The New Normal for African-American Voter Turnout

As election law changes threatened access to the ballot box this year, African-American turnout operations strengthened.

By Leslie Watson Malachi

Leslie Watson Malachi

In 2008, for the first time in our history, African Americans voted at the same rate as white voters.

We spent the next four years hearing that that high turnout was a fluke. "Experts" told us we would lose our enthusiasm. We’d be daunted by new voting laws. We’d want to protest marriage equality. We’d think our votes don’t count.

Those "experts" were wrong. African Americans turned out to vote in record numbers on Election Day, many of us waiting in long lines and going through plenty of red tape to do so. One of these determined voters was a 100-year-old "Church Mother" in imageElmhurst, New York who didn’t want any favors and stood in line and in solidarity with her fellow citizens.

This happened not just because our enthusiasm lasted, but because our organization strengthened.

African-American communities had strong voter turnout operations long before there was an African-American man on the presidential ballot, with many of them centered around the Black Church.

These turnout operations are there for a reason: Ever since the process toward full citizenship of African Americans began with the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, politicians and others have been trying to stop us from exercising the hard fought, hard won right to vote.

This year, the attacks on our voting system were intentionally suppressive. Elections officials in Ohio and Florida, for example, cut back on early voting hours, resulting in long lines at early voting locations and on Election Day — primarily in African American communities. Politicians from Pennsylvania to South Carolina tried to implement Voter ID laws, which disproportionately disenfranchise African Americans, other minorities, and the poor. Around the country, election law changes big and small threatened access to the ballot box.

In response to these attacks, African-American turnout operations developed and strengthened. I personally worked with 1,100 pastors in 22 states across denomination and faith traditions through our nonpartisan African American Ministers Leadership Council VESSELS program, to ensure that our congregations had both the skills and the will to vote.

We not only preached to our congregations about the importance of voting, we organized to make sure every person in our communities had the information and access they needed to vote. Reverend Tony Minor of Cleveland and Elder Lee Harris and Pastor R.L. Gundy of Jacksonville worked in diverse coalitions to organize early voting and an Election Day rides-to-the-polls hotline to help those in need get out to vote.

In Detroit, Bishops Allyson Abrams and Diana Williams recruited youth and young adults to share with people on the streets the importance of voting. Reverend Michael Couch of Philadelphia educated and motivated people who had served time for felonies and their families about getting their voting rights restored.

Reverend Barry Hargrove of Baltimore visited local barbershops on the weekends and registered voters while they got their hair cut. Reverend Charles Christian Adams in Detroit and Reverend Patrick Young in New York along with many others turned their fellowship halls into polling sites. Sister Jackie Dupont Walker in Los Angeles and Reverend Isaac McCullough in St. Louis used radio, email, and social media to spread the vote.

The civic engagement structure that African-American churches have built is here to stay. Next year, there will be municipal, state, and special elections, as well as ballot initiatives. It might be perceived as an "off year" for some, but for those of us who have been called to serve at such a time as this, it is "another year" to ask at every opportunity, "Are you registered, are you ready to vote?"

Pundits and politicians alike have tried to write off the African-American vote. But as every woman, man, youth, and elder of my community knows, we’ve come too far, seen too much, stood too long, felt "sick and tired of being sick and tired" too often, and fought too hard to turn back now.


Minister Leslie Watson Malachi is the director for African-American Religious Affairs at People For the American Way. www.pfaw.orgDistributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)

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Romney Ties to Voting Machines Threaten 2012 Election

Could a voting machine company with deep financial ties to the Romney family help Republicans steal the presidential election in Ohio?

It could happen. If this year’s presidential election comes down to the electoral votes in Ohio, the deciding votes could be cast on electronic voting machines manufactured by a company – Hart Intercivic – with deep financial ties to the Romney family.

Hart Intercivic is majority owned by H.I.G. Capital which controls two of the five seats on the Hart Intercivic board. An investment fund with deep ties to the Romney family and the Mitt Romney for president campaign, H.I.G. Capital was founded by Tony Tamer, a major bundler for the Romney campaign, and it is one of the largest partners of Solamere Capital, an investment fund founded by Tagg Romney and Spencer Zwick, Mitt Romney’s chief fundraiser from the 2008 presidential campaign. This makes the Romney family part owner of the voting machine company, through it’s interest in H.I.G. Capital.

A 2007 study conducted by Ohio’s Secretary of State showed that Hart Intercivic’s touch screen voting machines could be easily corrupted.

I just signed a petition telling the Department of Justice to not let Republicans steal the election in Ohio with Romney-owned voting machines. Click on the link below to find out more and sign the petition.

