The Board of Elections engaging in voter suppression and habitual insubordination from politicians puts Philly in the category of oligarchy.
At first glance, Philadelphia isn’t just the birthplace of democracy; it appears to be the cornerstone of it. There’s the Liberty Bell, the Constitution Center, and The Betsy Ross House, where the first American flag was stitched.
And every year on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the City produces a gargantuan concert to celebrate the 4th of July. Even the local professional basketball team, the Philadelphia 76ers, is an ode to the year that the Declaration of Independence was signed.
Democracy is synonymous with Philadelphia, but that speaks to the power of branding, not reality. In truth, Philadelphia is no more of a democracy than it is a monarchy.
The City is, however, an oligarchy, and that’s due to voter apathy and the lack of citizens’ knowledge of government, and the arrogant and corrupt nature of most of the politicians who work here.
And while there are viral local news stories that validate my assertion – like the District Attorney’s refusal to reopen the criminal investigation into the officer-involved shooting death of Mr. Brandon Tate-Brown now that new discovery has been unearthed; or the police commissioner’s dismissal of the many calls from constituents to take Officer Nicholas Carrelli, Mr. Tate-Brown’s killer, off the street; or even the Mayor’s inconsiderate planning of the papal visit which, besides it blurring the lines that separate church and state, places one religion at center of the city while those of other beliefs are put at risk of missing their worship services – a developing story gives a more real-time and shocking look at how dysfunctional, dishonest and disconnected Philadelphia really is and how far removed from the dream of democracy the City sits.
The Board of Elections of Philadelphia is routinely engaging in criminal activity, according to City Commissioner, Ms. Stephanie Singer, a member of that board who admitted to Techbook Online today that “Philly doesn’t have a functioning democracy.”
Ms. Singer – in addition being perturbed that the Board’s criminality manifest itself in the form of private hirings and firings, despite the Sunshine Law that governs the board asserting that personnel decisions constitute official action which must take place at an open meeting – has taken issue with what she perceives is voter suppression by the very body established to oversee fair and free elections in Philadelphia.
Despite more than 1 million people living in the City, less than 1,000 voter guides are printed by the Board of Elections, Ms. Singer told Techbook Online exclusively.
The printed guides are then given to the Ward leaders, she said.
When asked if that makes sense, Ms. Singer replied:
“In a certain way, in the context of a corrupt town where the Board of Elections is paying more attention to Ward leaders than other people, it makes perfect sense… And that’s why Philly’s isn’t a democracy.”
Another egregious example Ms. Singer provided is that in November, Philadelphians will vote for Judge Retention – which means extending their contract – but there’s no easy way to get information on the judicial candidates, like their conviction rate or a complaint log.
“If we’re kept from the information we need to use, it cuts into our democratic power,” she said, informing me that despite having more access to candidates than most people, “I still don’t even know, when I go into the booth, all the information I need to know.”
Ms. Singer, who a day before the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 returned to the Board of Elections, conceded that the board could do a “much, much better job at informing people about the basics” and said that she, either in her current position as an elected official or as a private citizen, would support an amendment to the Voting Rights Act that classifies the inability to access to information about candidates and the bureaucracy as voter suppression.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation earlier this year released a report that said the number one reason millennials don’t vote in local elections is because they don’t feel equipped with the right information and that their local media sources don’t do enough to provide coverage on candidates.
But Ms. Singer said it’s not just millennials frustrated by the minimal information on candidates and issues.
“That issue keeps a lot of people out of the voting booth,” she said.
As you’re starting to see, Philadelphia politics doesn’t match the cache of its democratic branding.
Ms. Singer provided a narrative that both simplifies the term “representative democracy,” which Philadelphia and other cities claim to be, and underscores why Philly isn’t a democracy.
“If enough people want something and organize and they tell their government to do this for us, the government should this for them, whatever ‘this’ is.”
Leverage that definition against the last eight month of activism by Philadelphians fighting for justice in the case of Mr. Brandon Tate-Brown and it becomes clear why Philadelphia isn’t a democracy.
It took three months of making demands before Ms. Tanya Brown-Dickerson, the mother of Mr. Tate-Brown, could see the footage of a Philadelphia police officer killing her son.
It took about four more months of activism after that to get the videos made public. And now that the police commissioner has admitted that Mr. Tate-Brown wasn’t reaching for a gun when he was killed, the public – and in the context of government, the bosses – want the investigation reopen.
The District Attorney, Mr. Seth Williams, has refused a direct order from his superiors.
The actions of Mr. Williams and Mr. Ramsey and those who populate the Board of Election defy the law of democracy, but they make perfect sense in an oligarchy.
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Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™