All Articles Tagged "voting rights"
Before Barack Obama was elected president, I was apathetic about an electoral system I felt never works in Black folks’ favor. I also didn’t have to be heavily invested in politics since I was too young to cast a vote before his campaign anyway. In 2008, however, with the arrival of President Obama, the political narrative shifted not necessarily in favor of Black America, but in favor of hope as he stood as a symbol that better (racial) times were ahead. Or so we hoped.
That fateful night, when my college campus erupted in celebration and students blasted “My President Is Black” by Young Jeezy from every corner of the yard, was one of the first times I ever felt extremely American, like maybe the country cared about us.
But now that Obama and his beautiful family spend their final months in the White House, that optimistic light he once inspired in me is dimming. In fact, because the current presidential race is so weak, to be quite frank, I don’t even want to waste my time voting.
In case you’ve haven’t been paying attention, on one side of the aisle is Donald Trump, GOP frontrunner and professional bigot. Again, to be frank, he is trash but is still considered the candidate to beat thanks to a scary amount of people in this country. His Republican opponents, Senator Ted Cruz, and Governor John Kasich, are less nauseating, so I’d bet on them over Trump. But that’s not saying much.
Alternatively, in an idealistic dream world lives Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. They’re pretty neck and neck in terms of popularity on the Democratic side, but I’m Young Metro to Clinton’s bullsh-t. Her newfound interest in the Black community is worthy of a side-eye. And though Sanders is the one candidate I wouldn’t mind seeing sitting in the Oval Office since his campaign seems the most fair and sound, he’s a little too impractical at times with his plans.
I’ll tell you what’s real: As a whole, the Black community is still largely underserved and devalued. The system doesn’t defend us as seen by the fallen Black bodies that haven’t received justice and the stereotypical tropes still pumping throughout media. In turn, we’ve created movements like Black Girls Rock!, Black Lives Matter and #BlackGirlMagic to bring about our own systems of inspiration and appreciation. We needed to revive our sense of community and purpose in the face of laws and policies that fail us every day. I have more hope in DeRay, in “Netta,” in Bomani Jones, and in the activism I finally feel and see moving within our community to stop accepting BS treatment in this country.
Because I’ve found solace in this activism, when I watch these debates play out in the political circus, I’m simply underwhelmed. I’m weary of all the talking.
Still, I can’t forget the countless Black men and women who fought tirelessly and died for our right to vote. Their resilience in the face of hoses and White supremacist rage is the only reason I’m still considering rocking an “I voted” sticker this time around, even though I don’t want to step foot in a voting booth. But at the end of the day, I never want to take their spilled blood for granted.
I just don’t feel fired up or have much faith in our system. I don’t hang on to every word Clinton says as I clung to Obama’s witty and thoughtful eloquence. If I do vote, I know I’ll simply be doing so as if I was making a rushed lunch decision. Literally, it’ll be like choosing between a pig or a cow. No matter what decision I make on the ballot, it might eventually kill me. So sometimes you can’t help but wonder, why make a choice at all?
The Census Bureau released data this week that details the voter turnout in the 2014 election and the numbers are frightening for many reasons.
In last year’s election, only 41.9 percent of the voting age population came out to the polls. This is the lowest number the Census has seen in its entire history of collecting voter activity which began in 1978. While the numbers alone are an unfortunate case, the realities behind them are even more so.
Between the 2012 presidential election and the 2014 midterm election the decline in voter turnout was the strongest among minorities and low-income citizens. And yes, politics are at play here.
The 2014 midterm election is the first election to take place since the Supreme Court ruled against an important provision in the Voting Rights Act, which led conservatives to push the passing of discriminatory laws with the purpose to do just what the 2014 election did – suppress turnout.
Evidence shows that when the process of voting is easier and there are less barriers to the polls, more people turnout but the recent rise in voter suppression laws have affected people of color and the poor the most.
The Census Bureau found the 2014 numbers to be extreme.
Less than 1 in 4 citizens in the lowest income bracket and of voting age turned out to vote, with only half being registered to vote. This is a 48 percent drop since the presidential election. In the highest income bracket, 80 percent were registered and 57 percent voted – a 29 percent decline since the presidential election.
While the highest income bracket noticed a drop another source that analyzes the wealthiest one percent found that in 2008, 99 percent voted, which shows that the very peak of wealth controls most of what happens in America.
Sean McElwee, a research associate at Demos, examined the ways in which a reduced turnout among people of color would effect policy. McElwee used the American National Election Studies of 2012 to examine the differences in opinion between white and non-white voters.
” I focus on four questions about fundamental disputes about the role of government: whether government should increase service, boost spending on the poor, guarantee jobs and reduce inequality. I examine net support, meaning I subtracted the percentage of people in support of the law from the percent in favor,” wrote McElwee in a article for Salon.
