Historic battle for voting rights is front and center

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When newly elected Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merril, a Democrat, attended her first national meeting last year, she was stunned to discover that her Republican counterparts across the country were all focused on how to keep the number of voters down in their states.

"In my opinion, it is not only a right, it is an obligation for every eligible person to vote," Merrill said at a recent labor luncheon.

Her reaction to that national meeting was to come back to Connecticut and introduce a legislative package that would open up the voting process and make it easier for everyone to participate. She studied what could make it easier for voters with low incomes juggling several jobs, students, and voters with small children, elderly voters, and voters in communities of color.

As a result, in this legislative session Connecticut became the tenth state to enact Election Day voter registration beginning in 2013, and the tenth state to enact an online voter registration option beginning in 2014.

The battle for voting rights is front and center in this presidential election, where turnout will be key. Voters in states representing 70% of the electoral vote will be affected by restrictive laws this year, many requiring specific forms of ID promoted by the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Other limitations include restricting voter registration drives, limits on when or where people can register to vote, cutting back on early voting and improper purging of voters from voter rolls.

It is estimated by the Brennan Center for Justice that as many as 5 million voters could be blocked from casting their votes as a result of these laws. Those voters most highly impacted will be African American and Latino, low-income, elderly and young.

The Connecticut example of opening up the voting process is a positive push for the Voter Empowerment Act of 2012 HR 5799 introduced in Congress last week by Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and 130 co-sponsors. The goal is to make it easier for voters to cast their ballots and stay on voter rolls.

Lewis, who was brutally beaten during the march for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., in 1965, understands clearly the dangers to democracy that voter suppression represents. This year he re-traced those steps with thousands of labor, civil rights and immigrant rights leaders from around the country.

"The ability to vote should be easy, accessible and simple. Yet there are practices and laws in place that make it harder to vote today than it was even one year ago," said Lewis.

"The sponsors of this act believe we need to take action or risk losing the liberties we have enjoyed. We should be moving toward a more inclusive democracy, not one that locks people out," he concluded.

The Voter Empowerment Act of 2012 would enable online voter registration, Election Day registration and automatic voter registration at government offices. It would also require 15 days of early voting, which many states do not offer. In addition, the bill would automatically restore voting rights to ex-felons after they complete their sentence.

Earlier this month, the NAACP launched "This is My Vote," the largest voter registration, education and turnout project in its history. The 50-state campaign is aimed specifically at communities of color, youth and elderly voters, involving students, civil rights groups and the National Baptist Convention's 10,000 congregations.

"When voter suppression is the problem, voting is the answer. America hasn't seen a coordinated attack on voting rights of this scale in over a hundred years. But we can turn this situation around if we vote," said NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous.

The demographics of our country are rapidly changing. Texas is already a majority minority state. Our nation's population is younger and more culturally diverse, especially with Latino growth. It is also becoming more progressive. Taxing the rich has overwhelming support, as does ending the wars.

Hate groups, the tea party and the Republican right wing are the modern-day attack dogs and hoses attempting to suppress the vote of African Americans, Latinos, women and youth.

Protests have forced ALEC to shut down their "Public Safety and Elections Task Force," which pushed voter-suppression and Stand Your Ground laws through many state legislatures.

A lawsuit brought by Shelby County, Ala., to end Section 5 enforcement of the Voting Rights Act has been rejected on the grounds that instances of voter discrimination were overwhelmingly found in Southern areas.

This week the Advancement Project and five other organizations called on the Department of Justice to take action to halt and investigate a sweep of voter rolls in Florida requiring thousands of voters, mostly Latino, to produce proof of citizenship within 30 days, implying that they were voting illegally.

"What's happening now, is not only illegal but it's inaccurate," said Katherine Culliton-Gonzalez, director of voter protection projects. "There are actual citizens on these lists. So, what's happening is completely counter to the fundamental principles of our democracy."

Just as history was made in Connecticut after many years of attempts to enact Election Day voter registration, the movement is building nationally for a historic voter turnout in 2012 despite all the obstacles.

"We've been dealt a dirty hand but the solution is not just to accept that. We are putting in place a plan to reach, one way or the other, every single person potentially disenfranchised in all these states," says AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker. "That means on the job, online, in the neighborhoods, at their doorsteps, in the churches - everywhere."

Marching in Alabama with Rep. John Lewis as they re-traced the 1965 voting rights route she said, "Together we are one. Together we will make change."

Photo: Creative Commons 3.0 Some of the participants in the 2012 re-enactment of the march from Selma to Montgomery.

