guilty to having paid for votes in the 2012 Donna Independant School District  elections Friday, Feb. 14, according to an article in The Monitor.

Despite the controversies surrounding these electoral soldiers, Judge Ricardo Rodriguez, attorney and former 92nd Hidalgo County district court judge who is currently campaigning for district attorney (DA), believes politiqueras are an important part of the campaign process.

Politiqueras, or as I refer to them, ‘campaign workers,’ are an important part of any campaign,” Rodriguez said. “These workers help inform voters about a candidate’s platform…and are asked to make phone calls to friends, block walk, put up signs and get the word out.”

According to Rodriguez, the work of these individuals deserves fair compensation.

“These individuals are working very hard. And for that work they should be compensated just like any other person working in the office,” he said.

However, with his knowledge and experience in the judicial system and legal field, the DA candidate is cognizant of the voting laws and has made sure that his politiqueros are also well aware.

“I have explained to these workers that there are laws one must follow to avoid a voter from voting against their will,” Rodriguez said. “When they wear my shirt, they are representing me…and I have worked very hard to maintain the utmost respect of citizens of Hidalgo County.”

According to the judge, his struggles of being born from two teenage parents, overcoming racism and currently running against a political powerhouse, serve as the motivation for his career and campaign.

“These struggles have formed the person I am today,” said the DA candidate. “It is through struggle that our will is tested.”

Unlike his opponent, Rene Guerra, current DA and incumbent for more than 30 consecutive years, Rodriguez feels he has been running an honest campaign.

“My opponent has utilized these workers in his prior campaigns without any scrutiny and so have many other elected officials and candidates seeking to hold public office,” Rodriguez said. “But I have maintained complete transparency throughout my campaign and will continue to do so when elected as district attorney.”

Despite hiring electoral soldiers to assist in his campaign,  Rodriguez believes the amount of volunteers helping out has been a big help.

“A lot has been mentioned of these workers…but what has not is the tremendous amount of volunteers  who give up their weekends and free time to help me.” Rodriguez said. “For every campaign worker I have hired, there are 10 volunteers working for me that do not need compensation. That is the beauty of my campaign.”

While paying people to go out and gather votes is legal, the actions of politiqueras become fraudulent when these individuals resort to paying people for votes, an act that is banned by the federal government and in all 50 states, according to Vote Buying, a California law review article by Richard L. Hasen.

Although politiqueras are meant to help get people out to vote, there are those who believe their demands for compensation take unfair advantage of the system.

“Nowadays, these people have exploited this and have started to ask for money and in ridiculous amounts,” said Nereida Singleterry, a 2001 UTPA alumna and practicing attorney at Williamson-Lopez Law Firm.

Singleterry majored in interdisciplinary studies and minored in bilingual education at UTPA in 2001.

Currently, she is helping her husband, Luis Manuel Singleterry, campaign for 92nd district court judge. Her personal hardships to excel in her career as an attorney fuel her dislike of politiqueras, whom she says demand excessive compensation for their actions.

Coming from an economically disadvantaged family, Nereida Singleterry endured many sacrifices, including her campus involvement while at UTPA, because she had two jobs in addition to being a full-time student.

“Unfortunately, I was not involved in clubs as I was the the first of my family to go to college,” Singleterry said. “I worked at Whataburger and H-E-B to help support my family.”

According to the attorney, her parents’ sacrifices in pursuit of the American dream were her  motivation to succeed.

Due to the struggles she has faced to get to her position, she believes actions should be taken against politiqueras who wrong the system.

“The politiquera system in the Valley, in my opinion, should be dealt away,” Singleterry said. “But, until we replace them or clean up some of the dirty ways they use, they will still be around.”

In a Dallas Morning News article published Feb. 7, a controversial comment by Attorney General Greg Abbott singled out law enforcement and political corruption present in Starr, Hidalgo and Cameron Counties.

“This creeping corruption resembles third-world country practices that erode the social fabric of our communities and destroys Texans’ trust in government,” Abbott said.

Like these public leaders, UTPA Student Government Association (SGA) officials also agree and strongly oppose the corrupt actions of politiqueras.

Orlando Hinojosa Quintanilla, the current Student Government senator-at-large for the College of Arts & Humanities, feels such actions go against what is right.

