By Talib I. Karim
Many analysts say it’s a toss-up on which party will win control of the U.S. Senate, and that the election may not truly be decided for months. However, in battleground states — Georgia, North Carolina, Colorado and Iowa—whose election outcomes could shift power from one party to another—registered Democrats outnumber Republicans…by a large margin.
But without Barak Obama on the ballot, African Americans and other people of color, women, and youth (the majority of the Democratic base) might not understand what’s at stake in this election.
Given the absence of the excitement-creating Obama campaign machine, some also fear that interested voters may not have the stomach for long lines at the polls. To cast a ballot in some state, a voter has to set aside as much as 95 minutes on average (factoring in commuting to/from work).
For science and tech professionals, particularly African Americans, time is a scarce commodity. Thus, deciding to vote is a serious investment.
Five Reasons Why Black Techies Should Vote
So exactly what’s at stake for African American science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) pros? Here are five reasons why #BlackTechiesMustVote.
- STEM funding
While funding of STEM programs should be bipartisan, STEM policies have not gotten equal treatment by both major parties. The Republican controlled U.S. House of Representatives has slashed spending for R&D education programs. In contrast, the Democratic-led Senate proposed to fully reauthorize the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act. In so doing, the Dems plan would fund many of the nation’s federal STEM programs much more generously than the Republican-led House. If Democrats maintain control of the Senate, Republicans may have more of an incentive to cut a deal that favors the Democratic STEM funding package.
- Survival of US Space Industry
To understand the connection between our national interests and voting for candidates who believe in expanding the nation’s investment in developing a new generation of innovators (young and not so young alike), you need only recall the recent double disasters for the US space industry. First there was the October 28, 2014 explosion of an unmanned Orbital Sciences-built cargo spacecraft. Three days later, Virgin Galactic space-tourism craft exploded in mid-air, apparently minutes after powering on its rocket thrusters. Both accidents not only are losses to their funders, but a setback for the nation’s scientific and technological brand. This election may very well determine whether and how fast the US regains its leadership as the best in space, on all levels.
- Green Energy
Do you believe pollution is damaging the environment and changing weather? Do you see green in alternative and renewable sources of energy? If so, a Republican controlled Senate may not look so good to you.
Case in point is the House-approved legislation funding the federal energy agency (DOE). Analysts credit Republicans for increasing DOE’s R&D budget to $11.8 billion, 3.2 percent above FY 2014 levels. Yet this funding is $611 million less than requested by the Obama Administration. Instead of fully funding the President’s proposals in DOE areas such as R&D, energy efficiency, and education related programs, Republicans shifted money to increasing older fossil fuel exploration. The bill also prohibits DOE funding for policy making work on the social cost of carbon or activities to slow climate change.
- Expanding Universities’ Success in Transforming Research into Profitable Businesses
There is a pair of bills in the House and Senate that would create grant opportunities for university and other researchers involved in technology transfer projects to help make it easier to move federally funded research into the marketplace. This pair of bills is jointly supported by Republicans and Democrats alike. Nevertheless, a strong showing at the ballot booth among African Americans concerned about STEM-related research and development would send a message to law makers to approve and forward this legislation to the President’s desk his signature.
- Can you spell D-I-V-E-R-S-I-T-Y
It has been long observed that Republicans on Capital Hill tend to hire less people of color and women. If Dems such as Mary Landreiu (D-VA), Kay Hagan D-NC), and Mark Warner (D-VA) win, then the people of color and women working for them are likely to keep their jobs, more are likely to get hired, and techies of color who advocate outside of government are more likely to get calls answered, emails returned, and resources needed to…innovate.