ND Votes will be celebrating Notre Dame’s National Voter Registration Day with a festival event Monday evening at the Geddes Hall Coffee House and patio. The celebration is open to anyone, and it is the culmination of a week-long voter registration drive the ND Votes task force organized.“[The event will be] American-themed, with apple pie, lemonade, music and a celebration of something that is as American as you can do, which is voting,” junior Sheila Gregory, director of community outreach in the ND Votes task force, said.The event will include opportunities to register to vote, request absentee ballots and sign up for election reminders. Students and faculty will also present information on how Notre Dame voted in the 2016 election, which is first time the results will be publicly announced. “It will be really interesting to not only have a fun celebration of voting, but also give students more information about the trends — especially for first-years who are brand-new to the political process — about how their school voted,” Gregory said. The ND Votes task force is also responsible for the week-long voter registration drive, which began Sept. 18. To celebrate, the task force set up tables outside the dining halls and in the student centers, Gregory said, and created a competition between dorms to see which ones could get the most voters registered and the most absentee ballots. The prize for the winning dorm is $500 and a free breakfast on Nov. 6, the day of the midterm elections.“[We are] doing this voter registration competition … to make it more fun,” Gregory said. “It’s hard to jazz-up getting everyone absentee ballots. We are hoping that through offering some prize money and food, we can incentivize people to get their absentee ballots, which is super easy.” The ND Votes task force is a non-partisan group whose mission is voter registration, education and mobilization, according to the ND Votes website. It is made up of interested students who either apply through their dorm or a club in which they are involved. Clubs like the College Democrats and College Republicans, Right to Life, the Student Coalition for Immigration Advocacy (SCIA), Diversity Council and more are all involved in the ND Votes task force, which was revived in 2016 for the presidential election after a period of inactivity. “[ND Votes] was supposed to be a three-semester effort,” Gregory said. “It started in the spring semester of 2016. After the presidential election, everyone on every side was extremely interested in politics. We were like, ‘We can’t just let this energy go to waste,’ so we continued to have the task force.”Junior Steven Higgins, another member of the ND Votes task force, said that energy contributed to a growing engagement in ND Votes.“In the last four or five years, we have seen this growth of ND Votes that has been pretty tremendous,” Higgins said. “I remember my freshman year there were not that many of us. There were four or five of us meeting in this little room in the bottom of Geddes, and now we are in the Geddes coffee house and we have to have overflow tables because there is not enough seating.”ND Votes has begun to expand past Notre Dame’s campus, Higgins said. The task force partnered with the League of Women Voters, a non-partisan group located in South Bend. These two groups are jointly putting on an event Sept. 25 that will focus on registering South Bend locals to vote. “Seeing the level of engagement with voting and the process of getting people registered to vote has been incredibly encouraging,” Higgins said. “And that is what the event in Geddes today is about — a celebration of voting [and] civic engagement. We are just going to be having a ton of food and some entertainment to just get people excited about [voting]. We’re hoping that as many people as possible come out.”Tags: 2018 midterm elections, National Voter Registration Day Festival, ND Votes, voting
…hoping for backing on decriminalisation of small quantities of cocaine The Alliance For Change (AFC) is of the view that if so advised by an advisory council, they would consider decriminalising possession of not only small amounts of marijuana, but also cocaine.At a press conference at the AFC’s headquarters on Friday, AFC Member of Parliament Michael Carrington addressed the issue. Carrington, who is spearheading the bill to decriminalise possession of small amounts of marijuana, was asked about the drug’s notorious counterpart.“When I was looking at the law in terms of Section 5, you have small amounts of cocaine, like two grams, in terms of possession. When I was looking at it, I said watch, we deal with this one first, in terms of the cannabis. We deal with this first, and then we go to the advisory council.”“If we get the advisory council established, then they will do a lot of studies to see how we could deal with the other areas. Because to jail someone in terms of the two grams or one gram of cocaine, for that period of time, I think the best place for that individual is in a rehab centre.”Meanwhile, the AFC is hopeful it will receive unilateral support for its bill seeking to decriminalise possession of marijuana in small quantities. This is notwithstanding recent statements made by coalition partner A Partnership for National Unity.Minister of State Joseph Harmon had struck a note of caution when speaking on the matter. On the other hand, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had made known his support for the non-custodial sentences for persons caught with small amounts of marijuana.However, according to Carrington, there was likely to be support from both sides of the house for the bill.“I’m looking for a conscious vote in Parliament. We’ll have from both sides, AFC will support the bill but we will have votes coming from both sides. I don’t know how much. But whatever takes place in Parliament, I hope good judgement takes place in terms of the individuals. Because some people see a person smoking as a very bad thing… but people drink and do all sorts of things.”“And there will be a percentage of people who will do things that look bad. But we have to find a way in terms of shaping them back into reality. We know smoking is not good. But jailing a person for smoking is also not good. I think we’ll have persons from both sides coming across, in terms of supporting the bill.”Carrington noted that provisions for rehabilitation and education will have to accompany the measure. This, he said, includes the setting up of a fund to aid in rehabilitating former drug addicts.CocaineAccording to Section 4, (1) of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, “Any person who has in his possession any narcotic or any substance represented or held out by him to be a narcotic, shall be liable (i) on summary conviction to fine or not less than $30,000, together with imprisonment for not less than three years nor more than five years.”Section 5 (2) goes on to state that “In any prosecution for an offence under this section, where any person (other than those allowed by law) found in possession of more than (b) one gram of cocaine, the burden of proving that he is in possession of the narcotic for a purpose other than the purpose of trafficking shall be on him.”It was only in March 2018 that the United States’ Department of State, International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), volume two report had raised concerns about Guyana being a transit point for narcotics.According to the US report, “Guyana is a transit country for South American cocaine destined for Europe, the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean. Cocaine is concealed in legitimate commodities and smuggled via commercial maritime vessels, air transport, human couriers, or the postal services.“Traffickers are attracted to Guyana’s remote airstrips, porous land borders, and weak security infrastructure. Largely unregulated currency exchange houses, used to transfer funds to and from the Diaspora, pose a risk to Guyana’s [anti-money laundering] AML regime,” the report states.There are a few countries, like Bolivia, that have taken the bold step of decriminalising cocaine. Other advanced countries, like the United Kingdom, have not dared go this route… although it can be used for medicinal purposes in certain jurisdictions.