Politiqueros wrong the system by buying votes,” said the mass communication major. “It doesn’t give the right representation of who the people want (in office) and, ultimately, it is undemocratic.”

Ramiro Flores, a junior political science major and SGA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences senator, agrees with Quintanilla.

“I feel it’s a threat to our democracy,” Flores said. “By selling your vote, you’re giving away your voice to someone who will more likely not answer you once in office.”

According to a recent poll of Hidalgo County’s 2012 elections, 23 percent of the 818 voters surveyed said they were contacted in some fashion by politiqueras. Based on the findings, the percentage was higher than those contacted by candidates, political parties or ‘get out the vote’ organizations.

Although the actions of politiqueras may cause the public to distrust elections, the SGA senator-at-large further believes that this is exactly one of the reasons why people should go out and vote.

“Students shouldn’t feel discouraged about voting. In fact, they should feel empowered to do more and make a difference,” Quintanilla said. “Voting for candidates who genuinely care for the people and embody who they represent is a start.”

In addition, Singleterry and Rodriguez also believe that change begins with young voters.

“Voting is a right that we must exercise and I wish many more people, especially our young generation, were passionate about,” Singleterry said. “We need to educate our community so that they choose the correct candidate based on who they think is the most suited person and not let a politiquera tell them who to vote for.”

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News Brief: Week of July 5, 2013

July 5th, 2013

 Gov. Rick Perry will be coming to UTPA and the University of Texas at Brownsville July 16 for a ceremonial signing of Senate Bill 24 — legislation that will merge the two universities and create a new medical school in the Rio Grande Valley.

 The ceremonial signing at UTPA is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. at the Student Union Theater and will be hosted by University President Robert Nelsen. A reception will follow at 10:30 a.m. Another ceremonial signing will take place at 1 p.m. at the Texas Southmost College Arts Center in Brownsville and will be hosted by UTB President Juliet Garcia. A reception will follow at 2 p.m.

 Initially signed June 14, the proposal for SB 24 was first announced December 2012 during a University of Texas System Board of Regents meeting. Read more about it here.

 

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Still DREAMing

May 8th, 2013

Maria Ibarra, president of the Minority Affairs Council, stood before the attendees of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Rally April 30 and nervously uttered the words some are afraid to speak: “I am one of 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country.”

“I was nervous because not only was I representing MAC, but because I was also doing this for my family and the (11 million) undocumented immigrants out there,” said Ibarra, a sophomore civil engineering major from Durango, Mex.. “And I wanted to make sure that I represented them well and made them proud.”

The rally, a collaborative effort between U.S. Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), Ruben Hinojosa (D-Tx.) and Filemon Vela (D-Tx.) and MAC, was held in the parking lot adjacent to the International Trade and Technology building. In addition to Ibarra and the congressmen, speakers at the event included UTPA President Robert Nelsen and Havidan Rodriguez, provost and vice president for academic affairs. Each speaker emphasized the importance of comprehensive immigration reform, a combination of two approaches to immigration reform: law enforcement and human rights.

According to the law enforcement approach, illegal immigration is a sign of a weak immigration system because people are able to bypass the legal process and live in the United States. To remedy this situation, advocates of this approach propose to solve the problem by increasing border security and enforcing existing immigration laws on undocumented immigrants. Those who support the human rights approach are more concerned with creating a path to legal immigration for undocumented immigrants already in the country.

In April, the “Gang of Eight,” a bipartisan group of U.S. senators, released an 844-page bill for comprehensive immigration reform. This proposal called for increased border security, favored a path to citizenship for current undocumented immigrants, sought to create a guest worker program that would allow immigrants to work in the country on a seasonal basis, and suggested tougher penalties for employees who hire undocumented immigrants. The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin making amendments to the bill May 9.

“For the first time in many, many decades, congressional leaders in both parties and chambers are working together and we are close to a resolution,” said Hinojosa, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. “All of us here today understand the challenge before us, there’s no doubt that the issues at hand are complex, but common ground exists.”

On a national level, the issue holds importance for those who are undocumented immigrants, roughly 11 million people. But for some, such as Nelsen, the issue is very important on a local level as well.

“This is deeply personal to me because these are my children,” he said. “We have 645 Dreamers on our campus — the largest number in the United States. They have a higher GPA than my ordinary students, they work harder. But they don’t have a future unless we have comprehensive immigration reform.”