The chart further detailed what many minorities already assumed: the preferences of white voters are extremely different than those of non-white nonvoters.
While voter turnout will not fix all the problems in America, it would reduce the bias found across the voting public if the poor and people of color didn’t run into barriers they now face at the polls such as registration. McElwee writes that many political scientists believe that placing the responsibility of registration on voters instead of the government enforcing automatic renewal reduces turnout. Other ways that could boost voter turnout include turning Election Day into a holiday as well as offering non-partisan voter registration drives.
In North Carolina conservatives worked to eliminate same day registration, pre-registration and early voting while passing a strict voter ID law. Also, in Wisconsin, Governor and Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker pushed for voter IDs and laws that disenfranchised 300,000 voters.
Today’s reality shows us we have not gone as far as hoped and politicians are quickly looking to change policy to suppress votes in any way they can.
Should the state be held accountable for automatic voter renewal? Do you think another movement is needed to make sure the work of past voting rights activists is not uprooted?
Police in Charlotte, North Carolina, arrested a black LGBT activist and former state Senate candidate Monday, saying that he violated a city ordinance by distributing literature about voting rights and candidates on parked cars.
The arrest of Ty Turner, who was attending a Moral Mondays-affiliated rally at a park in Charlotte, was particularly poignant given that the event was held to condemn the state’s record on voting rights and racial profiling.
Read more about this case at BlackVoices.com
Ohio State Rep. Alicia Reece’s ‘Voters Bill of Rights’ Effort Misses July Deadline But She Vows To Continue
Ohio State Rep. Alicia Reece, a Cincinnati Democrat, is on a mission. And despite recently falling short of her July deadline to gather enough signatures on a “Voters Bill of Rights” constitutional amendment to put the issue on the ballot this November, she will continue her effort to collect signatures.
“The Ohio Voter Bill of Rights is a nonpartisan, grassroots effort to put voting rights in the constitution. This historic, grassroots initiative has overcome major hurdles with limited resources…,” Reece tells MadameNoire by email. “A grassroots movement of clergy, faith leaders, civil rights organizations– like the NAACP and the National Action Network – sororities, fraternities, Prince Hall Masons, and labor are actively training volunteers and aggressively collecting signatures throughout the state to put this issue on the ballot.”
Reece and amendment supporters needed to collect 385,254 valid signatures from registered Ohio voters by July 2. The group had been collecting signatures since March but were more than 200,000 signatures short. Reece and the Rev. Al Sharpton unveiled the plan at the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s March on Washington on August 24th, 2013.
The coalition behind the effort, led by Reece, will open a state office, hold a statewide conference on voting rights and build support among state and national groups. The Freedom Summer Initiative, named after a 1964 effort to register African-American voters resulted in deaths of three civil rights activists, wants to have included in the Ohio Constitution various voting procedures including early voting on weekends and online voter registration. “People died for the right to vote, and to think in 2014 we are still fighting this battle. Now, we have a chance to fight back and make sure that the next generation doesn’t have to,” Reece points out.
According to Reece, if it eventually goes through it will have a major effort on Ohio citizens. Reece explains: “The Voter Bill of Rights takes politics out of voting rights and creates permanent protections in the constitution for Ohio voters by doing the following: establishes the fundamental right of all Ohio citizens to cast a ballot and have their vote counted; provides 35 days for early and absentee voting, including the weekends; makes voter registration for all eligible citizens easy and accessible, including online; maintains current options for voters to identify themselves and expands ID options; and specifies ballots cast in the right county but wrong precinct shall be counted for candidates and issues that are on the ballot in the voter’s precinct.”
Reece is currently serving her second term as state representative in the 33rd Ohio House District, which includes the city of Cincinnati, Springfield Township, and Hamilton County suburbs. Prior to her appointment to the Ohio House, she served as Vice Mayor of Cincinnati from 2002-2006 and was a City Councilwoman for the eight years prior to that.
Voting rights took a hit last year with the Supreme Court decision in Shelby v. Holder which tossed out some key points of the Voting Rights Act and has led to legislation that changes voting rules, many of the changes negatively impacting the Black vote. President Obama spoke on the issue at this year’s National Action Network annual conference, responding to claims by GOP lawmakers that new voting access efforts are aimed at curbing (largely non-existent) voter fraud.
“The real voter fraud is people who try to deny us our rights with bogus arguments,” he said.
Reece vows not to stop because the issue is bigger than just Ohio. “There is a war on voting rights. Voter suppression laws are being introduced and passed in various states throughout the country,” she explains. “The Voter Bill of Rights allows the people to determine their voting rights and put them permanently in their state constitution. While the movement begins in Ohio, it does not stop here. This could be a model for other states. The Ohio Voter Bill of Rights is a movement that starts in Ohio, but doesn’t end here.”
