Showing posts with label voter suppression. Show all posts
Showing posts with label voter suppression. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

2014 Elections: Can Black America rescue the Democrats?

 By Charles Brooks


The many months of political posturing and rhetoric will finally come to an end on Election night when we learn who’s hand will be raised in victory in this year’s battle between the Democrats and Republicans.  Reading the recent news accounts, polls and analyses about this year’s mid-term elections, is almost like reading a political obituary for the Democratic Party – the forecast just doesn’t look good for Democrats. Simply put, Democrats are faced with daunting odds to win elections and will probably suffer more than just a few defeats. To make matters worse, this year’s election cycle is taking place during an off presidential election year when people typically don’t vote.  Meanwhile the 2014 mid-term elections are framed for public consumption as one where there’s a lot at stake – how many times have you heard that during this year’s election cycle?  Typically during these election cycles you will find news stories about the significance of the black vote as well as contrasting stories about the black vote being taken for granted by the Democratic Party.  But what appears to be different with the 2014 elections is the degree of just how important, how significant the black vote will be for the DemocraticParty.

The issue, however, is that while President Obama is not running in this year’s election – his legacy certainly is in the running. Consider for a moment just two items and how they would impact the President’s legacy - the Republican’s incessant chatter about impeachment along with the repeal of President Obama’s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  With 36 Senate seats up for election: 21 belonging to Democrats versus 15 for Republicans, Black America’s vote is under heavy pursuit to help the Democrats retain their majority in the Senate. The Democratic Party is looking for Black America to shield and protect the President’s legacy from GOP obstructionism. The chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus, Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio) recently told the New York Times: “Anybody who looks at the data realizes that if the black vote, and the brown vote, doesn’t turn out, we can’t win. It’s just that simple,” Ms. Fudge went on to say: “If we don’t turn out, we cannot hold the Senate.” African-Americans could help swing elections in Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina and possibly Arkansas, a New York Times analysis of voter data shows, but only if they turn out at higher-than-forecast rates. 

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies released a report entitled, “Black Turnout & The 2014 Midterms” where they concluded: “The analysis of voter turnout data corroborates the suspicion that this will be a challenging year for Democrats.  Assuming black turnout consistent with recent midterm elections and current polling data, Democrats will find it hard to put together winning coalitions, even with overwhelming African American support. Democratic candidates with the best prospects of winning include those running in states with relatively strong third party candidates who can serve as spoilers and states with small black populations where Democrats (or, in the case of Kansas, Independents) are performing strongly among white voters.”  Wow! So basically the Joint Center report is saying that while the Black vote is being heavily pursued, the black vote still needs the presence of third party candidates to make a difference in the elections.

Yet this pursuit of the black vote presents a bit of a dilemma for Black America; on one hand there’s the sentiment that the Democratic Party routinely takes the black vote for granted while on the other hand, the failure to vote Democratic will compel Republicans to advance a conservative agenda that is in direct contrast to Black America’s political interests.  But there’s another motivating factor to consider here… the relentless campaign waged by Republicans, who took a legislative approach to shrinking the pool of voters.  The stench of 19th century Jim Crow slowly rises from the graveyard of American racism as Republicans justify their actions with claims of addressing voter fraud.  In essence, they’ve proposed and passed legislation to address a nonexistent issue – incredible don’t you think? These voter suppression measures include requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote and proof of citizenship to register, cutting back on early voting, eliminating Election Day registration, new restrictions on voter registration drives as well as additional barriers to voting for people with criminal convictions.

Subsequently, there’s a political battle setting the Get Out The Vote activities versus stringent voter suppression measures.  Now these measures have been passed – for the most part - by several state legislatures since the election of the nation’s first African American president. So now, you can get a better sense of the significance of the 2014 election when you begin to understand how these voter suppression measures may possibly affect one’s ability to cast a vote. Bear in mind that the Brennan Center for Justice reported that of the 11 states with the highest African American turnout in 2008, seven passed laws making it harder to vote. In addition, of the 12 states with the largest Hispanic population growth in the 2010 Census, nine have new restrictions in place. And of the 15 states that used to be monitored closely under the Voting Rights Act because of a history of racial discrimination in elections, nine passed new restrictions. These reasons alone will almost certainly compel the public’s attention…and their scrutiny on November 4th.

If nothing else, a review of the exit polls for the 2014 mid-terms can begin to answer at least two critical questions: First, how will Black America respond to the SOS call sent out by Democrats – particularly after revelations of Democrats refusing to stand up in support of President Obama? And the second question - how much did the various voter suppression measures impact black voter turnout and what role, if any, did this have on the many elections held across the nation?







https://www.aclu.org/maps/battle-protect-ballot-voter-suppression-measures-passed-2013

Monday, December 30, 2013

End of year review 2013 - Part I

Although 2013 is behind us now – let’s take a look at some of the more critical issues and developments that occurred during the year. The Blackboard has put together a three-part year end review that briefly outlines these critical issues where the first part takes a look at some of the striking developments within the criminal justice system where many ask the simple question – is it justice or just us?