Dreamers is a term often used by undocumented immigrants who came to the United States when they were young and are now pushing for immigration reform. The name originates from the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, a stalled legislative proposal that would have helped undocumented immigrants in college become legal citizens, such as Ibarra. The bill has been rejected by Congress three times.

Ibarra has faced consistent obstacles due to her undocumented status and is one of many college students who could have benefited from the DREAM Act. As a senior at Rio Grande City High School, she was accepted to several universities but could not attend because of her lack of citizenship.

“I applied to Purdue University, Texas A&M, UT and UTPA for which I got accepted into all of them, but had to decline the offers of the other three universities because I could not cross the checkpoint,” she said. “I was crushed because there again was that deterrent. I was undocumented.”

However, the setbacks that have resulted from being undocumented have made her stronger, Ibarra said.

“Today I do not let the word ‘undocumented’ define me because I define myself,” she said.

There may soon be a solution on the horizon for Ibarra and other undocumented immigrants. In addition to the bill currently going through markups in the Senate Judiciary Committee, within the next few weeks, the U.S. House of Representatives will be putting forth its own comprehensive immigration reform bill, according to Gutierrez. He is inspired by young people such as Ibarra and hopes this new bill will make a difference.

“The young people in this country, as always, have led this fight,” said Gutierrez, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Task Force chair for the CHC. “They lead fights all the time, they’ve been incredible leaders (and have given) incredible enthusiasm and energy during the last two years to this fight for immigration reform…now as we move forward, we’re moving forward as one immigration community.”

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Is this the year?

February 21st, 2013

Screen shot 2013 02 21 at 9.39 300x86 Is this the year?

This might be the year the Supreme Court decides whether same-sex marriage is constitutional.
There are currently nine states in the U.S. that allow same-sex unions, including Massachusetts, New York, Washington and Maine. However, the federal government does not recognize gay marriage due to the Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996, which defines marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman.
This March, the Supreme Court justices will start reviewing court cases dealing with same-sex marriage and make their decision by June.
Same-sex marriage and same-sex union virtually mean the same thing, the only difference being that in the former, a couple can receive benefits from the federal government while in the latter cannot.
Edgar Garcia is the public relations officer for the LGBT Alliance at UTPA. The members of the organization have been waiting for the legalization of same-sex marriage to happen for a long time, he said.
“It’s good to see that we’re slowly moving to a better future in the LGBT community,” Garcia said. “We’re constantly updating our members with current events, letting them know what’s going on and we’re always hoping for support.”

ON THE DOCKET
The first case that the Supreme Court has on the docket is from New York, titled United States v. Windsor, where the justices will decide whether the federal government can deny benefits to same-sex couples in the states that legally allow marriage. In the second case, titled Hollingsworth v. Perry, the justices will decide whether same-sex marriage is legal in the state of California.
Reviewing these cases means the Supreme Court justices might tackle the larger issue: whether same-sex unions or marriage should be legal in the United States.
Professor James Wenzel, a professor, chair for the UTPA Political Science Department, said he does not believe same-sex marriage will become legal on a federal level.
“The odds are very unlikely,” he said. “What the justices probably will do is make same-sex marriage a state-by-state issue, I think.”
In the meantime, Garcia waits with the rest of the members of the LGBT Alliance at UTPA. The organization has 25 members and was established in 2011.
“It’s the positive progress we need in our country,” he said. “Personally, I want to see these things happen. The country is getting progressive on the issue of LGBT rights.”

PARTY ISSUE
Last month, President Barack Obama became the first U.S. President to state his support for the LGBT community in an inaugural address.
“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law,” Obama said. “For if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”
However, in general, the Republican Party disagrees. Rep. Darrel Issa (R-Calif.) said he believes that the address was only aimed toward supporters of the Democratic Party.
“The words were code for a progressive agenda. I’m hoping that the president will recognize that compromise should have been the words for today, and they clearly weren’t,” Issa told politico.com. “We were hoping that he would use this day to reach out to all Americans and all parties. He clearly did not.”
Elijah Casas, the president of the Republicans at UTPA, said he wants University students to know that the majority of the organization supports the LGBT movement, despite opinions other Republicans may vocalize. He said he believes that gay marriage is legal because, according to him, there is nothing in the Constitution that prohibits it.
“The Republicans do have the image of not being in support of gay marriage,” the 23-year-old political science major said. “I think there’s a new generation of Republicans who are more open-minded to same-sex couples. Who am I to judge them and stop their marriage?”
Garcia said he hopes the rest of the University community will also show support for LGBT rights in the United States.
“We’re supporting it and hopefully same-sex marriage will be allowed one day,” Garcia said. “We’re optimistic and we’re keeping tabs on it. It’s very important to the community and I hope the Supreme Court, and the rest of the country, realizes that.”

