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VoteReady

Importance of Voter Turnout and its correlation to HBCU’s

August 1, 2014 | By | No Comments

By: Jordan King

Voting has always been the best way for constituents to get their voices heard in local, state, and national governments. As a democracy, we reserve the right to choose who we want to represent our needs, and voting directly impacts this process. While the youth voter turnout has always been important in elections, politically-involved youth tend to lean Democratic, which of course would mean more problems for Republican-controlled locations. The youth vote, and more importantly the minority vote, is what helped the nation’s first-elected African American President win two terms in office; this definitely has not gone unnoticed in Republican states.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) helped to eradicate several instances of voter discrimination aimed toward minorities. These practices would range from poll taxes, unfairly administered literacy tests, and a number of absurd methods aimed to dissuade and prevent the minority vote from making an impact. VRA, which helped to break down barriers minorities faced as well as a measure in the 1970’s that lowers the voting age to 18, further allowed both college aged youth and young minorities to become involved in the political process as well make serious differences in election results.

Due to the noted effect of both the youth and minority vote in the last two elections, states with Republican control have taken extreme measures to once again stifle their voice. In North Carolina, the Republican-controlled legislature has passed several measures and initiatives to either take voting precincts off of, or move them further away from, college campuses that tend to lean Democratic.

Several examples of voter suppression include: gerrymandering (the practice of redrawing precinct lines to favor a particular party), voter ID laws which may bar the use of a college ID as proper qualifications, requiring that out-of-state students use a mail-in ballot due to “not actually being a resident of their college state”, and a slew of other tactics up for consideration. This past year, North Carolina A&T’s Rock the Vote campaign focused on voter registration, awareness about the importance of voting, student turnout, and lackluster enthusiasm toward voting — all of which are major concerns to the university.

This reflects the trend of some HBCU’s in the south to experience lack of excitement on the issue due to the various efforts on behalf of their state to protect Republican interests. Even in Florida, voter disenfranchisement issues have affected their college campuses including their four HBCU’s (Florida A&M, Florida Memorial, Edward Waters, and Bethune-Cookman). Sketchy political processes, purging registered voters, and missing ballots have surfaced in the state’s news headlines and are being targeted as further tactics from Republicans to stifle the voice of many college and minorities.

Despite best efforts to undermine the minority and youth vote, several campaigns and organizations have organized to combat and raise awareness to these issues. North Carolina’s Student Engagement and Empowerment Network (SEEN) has been created by 10 HBCU’s in the state to develop ideas and strategies to empower and mobilize minority and young voters. Also, the American Civil Liberties Union has been effective in calling out these malice practices and posting information on current news relating to developments with voter suppression. Even the Washington, DC-based nonprofit IMPACT’s “#VoteReady” campaign was established to both raise awareness, as well as actively help to register and re-register voters under age 40. Another important aspect of the campaign has been its use of the growing platform of social media to reach the masses and mobilize youth on college campuses as well across the country.

As both minorities and youth, our voice is especially important. As seen before, we have more power and influence than ever before in elections, and it’s imperative that we continue to showcase our presence. We must stay alert and aware to legislation passed to silence our voices and continuously fighting for the preservation of our right to vote. While these practices as well as believing that our voice isn’t actually heard may discourage some, we must never give up in the grand scheme of things. Voting has been and will always be the best way for one to exercise power and influence in the political process.

Message to the Youth – The 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

August 1, 2014 | By | No Comments

By: Zha Marie Hurley

Nearly two centuries after the United States gained its independence, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing of the Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964, granted African Americans their long awaited independence from the harsh brutality brought upon them by other Americans simply because of the color of their skin. The Civil Rights Act, not only protects citizens from racial persecution, but also deems it illegal to discriminate on the basis of color, sex, religion, or national origin. This law solemnly marked the beginning of a new and ever-changing era and catalyzed a glimpse of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Dream.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 opened doors for many other laws that protected the rights and equality of all citizens to follow. Laws such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which made it illegal to use literacy tests for voter registration (many of which made it impossible for African Americans to pass) and allowed federal prosecution to oversee minority voters and to scrutinize the use of poll taxes in state and local elections. The U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission drafted the 1964 law that made it illegal for discrimination in the work place. These along with other laws, such as the Equal Housing Act of 1968 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, worked to continue the fight of American impartiality.