“I Thought We Settled This 50 Years Ago”: Obama Discusses Voting Rights At National Action Network Conference
President Obama shut down New York City (literally) to make a brief appearance today at the National Action Network’s annual conference, where he spoke to a crowd that included press, government officials (we spotted Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), and esteemed guests (we also spotted Martin Luther King III) about the need for vigilance in the fight for voting rights. Moreover, Obama expressed his disbelief over the fact that we’re even having this discussion in 2014. Truth!
“We should not be having an argument over this,” the President said at one point. He set his sights squarely on the Republican party, which has taken up a fight in many states to make it harder to vote. The President brushed aside the assertion that these laws are meant to tackle voter fraud with statistics — 40 voters out of 197 million have been indicted for fraud. But among the rules that are being passed is a mandate for some to present a passport to register to vote.
“Just because you don’t have the money to travel abroad doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to vote at home,” the President said. He later added, “The real voter fraud is people who try to deny us our rights with bogus arguments.”
But more than that, he called on everyone to take responsibility for getting to the polling place. The problem, he said, is “people giving up the right to vote.”
Patience is also required if change will come once and for all.
“Change doesn’t happen overnight, but it happens as long as we don’t give our power away,” the President remarked.
Obama made his way to New York just hours after appearing at the White House with outgoing Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, and his new choice, Sylvia Mathews Burwell. Obama opened his speech by referencing the success of the healthcare law — more than seven million enrolled — and again taking a swipe at Republicans.
“We have states who, just out of political spite, won’t let people get health insurance,” he said.
A quick clip about the event after the jump.
The voting rights advancements made during the civil rights era are being eroded. Take recent Supreme Court decisions on voting rights and political contributions as a examples of the regression. Last week, the court delivered a 5-4 decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission which eliminated the aggregate cap on individual campaign donations. In other words, rich individuals such as the Koch brothers can put all their wealth behind a candidate, giving other candidates with poorer supporters less of a chance to aggressively compete.
Another setback came with last year’s Shelby v. Holder case, which curtailed the Voting Rights Act and “inspired a spree of Republican-initiated voter-restriction laws across the nation,” reports The Root. The decision seemingly helps Republicans create voting obstacles for African Americans, Latinos and the poor. Among the tactics are voter ID laws, changes to absentee ballot access, and the purging of voter rolls.
And to many the GOP is being helped by the Supreme Court, who among other moves last year knocked down a central provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. This allowed several , mainly Southern, to change their election laws without Justice Department approval. As such North Carolina has passed the country’s most harsh restrictions on voting, eliminating same-day voter registration; cutting early voting down to 10 days from 17; mandating a photo ID requirement; and stopping straight-ticket party voting. Since last year, nine states have passed more restrictive voting laws. Other states, such as Ohio and Wisconsin, are in the process of enacting new voting restrictions as well.
Obama’s victory caused shifts in both voter turnout and the composition of the American electorate. For the first time in history, African Americans voted in larger numbers than whites. Because of this, the chances that in 2016 White House would continue to be held Democrats were high–until these latest court decisions. Just this weekend, The New York Times took a look at the battle going on in swing states, where new rules, including shorter windows for casting a vote, are having a disproportionate impact on black voters. “Democrats and other critics of the laws say that in the face of shifting demographics, Republicans are trying to alter the rules and shape the electorate in their favor,” the article says. “Those most affected by the restrictions are minorities and the urban poor, who tend to vote Democratic.”
Expanding in these new court decisions, the G.O.P. is bidding to limit voting in swing states. Some states are even pondering mandating proof of citizenship, like a birth certificate or a passport, Arizona and Kansas have already done so.
Democrats aren’t taking all this lying down. Dems in North Carolina, for example, are pushing back against what is now the nation’s most restrictive voting laws, passed by Republicans last year. The new laws greatly reduce the number of early voting days and put rules in place that make it more harder for people to register to vote, cast provisional ballots or, in a some cases, vote absentee.
To counter the GOP moves, Democrats have tried to make it easier for people to sign up to vote, including online voting and registration. California, Colorado, Maryland, Arizona and Kansas have started online registration.
Are you registered to vote? Midterm elections are around the corner.
One of the main objectives of the United Nations is to promote and protect human rights. And for ages many have wondered why the organzation has never taken a stand on the plight of blacks in the United States. It was a question activist Malcolm X wondered years ago, wanting to bring the organization into the Civil Rights Movement. Now leaders of the NAACP plan to travel to Geneva to report to the United Nations on civil rights issues in the United States, reports BET.
According to the NAACP, it will send a delegation to the meeting of the United Nations next week for the review of the United States’s part in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The group aims to also address Florida’s very controversial Stand Your Ground law as well as how several states have adopted voter identification requirements in order to cast ballots and how this affects people of color in the U.S.