THE TEXAS BILL
Here in Texas, McAllen’s Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa filed a bill titled SB 480 Feb. 11 that would grant same-sex couples ability to enter into civil unions, thus granting them the same rights spouses receive in a traditional marriage.
But Hinojosa’s bill has several hurdles to overcome before it can become a Texas law.
A few days before Hinojosa’s bill was proposed, Texas Sen. Jose Rodriguez, Rep. Rafael Anchia and Rep. Garnet Coleman each proposed constitutional amendments that would repeal the 2005 Texas Marriage Amendment, which defines marriage as an act between a man and women and prohibits anything similar to a marriage, including civil unions, if the majority of Texas residents voted for it in November.
Hinojosa’s bill could be in effect in 2014, but only if the majority of Texans vote to repeal the 2005 Texas Marriage Amendment and if two-thirds of both Texas chambers approve the bill.
Hinojosa’s bill would also repeal a portion of Texas’ 2003 Defense of Marriage Act, which states that Texas is prohibited from recognizing same-sex marriages or civil unions involving people from here or other states.
Wenzel said he believes the odds for Hinojosa’s bill to be passed are slim because Texas is still a predominantly red state.
“It’s an uphill battle,” the professor said. “Is the Texas Legislature for it? If I were betting person, I would probably not bet on this.”
Until then, supporters and disbelievers alike await the outcome of state and national measures regarding LGBT rights.
“It’s a personal belief to make the decision of whether you support gay marriage or not,” Casas said. “We accept others differences. That goes back to the gay rights issue – it’s about acceptance.”

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Politics in the quad

November 7th, 2012

The University of Texas-Pan American event Voto Honesto became tense after Adryana Boyne, the speaker who claimed the event was non-partisan, shared her opinion on the Voter ID law.

True the Vote, a national watchdog organization fighting voter fraud, hosted an event Nov. 2 sponsored by the Veterans Student Organization at UTPA and the Republicans at UTPA. The event,Voto Honesto, is an outreach program aimed at Latino voters. It focused on voter rights and responsibilities.

Headlining the event was Boyne, a political commentator and national director of Voices Offering Conservative Empowering Solutions Action, a non-profit organization that aims to educate the Hispanic population on political matters.

Boyne, who is a resident of Dallas, discussed several issues including bribery, voter fraud and other illegalities.

“We need to keep elections transparent and clear,” Boyne said to the about 25 people gathered in the Quad. “You have the right to vote for whoever you want. That is your privilege.”

True the Vote has been accused of alleged voter intimidation in the recent past. Last month, U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, of Maryland’s 7th Congressional District, launched an investigation, citing it as an organization with “a horrendous record of filing inaccurate voter registration challenges.”

Boyne continued her UTPA speech on the subject of Voter ID, a contested law that mandates a form of identification in order for people to vote or receive a ballot for an election.

In her speech, she brought up U.S Attorney General Eric Holder, who in the past has compared voter ID laws to poll taxes, a set of Jim Crow laws that lasted from the late 19th century to 1966. These laws mainly existed to prohibit minorities from voting, often by having them pay.

VotoHonesto3 300x200 Politics in the quad

“I guess he said that to get the focus off of Fast and Furious,” Boyne stated, referencing the federal operation that allowed weapons from the U.S. to be handed to suspected gun smugglers so that they could be traced to Mexican drug cartels.

Abby Chavarrilla, a 53-year-old communication major, jumped at the comment.

“What does that statement have to do with Voter ID?” Chavarrilla asked.

Chavarrilla believed that there is a similarity between the Voter ID laws and the Poll Tax that her father had to deal with when he voted in a 1970 election in her hometown of Freeport, Texas.