On July 15th, I had the pleasure of attending the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 celebration, which was hosted by the U.S Department of Justice and Howard University. This celebration sought to praise and recognize all of the leaders, activists, students, and civilians, who fought for and contributed to the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These people held countless sit-ins, marched on Washington, encountered riots along with church and house bombings. Astounding leaders and activists of this movement, such as Ambassador Andrew Young, Julian Bond, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, and Helen Zia spoke of their experiences and roles in the fight for equality. Additionally, there were present-day leaders, such as the first African American U.S Attorney General, Eric H. Holder Jr., Secretary Thomas E. Perez, Secretary Arne Duncan along with many others, who had the chance to speak at the Tuesday celebration.

From the start of the celebration, I could tell that it would be a call for my generation to go out and fight for a cause. This resonated in me at the beginning of Attorney General, Eric H. Holder’s speech, when he stated, “It is a privilege to be among so many distinguished guests including… young people, who will carry on the work that we commemorate and build on the single achievement that we celebrate here today.” Following Attorney General Holder, Ambassador Andrew Young proceeded by giving testimony to only accomplishing two-thirds of Dr. King’s promise, which was to, “Redeem the soul of America from the triple evils of racism, war, and poverty.”

He elucidated that we could not redeem the war on poverty because we do not understand economics. He continued his speech by explaining that our textbooks are outdated and what we are learning in school about economics has no relevance to the actual economics of our new technological world. To me, his message to the youth was to gain a sufficient understanding of global economics and to take on the war on poverty. The advice from the Impact of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Panel was remarkably motivational as well. One of the panelists, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland’s advice represented the overall message of the entire celebration, “Find your cause and do something. You don’t know where it’ll lead.”

Hearing Ambassador Young and Julian Bond speak about high school and college students playing a crucial role in the movement, hit home for me. I began to compare the amount of students who were active in fighting against the injustices in America in the 1960s to the amount of students active in fighting against present-day injustices. Being a student at a Historically Black University, that played a major role in the Civil Rights Movement, I expect to see more students dedicated to changing the America that we live in. What many of us fail to realize is that the Civil Rights Movement is still present today. We are living it.

There are countless injustices that Americans are still facing. I believe that a critical problem in my generation is the absence of action. We know about the Trayvon Martin case and the overwhelming amount of police brutality placed upon African Americans, but what are we doing to change such wrongdoings? It starts with exercising our right to vote. We vote to elect the people that we feel best represent our needs and wants into office, so that we can be equally represented in regards to governmental affairs and legislation. Assuring that we participate in both state and local elections can further ensure that minorities will move closer to attaining social agency in the United States.

The overall message to my generation from the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is that we, as the youth, must take on the war on poverty, get involved, and exercise our right to vote. Without action, we will not only lose sight on the importance of the Civil Rights Act, but will also renounce the rights that our ancestors fought so unremittingly for us to exercise.

Our Votes Still Count – The Voting Rights Amendment Act (Shelby County v. Holder Decision) Rally

August 1, 2014 | By | No Comments

By: Zha Marie Hurley

The one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court Shelby County v. Holder decision was on June 25, 2014. The decision has caused uproar throughout the country considering that the Court ruled Section 4(b) unconstitutional. Section 4(b) contains the coverage formula for Section 5, which calls for “certain states and local governments to obtain federal preclearance before implementing any changes to their laws and practices.”

Shelby County, Alabama, a county located in a state that played a major role in civil and social injustices during the Civil Rights movement, petitioned that the preclearance for Section 5 deemed unconstitutional and argued that America’s current conditions no longer legitimize the preclearance. Attorney General, Eric H. Holder argued that the restrictions in Section 4(b) are vital to protecting the voting rights of citizens in states that previously abused them. Since this court decision, sure enough, states such as Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia and many others proceeded with actions that they were previously incapable of, such as the passing of voter ID laws, eliminating same-day voter registration, seizing early voting, and adding more than needed regulations to their voter ID laws. Many citizens, organizations, activists, and elected officials were appalled by this decision because of how it affects such a large number of citizens, who are now restricted by these newfound laws and are furthermore unable to cast in their votes for elections.

