Educate, Organize and Mobilize – Efforts to protect and expand voting rights in North Carolina continue to gain strength. A few weeks ago I wrote about a plan taking shape by Black publishers and Black elected officials to convene a series of voting rights forums designed to help address the need to protect and expand Black’s access to the ballot. The proposal was well received, and the first forum is scheduled in Fayetteville on November 7th. The NC Caucus of Black School Board Members (NCCBSBM) and a coalition of Black publishers are co-sponsoring the Fayetteville forum.
The first forum will be held at the Westover Recreation Center located at 267 Bonanza Dr. Fayetteville, NC 28303 from 10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. The forum is open and free to the public. Other participating Black publishers and I will continue to update our readers with agenda specifics and vision ideas as our planning continues. We plan to analyze the political landscape and identify areas that need attention or shoring up.
As previously noted, while holding the forums, we will engage in messaging and outreach in order to ensure that all who wish to get involved with the task of protecting and expanding our voting rights will know how to get involved. Educating, organizing and mobilizing Black voters are inherent in our efforts to succeed in protecting our voting rights. Because we’re planning multiple forums leading up to the November 2016 General Elections, our leaders and communities will be able to engage in ongoing dialogues to plan and evaluate community engagement strategies.
I believe that the way we address the issue of protecting the voting rights of Blacks will go a long ways with efforts to bring economic equity to Black communities. The challenges to protect voting rights are the same as those we face in creating economic equity. Both challenges require ongoing effort of interaction between all segments of our communities and the leadership of Black elected officials. I’ve found that fundamental to solving problems is the ability to accurately define them and to educate constituents. Because our Black elected officials represent the reservoir of political and economic empowerment potential of our communities, it is essential that they describe our goals and objectives in these arenas and lead our efforts to achieve them.
It is important that our elected officials and their strategic allies and constituents be present at our forums. It is essential that they be a part of the strategy discussions that will be the basis of decisions that are made on community mobilization for the 2016 General Elections. One elected official that has helped to coordinate this project is Rep. Rodney Moore, D-Mecklenburg County. According, to Rep. Moore “one of the most important responsibilities of Black elected officials, if not the most important responsibility is to protect and expand Black voting rights.”
The Black publications that are presently supporting our efforts are The Fayetteville Press, County News, The Carolina Times, The Winston-Salem Chronicle and Greater Diversity News. Please look to these publications for ongoing coverage as this project continues to evolve and please share your ideas on what we can do to improve the project and our coverage.
As I regularly do, this week I am calling your attention to a voter suppression scheme in Kansas. I do this because I’m relatively certain that schemes that survive legal and public challenges in other states will eventually make their way to North Carolina. The Kansas voter suppression scheme requires proof of citizenship in order to register.
Ms. Amelia Flores, a high school senior in Kansas with plans to become an electrical engineer, said she was born in Washington State. She unwittingly joined a list of more than 36,000 people in Kansas who have tried to register to vote since the law went into effect in 2013, but then did not complete their registration. This month, under a rule adopted by the Kansas secretary of state’s office, county election officials throughout the state began to cull names from the voters list, removing people who had been on it at least 90 days [but have not completed the registration process]. Those removed from the list must start the registration process over to vote.
According to Ms. Flores, “A lot of people are working multiple jobs, so they don’t have time to get this stuff done. Some of them don’t have access to their birth certificate.”
Advocates of voting rights said the Kansas law, like about a dozen similar voter identification laws passed in Republican-led states since 2011, is intended to depress voter turnout among groups that lean Democratic, including low-income and minority voters. (See link No. 1 below).
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