“I’d always go with him whenever he voted, and watched him pay to exercise his right,” she said in a phone interview. “I know that not everybody can afford to pay for an ID, and why do I need to show proof of who I am when my voter registration card should be enough?”

“You don’t have to pay for a Voter ID,” Boyne responded. “It’s free. You can get people to go to your house and register you there.”

Mike Gonzalez, president of the Veterans Student Organization, spoke during Boyne and Chavarrilla’s impromptu debate.

“(I) want people to be fair and honest,” the Marine veteran said. “That’s what the ID’s do.”

Boyne cut off Gonzalez and Chavarrilla and continued with her presentation.

While she spoke, volunteers from the Ruben “Chuy” Hinojosa  campaign, state representative incumbent for District 20 and that of Nora Longoria, a candidate for Justice 13 Court of Appeals Place 2, started passing out political flyers to the audience. Boyne stopped them.

“Do not pass out any propaganda while I’m speaking,” she said. “This is a non-partisan event.”

Once she finished, Boyne opened up for questions from the participants. Rosalie Weisfeld, a staff member for the Paul Sadler campaign, a Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate, and wife of Texas Sen. Ruben “Chuy” Hinojosa, was the first to begin the inquiry. She called into doubt Boyne’s non-partisan claim.

“How can you call this a non-partisan event?” Weisfeld asked. “What you’re saying is very partisan.”

Mumbles from the crowd emerged.

“I am not being partisan,” Boyne declared. “This is a non-partisan event. I’m not for one party.”

Weisfeld continued, using Boyne’s pro-Voter ID stance as a way to show that she was in fact partisan. After a brief argument, Boyne continued to answer questions delivered from two other audience members.

The final question came from Roxanne Carrion, who asked for examples of voter suppression in the Valley.

“The Black Panthers,” Boyne replied, eliciting a strong reaction from the crowd.

“Did that group even exist in the Valley?” an audience member asked.

At that point, Boyne walked off the platform, ending the discussion.

After the event, Aron Peña, son of former District 40 State Rep. Aaron Peña and an organizer for the event, expressed some disappointment with how it went.

“This was not how it was supposed to turn out,” he explained. “There wasn’t supposed to be any campaigning here, and the senator’s wife (Weisfeld) was practically trying to destroy the event with her questions. At least students walked away with an understanding of how important voter fraud is.”

David Garcia, a freshman who introduced Boyne, witnessed the whole debate unravel as he sat in the front row, close to her.

“Things took an unexpected turn,” the 20-year-old said. “We have to expect someone to come out and say something, though, especially with controversial issues.”

VotoHonesto2 200x300 Politics in the quad

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Apathetic, angry, abstaining

October 18th, 2012

With the 57th U.S. presidential election just around the corner, I fail to ascribe that much importance to it. There are plenty of reasons for me to care but I just don’t really care what happens and I believe that there are a few of you who feel the same way. So this is for you self-centered people.
The media is constantly bombarding us with their positions, making me feel guilty for disregarding their shower of political information, when they are merely trying to sway me into agreeing with their political standpoints. We know, or at least I do, that the presidential elections are a big deal. However, at the end of the day I just want to sit on my couch, have a beer and not think about the possible and not-so-distant future of this country. After all, I have my own problems, and the president, whether the old one stays or we get a new one, is not going to help me deal with them.

Another reason to pay no heed to this bipartisan quarrel is that I have little to no say on the possible outcome. Now if you think your vote matters, then help yourself and grab a copy of The Pan American’s Oct. 4 issue and go to Pages 4 and 5. There it is explained how little influence you have over the presidential election.

Presidential candidates aren’t doing this to persuade people to choose them to run the place, as is commonly imagined (mistakenly) by the unaware masses that think their vote makes a difference.
Presidential elections are merely a time in which a couple of politicians embark on a popularity contest across the country, and even beyond, in order to let the Electoral College (a small group of selected individuals that actually make the decision) know which is the least hated person among the candidates. Then they make a decision, sometimes not considering the popular vote. How do you think George W. Bush got the presidency? You live in a republic, not in a democracy.