On the date of the one year anniversary, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA). The objective of the hearing was to provide awareness and solutions to the current challenges that citizens now face due to the Shelby County v. Holder decision. Postliminary to the hearing, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) hosted the VRAA rally on U.S Capitol Grounds.

I had the pleasure of attending this rally and was intrigued by the atmosphere and by the amount people in attendance. People of all races were united in fighting and advocating for the rights of all citizens. It was such an uplifting and insightful experience and I am honored to have had the opportunity to stand along with many other young activists to protest for equal voting opportunities for all Americans. The rally consisted of powerful and highly respected elected officials, who did the crowd and viewers a service by speaking and educating the public about an injustice in our country. Speakers consisted of members of Congress, members of regional NAACP officials, including the State President of the Georgia NAACP, Reverend Dr. Francys Johnson and the National Interim President and CEO of the NAACP, Lorraine C. Miller.

Reflecting on this experience and the Shelby County v. Holder decision, I find it ignominious that a critical section in the Voting Rights Amendment, which was created to ensure the equal rights of all American citizens, could so easily be declared unconstitutional because it is was created merely 40 years ago. This court decision should be a wake-up call to all Americans that the fight for equality is not quite over. Surely, because of this, I have decided to work interminably hard with the Howard University NAACP College Chapter and the surrounding NAACP College Chapters of Washington, DC to increase the number of voters and to implement the importance of understanding advocacy and how taking a stand for the equality of all American citizens is still vital in a country of presumed impartiality.

#IMPACTYourState: Know Your Candidates

July 3, 2014 | By | No Comments

By: Brianna Owens

It’s that time again — it’s primary election season, and midterm election time (November 4, 2014) is fast approaching. Do you see the signs in the front yards, the supporters at the street lights? Now is the time for you to think about the prevalent issues in your community and support the candidate(s) you think will work to provide solutions to those issues.

According to FairVote.org, only about 40 percent of registered voters in the United States participate in midterm elections; many believe that it doesn’t have the “hype” factor or the competitiveness that presidential elections have. If this is your opinion, I still want to encourage you to educate yourself and your community on the candidates that want to represent you in elected office. Just as your voice matters, your vote matters.

With that in mind, IMPACT launched the #VoteReady campaign on August 15, 2012, in an effort to not only highlight the importance of voting, but also inform minority and youth populations about the current Voter ID laws and how they can register to vote.

Over the last two years, IMPACT’s goal has been to register eligible voters 40 and under; re-register members of the 40 and under community to vote; encourage those who are able to vote early (where applicable); encourage those who are unable to physically go to the polls to submit an absentee ballot; inform voters about Voter ID laws (where applicable); and utilize social media and other avenues to build awareness and educate voters.

During this pivotal time, it is important to note that whichever political party controls the Senate or House will support policies that will affect their constituents; as my former government teacher told me, “If ever in doubt about which candidate to support, GO WITH YOUR POLITICAL PARTY.” If you really can’t choose a candidate after having done your research on where they stand on certain issues, I suggest going with this advice; in all cases, JUST VOTE.

Are you keeping up with national election news? If not, here are some of the relevant issues:

● Democrats are fighting to maintain control of the Senate while the GOP is fighting to take it.
● Majority leader of the House, Eric Cantor, loses to challenger, Dave Brat. According to the Washington Examiner, “many Republicans believe it was because he played both sides of the street on the issue of immigration.”
● Now, the new Majority Leader is Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).
● Charles and David Koch spearheaded a “super” PAC called Freedom Partners Action Fund, which is meant to “support candidates who share our vision of free markets and a free society and oppose candidates who support intrusive government policies that push the American Dream out of reach for the American people”, says Marc Short.
● Mayoral candidates David Catania and Muriel Bowser are battling it out when it comes to D.C.’s public schools.
● Currently, Maryland is experiencing a major shift in their status quo; one of their candidates, Heather Mizeur is running and, if elected would be the “first female governor and the first openly gay person elected governor of any state.”
● “Black voters in the South could be key to victories for incumbent senators trying to hold on to their seats in Mississippi and Louisiana, political experts say.”

What is your stance on these issues? Is education a major problem in your state? How do you feel about immigration? These are all things you need to think about when voting for candidates to represent you; see how closely their opinions on certain issues align with yours.

For more information about the #Voteready campaign, please take a look at our voter toolkit at GetVoteReady.org.