[important]DNC on the Black Vote: Don’t Take it For Granted[/important]
>by Lauren Victoria Burke | March 02, 2012 | Voting Laws |
With 249 days left until election day, Democratic party leaders emphasize they will not take African-American voters for granted. Efforts against new voter ID laws and energizing the college community were two points of focus in the strategy.Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and DNC Executive Director Patrick Gaspard briefed reporters on strategies targeted to African American voters.
|Debbie Wasserman Schultz|
“We are in the process of standing up the most dynamic grass roots campaigns in American history,” Wasserman Schultz said. “The number one rule in politics is ‘never forget your base,’ the DNC Chair said, adding: “We are making sure that when it comes to African-American outreach — that it is a very high top priority in this campaign.”
Ninety six percent of African-American voters supported President Obama in 2008. However, many Democrats worry that the economic climate of the last few years could cause a drop in enthusiasm. Though the numbers appear to be improving, Black unemployment hit a 27 year high in August of 2011. The highest percentage of Americans living in poverty rose to the highest level in 18 years last year and African-Americans were disproportionately represented. Twenty seven percent of African-Americans live in poverty in the U.S.
Wasserman Schultz and Gaspard acknowledged the challenges and focused mostly on voter suppression issues and efforts to energize the African American base. African-Americans 18 to 29 voted at their highest percentage in history as did African-American women as 68% of all eligible Black women eligible to vote participated. President Obama received 7.4 million more votes in 2008 than President Bush in 2004 in his victory over Sen. John Kerry.
In Florida on the Sunday before election day in 2008, 54% of African Americans voted on the Sunday before election day Wasserman Schultz, also a Florida Congresswoman, pointed out as she made a point on Florida’s new voter ID laws passed last year by the Republican controlled legislature.
“Included in the election law the [Florida] legislature passed is a prohibition on having early voting on the Sunday before election day,” the DNC Chair said. “It was a very big African American turnout. So they deliberately did that,” she added.
“We are… deploying precinct by precinct lawyers to assist voters who are having any kind of a problem at the polls. We’re also deploying lawyers now and over the next few weeks who will be working full time in the field to makes sure that we can address the problems that come up to address the problems of voter suppression,” Wasserman Schultz said.
No formal specific strategic role was mentioned for members of Congress or state legislators. However, when asked who the 2012 campaign’s African-American surrogates would be, Gaspard did mention that CBC Chairman Emanuel Cleaver is one of 35 recently named as a campaign co-chair. Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus will be involved in a wide range of voter protection and voter education efforts. Included in that group are Cleaver, House Assistant Leader Jim Clyburn, John Lewis, Lacy Clay (along with Rev. Al Sharpton) and Marcia Fudge. Florida Reps. Frederica Wilson, Corinne Brown, Alcee Hastings are also focused on voter education efforts. Florida is one of the most important swing states in 2012 and has some of the most strict voting requirements. Rev. Al Sharpton will lead a march next week from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama focusing on the issue.
“We understand that in 2012 we have great potential but significant challenges,” Gaspard said. He also reminded reporters, “not only did we win… we saw unprecedented turnout in the African-American community” in 2008. Gaspard also pointed out that African-Americans turned out more in 2010 than in 2006 (off year elections) in California, New York and Florida. The DNC launched a HBCU initiative last week at 28 college campuses to get college students engaged. President Obama received 66% of voters aged 18-29 in 2008. John McCain received 29% of the 18-29 vote.
Gaspard also pointed out the potential of unregistered voters who could enter the equation. “In a state like Georgia where you have 420,000 eligible African-Americans who are not yet registered to vote. Clearly one can see the real, raw potential of animating those young folks on those HBCU campuses,” he pointed out.
In North Carolina: “Right now today there are 300,832 African-Americans in North Carolina who are not registered to vote. Getting out there and getting them involved will make all the difference in the world,” Gaspard said.
[important]Black Pastors Move To Counter New Voter ID Laws[/important]
>by Adelle M. Banks| Religion News Service | Posted: 09/07/2012 2:32 pm |
(RNS) African-American clergy are joining forces with civil rights groups to push for increased voter registration ahead of the November election, spurred on by new voter laws they say restrict opportunities for minorities to enter the voting booth.