“We’re convinced that the advent of photo ID laws have a disproportionate impact on racial minorities in terms of voting,” Hilary Shelton, the NAACP’s senior vice president for policy and advocacy and director of the organization’s Washington bureau, told BET.
“We find that there are many people, many of them African-American, who are disproportionately disenfranchised by these laws,” Shelton said.
The NAACP is working in partnership organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the Hip Hop Caucus, co-authors of a report on felony disenfranchisement that was submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
“The NAACP first brought a delegation before the United Nations Human Rights Council in 1947, when W.E.B. Dubois delivered his famous speech ‘An Appeal to the World’ warning the global body about threats to voting rights in the United States,” the organization reports on its website.
It has long been a question for many: If a convicted felon has paid their debt to society, why don’t they regain their right to vote? Attorney General Eric Holder is pressuring the Administration to restore voting rights to former felons, calling laws that disenfranchise millions of Americans “unnecessary and unjust.”
They are rooted in “centuries-old conceptions of justice that were too often based on exclusion, animus, and fear,” The Huffington Post continues.
During the last several months, Holder, who believes the policies disparately impact minority communities, has been focused on criminal justice reform.
“By perpetuating the stigma and isolation imposed on formerly incarcerated individuals, these laws increase the likelihood they will commit future crimes,” Holder stated during a recent criminal justice reform event hosted by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights at Georgetown University Law Center. “They undermine the reentry process and defy the principles of accountability and rehabilitation that guide our criminal justice policies. And however well-intentioned current advocates of felony disenfranchisement may be, the reality is that these measures are, at best, profoundly outdated.”
Because of current laws, an estimated 5.8 million Americans, more than the individual populations of 31 states, cannot vote, according to Holder. The AG praised Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) as a “leader” on the issue of restoring voting rights and called Paul’s “vocal support for restoring voting rights for former inmates shows that this issue need not break down along partisan lines.”
Right now, 11 states restrict voting rights for ex-felons who have served their sentences and are no longer on parole.
“It is unwise, it is unjust, and it is not in keeping with our democratic values,” Holder said. “These laws deserve to be not only reconsidered, but repealed.”
John Legend ain’t too happy about some of the voter ID laws in United States. The “Made to Love” singer plunged into a political campaign and launched a concert in North Carolina, a state with restrictive voting rights, to fight for America’s voice in choosing the country’s leaders, Afro.com reports.
In partnership with the NAACP, Legend urged his fans to promote voting rights at his recent concert in Durham, N.C. Legend sought to make registering to vote convenient by convincing concert-goers to simply text “LEGEND” to 62227. The Grammy Award-winning crooner will continue to campaign for this cause throughout his “Made to Love” tour.
“Launching in North Carolina, a state feeling the brunt of new restrictive and discriminatory election laws, will set the tone for concert goers across the country in states where some of the most egregious law changes have been introduced or implemented,” said the Rev. William Barber, president, NAACP North Carolina State Conference.
Ever since President Obama was elected in 2008, Republican legislative leaders have searched for measures to stifle the minority vote, though they argue they’re passing these laws to prevent voter fraud, which isn’t problem in this country. As a result, there have been “fewer early voting days, restrictive voter ID laws, purging of voter rolls and more,” Afro.com adds. It’s maddening, Legend says, that there are people who would implement laws to restrict some Americans from voting.
“Generations have fought hard and even died for this right, and now is not the time for our country to move backwards. All of our leaders should seek to have inclusive elections that reflect the true will of the people, no matter who they intend to vote for. The politics of exclusion are unacceptable,” Legend said in a statement.
Adding fuel to Legend’s fire, a July 2013 Supreme Court decision nullified a section of the Voting Rights Act that served to protect underrepresented American voters. The NAACP, which has launched its own battle against anti-voting strategies, is pleased that Legend is joining their team to heighten their efforts:
“[John Legend’s] influence as a world-renowned artist and activist will be a catalyst to spread the word that it is not enough just to exercise your right to vote. We must also protect our right to vote for future generations,” said NAACP interim President Lorraine C. Miller.
Legend is no stranger to political activism. We’ve seen the singer wholeheartedly support Obama’s 2008 campaign. Legend sang “If You’re Out There,” a song for voter engagement, at the Democratic National Convention.
Last night, President Obama gave the first State of the Union address of his second term (we live tweeted it here) and he raced through a number of big issues that he’d like to see Congress act on in the coming months. One of those issues, and possibly most unexpected, was a higher minimum wage.
But there were others that will be up for debate — among Congresspeople and voters alike. Here, we outline nine of the big ones. And in the comments, feel free to chime in with your thoughts and debate. That’s democracy at work!