April 22nd 2020
Sor’en Ashraf felt a mixture of excitement and apprehension about casting her Secondary Vote for Imperator. A security professional based in Nexus, Sor’en is one of millions across the Empire who have earned Citizenship in the decade since the last Imperator election. Yet, her concern wasn’t over which of the ten candidates to support. As Sor’en approached a polling center in Lago an armed individual blocked her path and informed her that Tevarin couldn’t vote there.
A decorated Navy veteran who earned a commendation for her actions during the battle of Vega II, Sor’en quickly assessed the situation. The individual was not alone. Several others were dressed in similar armor, each one bearing the discreet markings that indicated their alliance to the xenophobic hate-group known as Nemesis.
“Every ounce of my being wanted to push past those bastards and exercise my right as a UEE citizen, but instead, I played dumb and asked where I should go. They essentially told me to get the hell outta the UEE with a whole bunch of colorful language meant to provoke me into doing something rash.”
Sor’en walked away that day without voting, but still got something valuable from the experience: evidence of targeted Tevarin voter suppression. Strategically positioned around the polling center were members of a surveillance team recruited by Sor’en. Over the following three days, her team of Humans and Tevarin visited polling centers around Lago to document the movements and intimidation tactics used by Nemesis to keep other Tevarin from voting. Sor’en shared this information along with real time information of Nemesis whereabouts with local authorities, but when election officials showed up to catch the group in action, it was nowhere to be found.
“That’s when I knew someone on the inside had let the group know that this was gonna happen. Less than an hour after the observers left, Nemesis was right back at it.”
The revelation was disappointing but not surprising for Sor’en, who battled institutional bias throughout her Navy career. It also justified her decision to share her initial findings with Yasal Gor from the Tevarin advocacy group Stronger Together.
“The amount of evidence Sor’en gave us was honestly overwhelming. It was the most clear-cut case of voter suppression we had seen, and it warranted immediate action. Our legal team started drafting the lawsuit before we even finished reviewing all the evidence.”
Founded in 2941, Stronger Together advocates for Tevarin causes across the UEE. They routinely provide free legal representation for Tevarin who can’t afford it and guide others through the complicated Citizenship application process. They also monitor the activity of anti-Tevarin hate groups and collate data of xenophobic crimes from all UEE systems. Yesterday, Stronger Together filed a lawsuit in Nexus on behalf of Sor’en requesting that UEE observers take control of the planet’s election. Gor explained that Lago’s relatively weak government allowed such a blatant disregard for the rule of law to go unchecked.
“This issue isn’t isolated to Nexus,” argued Gor. “Tevarin across the Empire have faced a variety of voting issues. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to address them all before the Secondary Vote ends, but by gathering this evidence and data now, we can fight for the necessary changes before the Final Vote later this year.”
Gor highlighted several voting issues or irregularities seen in other systems. This included several polling stations in Ferron that turned away Tevarin voters after issues with biometric readers made it impossible to confirm their citizenship status. Officials eventually resolved the issue with a software patch that should have been installed prior to the voting period.
More concerning for Gor was the lack of polling centers near historic Tevarin districts, forcing them to travel greater distances to vote. Gor doesn’t believe the placement of polling centers is intended to disenfranchise Tevarin voters, merely a result of centuries of anti-Tevarin policies enacted during the Messer regime. This includes the construction of districts after the Second Tevarin War to house the Tevarin diaspora across the UEE, which were strategically placed in undesirable locations far from government and cultural centers and often disconnected from public transit systems. The impact of these decisions still can be felt to this day in the lack of local infrastructure to support polling centers in Tevarin neighborhoods. To address this issue, Gor drafted a proposal that would open new polling centers near heavily populated Tevarin districts in Gemma (Elysium), Tanys (Idris), Odyssa (Magnus), and elsewhere around the Empire.
“Suj Kossi becoming the first Tevarin elected to the UEE Senate energized us in a way I’ve never seen before,” said Gor. “Even Imperator campaigns now see Tevarin as an important and growing voter base, and many of their campaigns released policy proposals specifically geared toward swaying Tevarin voters.”
These proposals are as varied as the Imperator candidates themselves: Transitionist candidate Mira Ngo has proposed a law that would require government departments to staff at minimum a certain percentage of Tevarin. Illyana Sharrad and Emma Thorne both want to fund programs that recruit more Tevarin into the military, Advocacy, and other public sector positions. Antwan Lillard, whose controversial proposal to dismantle the UEE central government has gained more populist support than many ever expected, would give Tevarin the Kabal system to settle and control. Meanwhile, Calvin Derry, the self-proclaimed Human First candidate, has refused to state his position. When reached for comment, his campaign would only say that, “The UEE is a Human institution and Candidate Derry will do everything in his power to ensure it stays that way.”
When asked if there was a candidate that he believed was best positioned to help the Tevarin, Yasal Gor declined to state his opinion and instead focused on the bigger picture. “I love that political candidates are engaging Tevarin in specific policy discussions about what’s best for their future. That’s a great step, and I want to capitalize on this momentum to get more Tevarin engaged in the Empire because I firmly believe, like the name of this organization, that we’re all stronger together.”
Meanwhile, Sor’en Ashraf and her team continue to surveil polling centers in Lago. When asked if her experience has soured her on voting for Imperator, she quickly responded “No.” In fact, it’s only motivated her to become more engaged in Nexus politics.
“The way I see it, this only happened in Nexus because the local government wasn’t strong enough to stop it. But that also means it’ll be easier for other, positive influences to affect local change. Doing this has shown me just how many Tevarin citizens there are in Lago. I’ve gotten to meet many of them and, like me, they’re motivated to help bring about real, positive change for all of Lago’s residents. Honestly, I think a lot of good will end up coming out of this.”
And for the record, Sor’en, together with a large group of fellow Tevarin citizens, successfully visited a polling center and cast her first official vote for Imperator.