Trayvon Martin
There was probably no news more stunning than the summer time verdict that let an armed neighborhood watch volunteer for a gated community walk out of court a year after shooting and killing, Trayvon Martin an unarmed African American teenager. Known forever as the Zimmerman verdict – where six jurors decided that George Zimmerman was not guilty of second degree murder and manslaughter charges. Where were you on that Saturday night when the not guilty verdict was read? In the days that followed, hundreds of people took to the streets venting their frustration over the unpopular verdict - and asked the question over and over, “What about justice for Trayvon Martin?” The unpopular Zimmerman verdict resonated so deeply with Blacks because the verdict represented yet another example of racial inequality relegated to those branded as second-class citizens. For many years, the criminal justice system was not color-blind and has been a source of hostile relations; the constitutionality of slavery in prisons, lynching, Scottsboro Boys, Emmitt Till, COINTELPRO, Rodney King beating, disproportionate rates of incarceration, stark disparities in arrests and sentencing, War on drugs, acts police brutality and misconduct legitimized, jury selection process, racial profiling, and stand your ground laws are a few examples. Blacks were particularly incensed because of the collective sentiment feeling that the long history of injustice has repeated itself – again. For a brief moment, there was yet another national conversation about race relations sandwiched in between stand your ground laws and racial profiling that slowly dissolved into muted silence. If nothing else, the Zimmerman verdict brought the stand your ground laws around the country into immediate focus with a spotlight cast on the cases of Marissa Alexander and Jordan Davis.

Voting Rights
But less than a month before the Zimmerman not-guilty verdict, there was an equally stunning decision by the Supreme Court as they struck down a key provision in the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA). As a safeguard against racially discriminatory practices intended to impede voting, the VRA contained a provision requiring nine states to seek “preapproval” or preclearance before any changes to voting laws and procedures are enforced. The Court ruled that preclearance was no longer needed for these nine states; Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia, who are now free to make any changes to their voting laws and procedures. The concern is that although, bills are proposed to the public as measures to restore confidence and integrity in the electoral process by eliminating voter fraud, opponents view them as measures designed to make the voting process harder and more difficult – commonly known as voter suppression laws. Texas and North Carolina have already passed voter suppression laws and each face lawsuits from the Justice Department.

Even before the Supreme Court ruling, in anticipation of the 2012 presidential election, several states proposed voter suppression laws. In the months leading up to the 2012 Presidential election, there were a number of bills proposed and signed into law that, in one form or another applies newly stringent requirements in order for one to exercise their right to vote. Based on the Brennan Center’s analysis of the 19 laws and two executive actions that passed in 14 states by the 2012 election, more than five million eligible voters were impacted with “significantly harder” requirements to cast a vote. In addition, the states that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 185 electoral votes in 2012 – which accounts for more than two thirds of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.

Stop & Frisk
New York City’s controversial policing practice, stop and frisk, was ruled unconstitutional by federal court and upheld by a federal appeals panel when challenged by NYC attorneys. While the data is quite troubling, what is more disturbing – yet not surprising is the steadfast and relentless stream of comments from the out-going Mayor Bloomberg and outgoing NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. The Bloomberg/Kelly narrative defended their use of stop and frisk by using scare tactics and exaggerated language – the return of more guns and street crime – clearly designed to instill fear and anxiety in New Yorkers. The larger question here though is whether Bloomberg/Kelly attempted to gain support for their narrative by injecting racial politics to instill racialized fear. See the Blackboard's post on this issue here.

IRP - 6
This is a case that has managed to escape the bright glare of media attention – despite all the ingredients needed for a story to go viral. For example, this case shows signs of trumped up charges, wrongful convictions, lack of fair play, government interference, and highly questionable incidents such as missing court transcript pages – and not just a few pages – no less than two hundred missing court transcript pages. When you read the information, the question may ultimately come up – where is the media coverage on this issue? While this is a complicated case – once you read through the information – it’s actually not that complicated – injustice never is. It really begs the question that more people should be asking - How come this issue has not gained traction amongst black elected officials – on the local, state and national level, or from civil rights leaders and activists with the backing and support from their civil rights organizations, or from talk-show hosts, investigative journalists, pundits and the like?

So by now you may be asking yourself - exactly what is this case about. Well, the IRP 6 stands for the Investigative Resource Planning Solutions Corporation (known as IRP) and the six men (five who are African American) who have been imprisoned since 2009 – on mail and wire fraud charges. The six imprisoned men are actually executives at IRP – a software development company that started in February 2003. After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, they saw an opportunity as the debate raged on about the inability of government agencies to communicate and share information with one another. While the intelligence community worked to revamp their structure and operations – these IRP executives worked to develop software that would eliminate this communication obstacle among government agencies involved with intelligence. Prospective clients included the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the New York City Police Department (NYPD). Impressive right? IRP was working to customize the software to meet the technology needs for their prospective clients but was faced with difficulties in meeting their staffing bills. IRP had to hire additional temporary staff of information technology (IT)professionals to meet the customized needs – with the expectation they would be landing the big contract but they needed more time to make the sale. But IRP fell behind on bills and these bills became delinquent while they accumulated debt. Sounds like a debt collection case doesn’t it? Instead, they were accused, in federal court, of essentially running a scam with the intention of stealing millions of dollars. Their business offices were also subjected to a SWAT styled raid by at least 20 or so federal agents.

For more information on this case see this for a comprehensive background on the case; see this overview of the case with important details available here and two excellently written stories available here and here. Also see these links for the story on the IRP6 as well as an interview and article written by Mr. David Banks, one of the IRP6

These links will be posted on The Blackboard's resource page as well.