I have to also take into account that such display of political propaganda is mostly unnecessary. We are fed a constant interchange of political stands by two people who, we are told, will run the country but in the end they are just part of the group who govern the country. We hear ideas they plan to carry out but in order for that to happen they have to go through the Congress, which is comprised mainly of both Democrats and Republicans who are constantly bickering with each other, and with the president. So it’s quite difficult for the president to come through with his promises.

Not only that, most of the country is going to vote based on color, red or blue, disregarding the political views of the candidate. The thick-minded will just vote for their favorite team and will ignore everything else, and even convince themselves that they are doing the best for the country. I’m constantly baffled at the sheer stupidity of calling yourself a Republican or Democrat. No one’s political views fall entirely on a party that has very contrasting viewpoints from the other.
Inform yourself and form an opinion, everyone has issues in which they are conservative and other issues in which they lean liberal. For example, I’m all for gun rights and regulation; on that issue I’m conservative. On prostitution, on the other hand, I’m liberal. Be a person; don’t mindlessly follow like a bewildered sheep to the person that speaks what you want to hear.

Even though I have no interest in the current political propaganda I found it impossible to ignore completely. I favor Obama. Ironically enough it isn’t because I strongly agree with most of his policies. I do prefer them over Romney’s nonsense, but the main reason I want Obama to stay in office is because logically he has a better shot at fixing the United State’s current deficit. I use the term “fixing” freely because I really don’t expect a complete fix but more of a “patch up.”

Which leads me to talk about the avalanche of ignorant critique toward Obama “not fixing the economy” and blaming him for the current state of the country. Like I mentioned before, it is a group effort to run a country and he had to clean up what was given to him, which was an economic mess made by Bush. Four years isn’t enough time to fix an economy. You all have been in school more than four years, most still don’t know the difference between “your” and “you’re,” and yet still have the nerve to demand results from a public servant.

It will take time to alleviate the current state of the economy and bringing a new guy to clean up the last guy’s mess isn’t going to change much. It takes more than just shortsighted critique and crossing your arms waiting for somebody to fix an entire country’s economy. It is a country, after all, a country that we all are part of. What are we doing to fix things? What are you doing to change things for the better?

It is easy to say Bush was useless. It is easy to say Obama is useless. It will be easy to continue to say Obama is useless or that Romney will be. The problem doesn’t rely on the president mainly. There is an underlying problem that we are capable of fixing. The problem is us.
We are part of a culture that values becoming rich overnight more than forming a family based on values and respect toward others. We are a culture that has no consciousness or memory about politics or interest in the economy. We only care about these ideas when the candidates are parading around thex country spending millions on campaigns to hold our attention, because it reminds us of the illiterate pandering we usually see on TV, since in between campaigns we are too busy voting for American Idol.

If you think a president is going to fix this country, you are far from right. Whether Obama stays or Romney takes his place, they will still have to work with the flawed raw material of this country, its people. Instead of taking our futures in our hands, pitifully, we are always waiting for someone to show us the way.

We have to eradicate our vices and ignorance as a society, and then begin to grow, ourselves, notwithstanding who is in charge of the country. That’s why I don’t care who gets the presidency. To “fix” this country requires some “thing” smarter than a guy in an oval office. And if that “thing” doesn’t start to surge we will still be relegated to the background, hoping for the next president to be the new messiah that comes to magically solve all of our problems.

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Has math gone political?

October 4th, 2012

Political polls don’t just test the waters – often they can tip the scales. If a candidate is behind, they are likely to keep falling behind, since nobody wants to pick a loser.

The most recent Gallup poll put President Obama anywhere from three to nine percent ahead of Gov. Romney (50 percent to 44 percent, with a margin of error of three percent.)

Bologna, say Republicans.

“There are a few instances where I see the polls as being very skewed to the extreme, and in that case I think they’re either incompetent at putting together a proper sample, or in some instances they just may be biased,” political blogger Dean Chambers told National Public Radio’s David Flokenflik Tuesday.

However, eight years ago, the Left was criticizing polls that put Bush 2.0 ahead of John Kerry. So what is happening here? Why have both sides, at different points in recent history, called polls into question?

Basically, polls like Gallup are being accused of stuffing the box with too many respondents from the other side of the aisle.

They work by randomly generating phone numbers and asking adults living in the United States the same set of questions. Then the responses are weighted to reflect the country’s actual population.

Responses are set to the same proportions as the most recent U.S. Census data – the same ration of men to women, young to old, etc.

