Tag: Voting Rights Act

Georgia ACLU and Voting Rights Activists Move to Block Plan to Close Two-Thirds of Randolph County’s Polling Places

Georgia ACLU Staff (photo via aclu.org)

by Vanessa Williams, WashingtonPost via sandiegouniontribune.com

Voting rights activists in Georgia say they will launch a petition drive in an effort to collect enough signatures of registered voters to block a proposal to close more than two-thirds of polling precincts in a predominantly black county ahead of this fall’s general election.

The plan to shutter the voting sites in Randolph County, a rural community about 2½ hours south of Atlanta, has been drawn dozens of local residents and progressive groups to two public hearings in recent days. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a formal protest with the county’s board of elections.

Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, which oversees elections operations throughout the state, has issued a statement urging Randolph County officials to “abandon this effort.” Kemp also is the Republican nominee in one of the country’s most-watched gubernatorial contests. The Democratic nominee, Stacey Abrams, a former state legislator, is seeking to become the nation’s first black female governor.

The two-member county election board – a third member stepped down recently – has scheduled a vote for Friday on the proposal to shutter seven of the county’s nine polling places, citing problems including facilities in disrepair or inaccessible to persons with disabilities. But some activists are suspicious of the board’s motives, noting that Randolph County is 60 percent black and many residents have low incomes. The county, which covers 431 square miles, has no public transportation system.

All nine of the polling places were used for the May primaries and less than a month ago for statewide run-offs, in which Kemp, helped by an endorsement from President Donald Trump, beat Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle for the GOP nomination.

Local news outlets reported heated discussions at meetings on Thursday and Friday, with residents and activists alleging the move was aimed at suppressing turnout in the county, in which more than 55 percent of the voters are black and have backed Democratic candidates in statewide elections.

County officials and a consultant hired by local officials said the closures were necessary because the sites were not compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act and there was not time to fix them before the Nov. 6 general election. They also suggested that affected residents could vote by absentee ballot.

“You don’t solve problems of accessibility for people with disabilities by reducing access for people without disabilities,” said Andrea Young, executive director of the Georgia ACLU, which wrote a letter to the board stating that the closures would be a violation of the Voting Rights Act because it would have a negative effect on African-American voters. The group noted that African-Americans make up more than 96 percent of the voters at one of the polling places slated for closure.

Unsure if the board will be persuaded by the arguments for keeping the polling places open, some activists will try to stop the plan by using a state law that forbids the closure of voting sites if 20 percent of the registered voters in the affected precinct object to the change. The county currently has just over 4,000 registered voters.

Nse Ufot, executive director of the New Georgia Project, a voter registration and education group, said activists will begin collecting signatures Sunday, spreading the word at morning church services.

“We want to see to it that the hundreds of students we registered at Andrew College and the people we’ve registered in Randolph are able to exercise their sacred, fundamental right to vote,” Ufot said. The goal is to submit the petition before the board’s scheduled Friday vote.

A similar petition drive overturned a decision two years ago by elections officials in Macon-Bibb County to relocate a polling place from a school to the sheriff’s office.

“These polling place closures are part of a stark pattern that we are seeing across Georgia whereby officials are working to make it harder for African Americans and other minorities to vote,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The more communities mobilize to turn out the vote, the harsher the voter suppression efforts undertaken by officials. We are prepared to use every tool in our arsenal to ensure that African American voters are able to have meaningful access to the polls this election cycle.”

Read more: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/us-politics/ct-georgia-voting-rights-polling-places-20180818-story.html#

U.S. Court of Appeals Rejects Strict North Carolina Voting Law Targeting African Americans

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(Screenshot via nbcnews.com)

article by Zachary Roth via nbcnews.com

A federal appeals court on Friday struck down the heart of a North Carolina voting law seen as the strictest in the nation, finding that Republican lawmakers intentionally discriminated against African-Americans when they passed it.

A divided 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the measure’s provisions “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”

The ruling is just the latest court win for voting rights advocates. A different federal appeals court ruled this month that Texas’s voter ID law is racially discriminatory and must be softened. And a district court softened Wisconsin’s ID law, too, though that decision is being appealed.

North Carolina Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore said of the ruling, “we can only wonder if the intent is to reopen the door for voter fraud, potentially allowing fellow Democrat politicians like Hillary Clinton and Roy Cooper to steal the election. We will obviously be appealing this politically motivated decision to the Supreme Court.”

The voting law imposed a voter ID requirement, cut early voting opportunities, eliminated same-day voter registration and banned out-of-precinct voting, among other provisions.

The court found that by 2013, African-American registration and turnout rates had reached near parity with those of whites. But weeks after the Supreme Court weakened the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, Republicans said they planned to enact an “omnibus” voting law.

The court’s ruling continued: “Before enacting that law, the legislature requested data on the use, by race, of a number of voting practices. Upon receipt of the race data, the General Assembly enacted legislation that restricted voting and registration in five different ways, all of which disproportionately affected African-Americans.”

Attorney General Loretta Lynch praised the appeals court’s decision.

“I am pleased that the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has struck down a law that the court described in its ruling as ‘one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history,'” she said. “The ability of Americans to have a voice in the direction of their country — to have a fair and free opportunity to help write the story of this nation – is fundamental to who we are and who we aspire to be.”

To read full article, go to: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/appeals-court-strikes-down-strict-north-carolina-voting-law-n619836

Landmark Civil Rights Documentary “Eyes on the Prize, Parts I and II” Starts Re-airing Tonight at 9pmEST on WORLD Channel

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Public television’s WORLD Channel will present the complete Emmy-Award winning Eyes on the Prize I and II starting tonight, January 17, 2016. A 30-minute special feature, Eyes on the Prize: Then and Now, will launch the encore presentation of this historic two-part series and explore its impressive relevance today.