Related Resources:

Texas Voter ID Law, Which Accepts Gun Licenses But Not Student IDs, Challenged In Court

— By Aviva Shen on Jul 6, 2012 at 5:25 pm

On Monday, the Department of Justice and the Texas Legislature will square off in court over Texas’ contentious voter ID law. A three-judge U.S. District Court panel will hear the case, which could challenge the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Texas is one of nine states that must get any changes to their election law cleared by the DOJ under the Voting Rights Act due to a history of discrimination. Texas flunked the test; as Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez wrote in his letter to the Director of Elections, “According to the state’s own data, a Hispanic registered voter is at least 46.5 percent, and potentially 120.0 percent, more likely than a non-Hispanic registered voter to lack this identification.

The law, SB 14, requires voters to show one of a very narrow list of government-issued documents, excluding Social Security, Medicaid, or student ID cards. Gun licenses, however, are acceptable.

The DOJ found that Texas’s SB 14 will “disenfranchise at least 600,000 voters who currently lack necessary photo identification and that minority registered voters will be disproportionately affected by the law.”

As of the 2010 Census, non-Hispanic whites have become the minority in Texas, shrinking to 45.3% of the population from 52.4%, while Latinos accounted for 65% of Texas’s population growth over the past decade.

But Latinos are not the only people hurt by the restrictive bill. People who want to vote but don’t have an ID will have to pay a fee to get one, like Jessica Cohen, whose story ThinkProgress documented in November. After she lost her identification during a robbery, the only way to get a voter ID was to pay a fee to Missouri officials in order to obtain her birth certificate.

On Monday, Texas will defend the law as a necessary measure to prevent voter fraud. Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) argued that “Texas has a responsibility to ensure elections are fair, beyond reproach and accurately reflect the will of voters.” But the San Antonio Express-News reported that fewer than five “illegal voting” complaints involving voter impersonations were filed with the Texas Attorney General’s Office from the 2008 and 2010 general elections in which more than 13 million voters participated.

The Texas voter ID law isn’t the first the DOJ has had to combat. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder noted,

“The past two years have brought nearly two dozen new state laws and executive orders, from more than a dozen states, that could make it significantly harder for eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.”


This material [article] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe. Source: http://thinkprogress.org/election/2012/07/06/512245/texas-voter-id-law-which-accepts-gun-licenses-but-not-student-ids-challenged-in-court/

Supressing GOP Voter Suppression in Florida

Late last Thursday, the U.S. Justice Department ordered a halt to Florida’s effort to purge voter rolls of suspected noncitizens. It did so after a 91- year-old Florida man – a veteran of World War II, who earned a Bronze Star for his part in the Battle of the Bulge – was forced to show papers to prove to a Broward County worker he’s an American and entitled to his voter registration card.

Earlier that same day, a federal judge in Tallahassee blocked key parts of the state’s controversial 2011 election law, ruling its restrictions on third-party groups that register new voters were harsh and impractical.

Great news for Florida, in my opinion. For a year now, many of us have been fighting to fix this shameful law.

After Gov. Rick Scott signed it, I sought a Justice Department probe into whether the law makes it harder for young voters, seniors and minorities to vote. That review is ongoing. I also got a U.S. Senate panel to come to Tampa for an investigative hearing.

Now I’m asking a federal judge in our nation’s capital to let me join with a number of groups suing to strike other controversial provisions of the Florida law, such as its reduction in early voting days.

For my part, I don’t think we should be passing laws or conducting purges aimed at unduly limiting lawful citizens from exercising a fundamental right in our democracy – the right to vote.

Sincerely,

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL)

ALEC’s Disturbing Level of Influence

Anna Scholl, ProgressVA, joins Thom Hartmann. According to a new report by the advocacy group Progress Virginia – lawmakers in Virginia have outsourced their jobs to the shadowy, Koch brothers-funded, corporate think tank known as ALEC – the American Legislative Exchange Council. In case you dont know what ALEC is – it’s an organization that brings together corporate CEOs and lobbyists with elected lawmakers to come up with custom-made legislation that benefits big polluters, job outsourcers, and banksters, and hurts unions, poor people, and voters. And apparently it’s found a friend in the Virginia General Assembly – where since 2007 – over 50 different pieces of legislation have been introduced that are exact carbon copies of ALEC written legislation. So what does it mean when corporate think tanks are in charge of writing out laws?

Bill Pascoe, Citizens for the Republic (CFTR) joins Thom Hartmann. One of ALEC’s biggest causes – is denying people the right to vote. Many of these right-wing voter laws that are requiring people to have voter IDs – were conceived at these same ALEC conferences – by Republican lawmakers working on behalf of corporate CEOs who don’t like poor people voting in their best interests. According to the Brennan Center for Justice – 5 million eligible voters in America will be disenfranchised next election thanks to these laws. So – sadly – the effort appears to be working for Republicans – except for those like Newt Gingrich who didn’t make the Virginia Primary ballot.