“We must vote because we must counteract the corrupt and diabolical strategies of those who are trying to take away our vote by passing laws to suppress and diminish our
voting rights,” said the Rev. Julius Scruggs, president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, at a news conference Wednesday (Sept. 5) during his denomination’s Annual Session in Atlanta.
Scruggs, leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and top officials of four other black Baptist groups gathered to rally against the new laws and continue longtime efforts to get blacks registered to vote.
More than two dozen new voter laws have passed in 19 states since 2011, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. Some have been overturned but others remain on the books, such as a voter ID law in New Hampshire and proof of citizenship requirements in Alabama, Kansas and Tennessee. Proponents say they prevent fraud, while opponents say they are reducing access to the polling booth.
The voting laws — through which some states have reduced early voting or required government-issued identification to enter the polls — have changed some of the clergy’s voter education initiatives.
On Thursday, the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network scheduled a luncheon during the Democratic National Convention to declare a “state of emergency over voter suppression” and call for black pastors to spend the next 30 days helping people get IDs so turnout by black and Latino voters “is not compromised.”
“We are targeting congregations across the country to let them know where the laws have been changed so they are not surprised,” said the Rev. W. Franklyn Richardson, chairman of NAN and of the Conference of National Black Churches.
His church network was addressed by Attorney General Eric Holder at a May meeting in Washington that focused on the new laws.
The Rev. Jamal-Harrison Bryant, pastor of Empowerment Temple in Baltimore, started the Empowerment Movement, a national network of African-American clergy that aimed to register 1 million voters starting Easter Sunday. Bryant said the initiative — initially to have each black church register 20 people that day — registered 100,000 on Easter and now has a total of 420,000 registered. But Bryant, who attended the Atlanta rally, had not given up on the million-voter milestone.
“I’m here at a Baptist convention as an AME,” the African Methodist Episcopal pastor said. “I’m trying to find 1 million black people. They can be COGIC (Church of God in Christ), Pentecostal, United Methodist. It doesn’t matter.”
The NAACP estimates that 6 million African-Americans are eligible to vote but are not registered. In a new initiative, 34 churches have worked with the civil rights group to compare their membership rolls with local voter registration lists.
With memories of their forebears’ living with poll taxes and marching for the Voting Rights Act, many clergy are fighting the laws on two fronts: with get-out-the-vote initiatives and by supporting petitions in courts to overturn the laws.
From the Morehouse College chapel helping register 300 students at a block party to churches preparing caravans to the polls, black religious leaders are hoping to get people to vote regardless of the new laws.
“There is a suppression law that’s under attack, that’s in the federal courts, but we aren’t waiting on that final decision,” said the Rev. Ralph Canty, interim general secretary of the Progressive National Baptist Convention and a pastor in South Carolina.
“Many of us are doing all that we can to help people get ID. It’s difficult for older people. It’s requiring a whole lot of extra effort.”
In states that continue to have early voting that includes a Sunday, plans are underway to help churchgoers get there — right after service.
The Rev. Greg Moss, president of the Lott Cary Foreign Mission Convention and a Charlotte, N.C., pastor, will lead members of his congregation to the polls. “I ride a motorcycle and lead a caravan of people,” he said.
A federal court recently ruled that Texas’ voter ID law would have a “retrogressive” effect on the poor and racial minorities. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said he would appeal the decision to the Supreme Court because the law provides “ballot integrity safeguards” approved in other states.
The Rev. Frederick D. Haynes III, a NAACP religious affairs committee member and Texas pastor, said clergy in his state are collecting signatures to oppose an appeal.
“We want him to know there’s a voice evidently he’s not listening to,” said Haynes.
Eric McDaniel, associate professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin, said people are more likely to vote if they have a reason, whether it’s excitement about voting for Barack Obama as the first black president in 2008, or fear that voting rights are being restricted.
“If you can say, ‘You may not like Obama but some people are trying to take away your vote,’ that changes things significantly,” said McDaniel, author of a book on black churches and political mobilization. “That provides them with more ammunition to get them out to the polls.”
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