The beef from both political camps comes from the fact that Gallup doesn’t weight political affiliation. They don’t re-proportion the responses to reflect the number of Dems to Repubs in the country, that is.

But as Gallup Editor-in-Chief Frank Newport pointed out on NPR, why should they? Party affiliation is much more fluid than say, age or origin. Plus, people rarely affiliate with one party and vote for another’s candidate, so the question “Who are you planning on voting for?” already covers party affiliation, in a way.

Can math be used as an insidious tool to mislead the public and negatively skew history? Oh, absolutely. Is this the case with the Gallup poll? Nope. The lesson? Pundits and political sore losers will always call shenanigans when polls don’t go their way. But a closer look at the math reveals that it is, indeed sound.

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Youth in the booth

October 4th, 2012

Eliazet Guerra already knows whom she plans to vote for, but the problem is she isn’t registered yet.

Between working, classes and homework, the graduate student hasn’t had a chance to get registered. She spends her nights studying for the State Board of Examiners test, the exam that licenses speech pathologists, to complete a master’s degree.

“It’s been really hard to keep up with politics with all of my work,” the 25-year-old said. “I don’t know when I’ll get registered, but I’m going
to try.”

Every four years the nation elects a president. It’s a formulaic procedure that has been occurring in the United States for more than 200 years and is now up for the next cycle.

Out of 210 million U.S. citizens who are eligible to vote in a United States election, only 137 million are registered, according to the 2010
U.S. Census.

Issues such as student debt and landing a job after graduating are concerning young voters.

“I think voting is one of the most important things a person in this country can do,” said Cheyenne Uvalle, a 22-year-old English major. “We do have a say. We do have the power to make a difference. It’s just up to the individual to do it.”

Between 21.6 million and 23.9 million Americans in the 18-to-29 age group cast a ballot in 2008, accounting for 18 percent of all votes cast in the last election. The ballots in that age group were up from about 19.4 million in 2004, according to the Center for Information and Research of Civic Learning and Engagement.

THE REALITY
Organizations such as the non-partisan Advocacy Alliance Center in Texas and the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund have started initiatives to increase young voter turnout in November.

In the 2008 presidential election, the Rio Grande Valley had a 43 percent turnout, which is 17 percent lower than the state average, according to Eliza Alvarado, the AACT board president.

Alvarado, along with other members of AACT, is working to register new voters in Hidalgo, Starr, Cameron and Willacy county to increase this year’s tally in the Valley to 65 percent.

“We are underrepresented continuously (in government),” Alvarado said. “We need crucial resources in the area that are tied to state and federal funding. In order to be heard, we need to turnout to vote and have our voice heard at the state and federal level.”

OTHER PROBLEMS
Uvalle believes that one of the reasons Valley residents aren’t going out and voting in elections is because they don’t have the resources.

According to the 2010 census, about a third of residents in the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission Metro Area live below the national poverty line. And some say that could lead to a sort of disenfranchisement.

“There are people out in the outskirts of the Valley who are citizens and just don’t have a way to vote,” she said. “I have aunts who still use outhouses and can vote but don’t. They’re not the only ones.”

AACT has partnered with banks, local hospitals, schools, non-profit organizations, churches, veteran groups and other entities to increase registration in the Valley.

“By reaching out to different entities, we have been able to get more people registered successfully,” Alvarado said. “We have mobile units out to register people. We also encourage people to vote at the mobile units too.”

Freshman Haziel Lopez has found the registration process confusing. He’s registered to vote three times, the first time through AACT at his high school, but has not received any notification of whether the registration has been processed.

November’s election would be his first voting experience, so he is anxious to make sure the voter card will arrive in time.

“I think I should have been notified if my registration went through,” Lopez said. “I’m excited to vote but I still don’t know if I’ll be able to. I’m just going to wait and see.”

Alvarado is hopeful that voter turnout will increase for November’s election because AACT members have been persistent in trying to get as many residents registered as possible.

“We don’t want to influence who you vote for, we just want to get you out there to vote,” she said. “We’re asking everyone to take some time to vote early and make their voice heard.”

