All Articles Tagged "voting rights"

Ohio State Rep. Alicia Reece’s ‘Voters Bill of Rights’ Effort Misses July Deadline But She Vows To Continue

July 21st, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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LAICOMM_Alicia Reece Official Headshot-1Ohio 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

April 11th, 2014 - By Tonya Garcia
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via Tonya Garcia

via Tonya Garcia

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.

Supreme Court Rulings Hurting Black Voters: New Laws Are Curbing Access To The Polls

April 9th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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Two-year-old Tobias Nichols at a voting booth in New York. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Two-year-old Tobias Nichols at a voting booth in New York. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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.

NAACP Taking U.S. Voting Rights And Civil Rights Issues To The UN

March 10th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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spirit of america / Shutterstock.com

spirit of america / Shutterstock.com

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.

US Attorney General Pushes To Restore Voting Rights For Former Felons

February 13th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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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 Links Up With NAACP To Fight Restrictive Voting Laws

November 12th, 2013 - By Kimberly Gedeon
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Johnny Louis/WENN.com

Johnny Louis/WENN.com

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.

9 Big Issues Covered in the State Of The Union Address

February 13th, 2013 - By Tonya Garcia
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AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, Pool

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, Pool

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!

Chime In: African-American Christians Decide Not To Vote This Election

September 17th, 2012 - By madamenoire
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Source: AP

From Black Voices

Some black clergy see no good presidential choice between a Mormon candidate and one who supports gay marriage, so they are telling their flocks to stay home on Election Day. That’s a worrisome message for the nation’s first African-American president, who can’t afford to lose any voters from his base in a tight race.

The pastors say their congregants are asking how a true Christian could back same-sex marriage, as President Barack Obama did in May. As for Republican Mitt Romney, the first Mormon nominee from a major party, congregants are questioning the theology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its former ban on men of African descent in the priesthood.

In 2008, Obama won 95 percent of black voters and is likely to get an overwhelming majority again. But any loss of votes would sting.

To continue reading, go to Black Voices.

More on Madame Noire!

No Voter ID for Black Woman in Tennessee

October 6th, 2011 - By madamenoire
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Dorothy Cooper Denied Voter ID

By Brande Victorian

The year 1960 was the first and only time 96-year-old Dorothy Cooper didn’t vote. A new state law in Tennessee that requires a photo ID in order to register may make 2012 her second.

Cooper, after finding out the requirement, set out to get the necessary ID. Rent receipt, lease, voter registration card, and birth certificate in hand, the Chattanooga resident was denied an ID at the Cherokee Boulevard Driver Service Center because her maiden name, Dorothy Alexander, was the one on her birth certificate. Without a marriage certificate she couldn’t prove that Cooper is indeed her last name.

State Rep. Tommie Brown, D-Chattanooga, told the ChattanoogaTimes Free Press Cooper’s case is an example of how the law “erects barriers” for elderly and poor people who are disproportionately minorities.

“What you do, you suppress the vote,” Brown said. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out. It makes no sense in these economic times that we are shifting our time and resources to this.”

Tennessee Department of Safety spokeswoman Dalya Qualls acknowledged in an email to the Free Press that things could have been handled better.

“It is department policy that in order to get a photo ID, a citizen must provide documentation that links their name to the document they are using as primary proof of identity,” Qualls wrote. “In this case, since Ms. Cooper’s birth certificate (her primary proof of identity) and voter registration card were two different names, the examiner was unable to provide the free ID.”

Still, “the examiner should have taken extra steps to determine alternative forms of documentation for Ms. Cooper.”

A total of $438,000 was allocated to provide free photo IDs for registered voters who don’t have a qualified ID—a move lawmakers said was necessary to prevent voter fraud. A coalition of organizations announced an effort to repeal the law In Nashville on Tuesday.

“This is a nonpartisan issue. It’s a fair voting issue,” Mary Mancini, Executive Director of Citizen Action, told the Free Press in a phone interview. “It’s all about the legislators seeing that the people of Tennessee don’t want this law.”

After Cooper was denied a photo ID, Charline Kilpatrick, who has been working with residents to get free photo IDs, contacted Hamilton County’s Administrator of Elections Charlotte Mullis-Morgan. She recommended that Cooper vote with an absentee ballot which doesn’t require a photo ID.

No Really, Republicans Are Taking Your Voting Rights

October 4th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(TheLoop21) — Forget about whether President Obama deserves a second term.  Forget about the pony that was promised to you during the campaign of “Hope” and “Change.”  Your support of or disappointment in the Obama administration’s progress over the past three years doesn’t matter.  That’s because the GOP by way of Republican lead state legislatures have put in place new voting laws that will make it much more difficult for traditionally Democratic voters to cast their ballots next year.  The GOP’s all out assault on voting will affect nearly 5 million people and almost all of them are Democratic voters.  According to a new report released by the Brennan Center for Justice, the impact of new voting restrictions on 2012 could be significant.  The groups that will be affected by these new voting restrictions are minority and poor voters.  “This is the most significant cutback in voting rights in decades. More voters may be affected than the margin of victory in two out of the past three presidential elections,” said Michael Waldman, the Center’s executive director. “In 2012 we should make it easier for every eligible citizen to vote. Instead, we have made it far harder for too many. Partisans should not try to tilt the electoral playing field in this way.”

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