 

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  • It seems very unfortunate that there is not considerable comment on this very excellent and relevant article by sister Joelle Fishman.
    It would be encouraging if the different locales and locals, that is Communist Party clubs, would have a dialogue about the big struggles involving voting rights.
    Missouri, somehow has found its way directly in the middle of these struggles, and in a very real sense, right in the heat of the battle of workers of the world for full economic, political and especially anti-poverty rights, with which voting rights are inextricably attached.
    About eight weeks ago, Cole County Circuit Court struck down a Missouri measure requiring persons to show a photo I. D. before they could vote. Judge Patricia Joyce called the measure"Insufficient and unfair." It is estimated that more than 250,00 Missourians have no state ID and their voting rights are at grave risk.
    The Judge's finding followed an important symposium, held March 16. At this event national, regional and local citizens and elected officials met to organize to protect voting rights. Congressman and Congressional Black Caucus Chair, Emanuel Cleaver, Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Representative Stacey Newman, NAACP general counsel, Kim Keenan, Denise Lieberman, senior attorney, The Advancement Project, and others attended and deliberated. Reverend Al Sharpton of National Action Network and Politics Nation offered brief and opening remarks.
    The meeting and participants agreed that there was no serious threat to voting security and that voting fraud was virtually non-existent in the United States of America.
    The meeting urged-with Congressman Clay from Missouri's 1st District that participants follow-up and organize to stop the drive to change Missouri's state constitution to include protections against non-existing voting fraud. Congressmen Clay and Cleaver from Missouri can be contacted visiting www.lacyclay.house.gov or emanuelcleaver.house.gov.
    Also get Congressman Cleaver's newsletter, EC from DC, at the same.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 05/31/2012 10:18am (2 years ago)

  • It seems very unfortunate that there is not considerable comment on this very excellent and relevant article by sister Joelle Fishman.
    It would be encouraging if the different locales and locals, that is Communist Party clubs, would have a dialogue about the big struggles involving voting rights.
    Missouri, somehow has found its way directly in the middle of these struggles, and in a very real sense, right in the heat of the battle of workers of the world for full economic, political and especially anti-poverty rights, with which voting rights are inextricably attached.
    About eight weeks ago, Cole County Circuit Court struck down a Missouri measure requiring persons to show a photo I. D. before they could vote. Judge Patricia Joyce called the measure"Insufficient and unfair." It is estimated that more than 250,00 Missourians have no state ID and their voting rights are at grave risk.
    The Judge's finding followed a important symposium, held March 16. At this event national, regional and local citizens and elected officials met to organize to protect voting rights. Congressman and Congressional Black Caucus Chair, Emanuel Cleaver, Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Representative Stacey Newman, NAACP general counsel, Kim Keenan, Denise Lieberman, senior attorney, The Advancement Project, and others attended and deliberated. Reverend Al Sharpton of National Action Network and Politics Nation offered brief and opening remarks.
    The meeting and participants agreed that there was no serious threat to voting security and that voting fraud was virtually non-existent in the United States of America.
    The meeting urged-with Congressman Clay from Missouri's 1st District that participants follow-up and organize to stop the drive to change Missouri's state constitution to include protections against non-existing voting fraud. Congressmen Clay and Cleaver from Missouri can be contacted visiting www.lacyclay.house.gov or emanuelcleaver.house.gov.
    Also get Congressman Cleaver's newsletter, EC from DC, at the same.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 05/31/2012 10:14am (2 years ago)

  • Don't be fooled.
    ALEC will not abandon its agenda.

    A product of their Public Safety and Elections Committee is still posted, and influencing conservative state legislators.

    On September 7, 2007, ALEC’s National Board Members gave final approval to a resolution, passed by its members, in support of the current Electoral College system used to elect the President of the United States.

    http://www.alec.org/docs/Electoral_College_PR.pdf

    ALEC’s First Vice Chairman, State Sen. Steve Faris (AR) said “I am proud ALEC has endorsed this resolution and is committed to oppose all national popular vote legislation."

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. There would no longer be a handful of 'battleground' states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in more than 3/4ths of the states that now are just 'spectators' and ignored after the primaries.

    When the bill is enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes– enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538), all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC.

    The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls.
    Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

    Despite ALEC's opposition and influence, the bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 states. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions possessing 132 electoral votes - 49% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

    NationalPopularVote

    Follow National Popular Vote on Facebook via nationalpopularvoteinc

    Posted by mvymvy, 05/30/2012 4:55pm (2 years ago)

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