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Republicans at UTPA question official’s motives

October 4th, 2012

The Republicans at UTPA, a student organization, relayed a news release to most local media outlets on Sept. 13 denouncing Veronica Gonzales, the UTPA vice president for university advancement, claiming that she endorsed Robert “Bobby” Guerra for state representative of District 41.

Guerra ran for Gonzales’ vacant seat after she retired from her position as state representative in July to accept a spot at UTPA. A special election was held to fill her seat and Guerra, an attorney and two-time chairman of the Hidalgo County Democratic Party, was the only candidate who applied for the position. He is filling Gonzales’ seat until the end of the term in January, but is running in the November election against Republican candidate Miriam Martinez to keep his seat.

The Republicans at UTPA say that Gonzales publicly endorsed Guerra while representing UTPA at a July 19 legislative event in Mission. According to the release, Gonzales, a former attorney, was quoted as introducing Guerra as her “successor,” despite the fact that he hadn’t been sworn in yet.

However, Gonzales said that not only has she not made an endorsement of Guerra, but that she was misquoted by the Republicans at UTPA.

“In my official capacity as a vice president of UTPA, I am not allowed to endorse a candidate and I will not do so,” she said.

Gonzales defined endorsing as signing a letter or forming an agreement with a candidate to allow the endorser to be used in the campaign, which she has not done.

She also stated that Guerra is a personal friend and a legal colleague for 20 years, a person she has a lot of respect for.

“He supported me each and every time that I ran for office and when he signed up to run, I was at the announcement (of his campaign) and we took a photo together. ”

According to Gonzales, when she introduced Guerra at the event, she said “…I believe, my successor…Bobby Guerra,” rather than what the Republicans quoted.

The newest VP also stated that since she became a UTPA employees in July, she has not “publicly” endorsed Guerra, nor has she issued a formal endorsement for him and has instead offered him support.

Elijah Casas, president of the Republicans at UTPA, said in the news release that Gonzales’ expression of public support will “hurt all of the UTPA community by taking sides in a political campaign that directly affects our University.”

For Alberto Lindsay, vice president of the organization, and Casas, Gonzales’ involvement represents a problem on campus, where they say University professors already “push” their political ideas on students.

The officers have noticed political science professors “attacking” a party in their lectures, which moved them to form the organization as an alternative for students whose political beliefs don’t match those of their teachers.

Casas, a political science major, decided to not say any names, but he mentioned how according to him, many of his liberal political science professors always manage to “creep” their political beliefs against the Republican Party into material for the course.

Both have said that many professors have ridiculed the party and have gone as far as nicknaming them the “American Taliban,” among other insults. Casas said that this bullying doesn’t allow for students to explore alternative political ideas that differ from their professors.

“Students disagreeing with them might feel alienated because of what the professor is saying, and any uninformed student will go with the flow and trust the guy with the Ph.D.,” Casas said.

Despite never seeing an example of professors preaching their political beliefs in class, political science professor Jerry Polinard said that he finds the idea of professors doing that to be inappropriate.

“I’m not surprised it happens in a field like political science,” he said. “I think a professor is obligated to present all points of views to their students and not create an environment where students feel uncomfortable discussing ideas with their professors.”

Regarding Gonzales, Casas said that even if she didn’t sign a formal contract, he’s troubled by the public support she shows toward his campaign.

“Even if she hasn’t endorsed him publicly, she’s still showing public support of him, which could make people think it’s the same thing,” he said. “It’s a conflict of interest for her, especially since she and Guerra are good friends.”

Gonzales said that although she understands the idea of prohibiting a University official supporting a candidate, she feels she still has the First Amendment right to support who she chooses.

“I have the right, like anyone else, to state my personal opinion about who I believe would best represent the District that I love and represented for eight years,” she said. “I will work with all representatives, regardless of party affiliation, for the betterment of UTPA.”

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Texas Primary Runoff results

August 1st, 2012

Click image for enlarged version.

A previous version of this graphic was incorrect. The current version reflects accurate percentages and winners via The Texas Tribune.

Several politicians won their party’s candidacy in the primary runoff elections Tuesday. Primary runoff elections happen when no candidates running for the same position receive over 50 percent of the party vote. In this case, the two candidates with the most percentage of the vote go into a runoff election to determine the  candidate. These winning candidates will run against their opposition in the general election Nov. 6. Some candidates, like Terry Canales for District 40, will run unopposed in the general election.

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