Voting in Special Elections

April 8th marks a phenomenal opportunity for Iranian Americans to affect policy through the ballot-box. In light of the recent passing of Tom Lantos (D-CA), the 12th Congressional District in Northern California will hold a special election to determine his replacement. Special elections are held when a Congressional seat is vacated in the middle of a term.  A few recent examples indicate that Iranian Americans can heavily influence the outcome of the CA-12 Special election.

Yesterday, IN-7 held a special election in a heavily Democratic district where only 9,000 votes separated the winner, Andre Carson, from the loser.  By the end of the year, 2007 and 2008 will have combined for a total of at least seven special elections (IL-14, IN-7, CA-12, LA-01, LA-06, MS-01, OH-3) so far.

Perhaps the most significant of these recent special elections was the Illinois open-seat election on March 9, where a spread of only 5,022 votes divided the victorious underdog Bill Foster (D) from the expected winner Jim Oberweis (R) in this consistently Republican district. This is a seat that, until his resignation earlier this year, was held by former GOP Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert.

This surprising election result exemplified the importance of each and every vote and the impact constituents can have in Congressional Special Elections. Due to the low voter turnouts in these elections, the Iranian American community has a unique opportunity to have a disproportionately large impact on their outcome.

California’s 12th Congressional district in Western San Fransisco, home to thousands of Iranian-Americans, includes San Mateo, San Bruno, Dale City, and Pacifica.  The Special Election on April 8th will feature all candidates from all parties, and if none reach the 50%+1 threshold, the top-two vote getters will appear on the June 3rd ballot.  It is important to note that the winner in this upcoming race will serve out the remaining 9 months in Lantos’ term and new primaries for the Nov. 4th General Election will still be held on June 3rd.

Thus far, two Democrats, Jason Lee Jones and Jackie Speier, and one Republican, Mike Moloney, as well as a few third party candidates have filed to run for this heavily Democratic seat.  Currently, Speier is expected to win this seat comfortably, but the next four weeks provide Iranian Americans in this district to introduce themselves to her and build a relationship, or to support one of her opponents and help get-out-the-vote for their candidate of choice. 

The important point is that in this district where so many Iranian Americans reside, our community can have a significant impact and should not pass up this opportunity.

Posted By John Einarsen

    One Response to “Voting in Special Elections”

  1. Babak Talebi says:

    Johnny, this was a very timely post, specially with the IN-7 election last night.

    one piece of trivia – Andre Carson is only the 2nd ever Muslim-American to be elected to Congress. The first one being Keith Ellison of MN-3 who was elected in 2006.

    also – I noticed that Jason Lee Jones has just dropped out of the race for CA-12.

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7,350 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.



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