Eyes on the Prize, created by Executive Producer Henry Hampton, is a critically-acclaimed and in-depth documentary series on civil rights in America.  With the current national spotlight on issues of race and inequality—as well as the marking of the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, and the 60th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott—the time is right for this series about the nation’s civil rights history to be front and center as part of an essential dialogue.

America continues to struggle with the recurring crisis of race-related violence; Eyes on the Prize and II can provide perspective for a new generation and be a touchstone for citizens who lived through the decades that the films depict. Journalist and writer Al Letson hosts new introductions to each episode.

“We are elated that this landmark series will once again be broadcast across the country, reaching millions of viewers—many of whom may never have seen the original airing. The series focuses on solutions to the conflicts that we face today.  Eyes on the Prize shows leadership, grass roots organization and personal sacrifice as the recipe that can create lasting change.  It is our hope the television programs together with our comprehensive outreach campaign will spark a national dialogue about this critical topic,” says Judi Hampton, president of Blackside, and sister of the late Henry Hampton (1940-1998).

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The WORLD Channel presentation, made possible with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Ford Foundation, includes Eyes on the Prize: Then and Now, a new, original 30-minute special, which will lead into the premiere January 17 of Eyes on the Prize, setting the groundbreaking documentary series in the context of today.  Narrated by music artist Aloe BlaccEyes on the Prize: Then and Now features Eyes on the Prize filmmakers, present-day activists, human rights leaders, and scholars. The special revisits key historical moments and explores commonalities with current national events.

“The WORLD Channel is honored to be presenting this signature series,” says Chris Hastings, Executive Producer of the WORLD Channel. “It’s a history that must be understood.  With Eyes on the Prize: Then and Now, we ask questions and draw comparisons about the struggle to achieve equality today. As conflicts and challenges continue, Eyes on the Prize remains essential viewing for all Americans.”

As part of the initiative, WGBH Education is developing a digital resource collection supporting Eyes on the Prize and civil rights themes in history and social studies curricula, to help the civil rights movement come alive for students today. This collection will be available on PBS LearningMedia in January.

Based at WGBH Boston, the national public media producer, WORLD Channel delivers the best of public television’s original documentary films and news to US audiences through local public television stations, including America ReFramed, AfroPopPOV and Local, USA.  The special Eyes on the Prize presentation also will be made available to all public television stations for local broadcasts (check listings) after the WORLD premiere.

EYES ON THE PRIZE I and II

Almost three decades since its premiere, the groundbreaking series Eyes on the Prize I and II will return to PBS this January.  Eyes on the Prize I will premiere on The WORLD Channel six consecutive Sundays – January 17, 24, 31 and February 7, 14, 21 at 9:00 p.m. (EST). Eyes on the Prize II will air eight consecutive Sundays—February 28, March 6, 13, 20, 27, and April 3, 10, 17 at 9:00 p.m. (EST).

Produced by Blackside, Eyes on the Prize tells the definitive story of the Civil Rights era from the point of view of the ordinary men and women whose extraordinary actions launched a movement that changed the fabric of American life and embodied a struggle whose reverberations continue to be felt today.  This multi-part Academy Award nominated documentary is the winner of numerous Emmy Awards, a George Foster Peabody Award, an International Documentary Association Award, and a Television Critics Association Award.

Through contemporary interviews and historical footage, Eyes on the Prize I and II, traces the civil rights movement from the Montgomery bus boycott to the Voting Rights Act; from early acts of individual courage through the flowering of a mass movement and its eventual split into factions.  The late Julian Bond, political leader and civil rights activist, narrates.  Descriptions of each episode follow below:

Continue reading “Landmark Civil Rights Documentary “Eyes on the Prize, Parts I and II” Starts Re-airing Tonight at 9pmEST on WORLD Channel”

National Museum of African-American History and Culture To Become Five-Story Screen to Show 3D “Commemorate and Celebrate Freedom” Video Nov. 16-18

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The completed building of the National Museum of African American History and Culture will be transformed into a lively display one year before it opens. (National Museum of African American History and Culture)

When the sun goes down each evening between November 16 and 18, the museum’s south exterior, facing Madison Drive, and its west exterior, on 15th Street near the Washington Monument, will be illuminated by a seven-minute video, entitled “Commemorate and Celebrate Freedom.” Produced by the renowned filmmakers Stanley J. Nelson and Marcia Smith of Firelight Media, and animated by Quixotic Entertainment, the video projection will transform the museum into a five-story, block-long 3D canvas, according to museum officials.

“What we wanted to do was to metaphorically have the museum speak even before we open next year,” says Kinshasha Holman Conwill, deputy director of the museum.

“And the signal design element for our building is the corona: the three-tiered bronze colored element that has references in African sculpture and African American life and that identifies this building as something unique on the Mall. So to project on to that façade really gave us that opportunity to make the museum speak.”

The display, which the museum’s director Lonnie Bunch has called a “dynamic event,” will be accompanied by a soundtrack of historical music and spoken word, and will pay tribute to three significant moments in history: the culmination of the Civil War with the surrender at Appomattox on April 8, 1865; ratification of the 13th Amendment, which officially ended the institution of slavery on December 5, 1865; and the passage of the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965.

“One of the things that [the film connects] to is the notion and the vision that the museum would be a place for those who already revel in African American history and culture,” says Conwill. “But most importantly,” she adds that the museum seeks to also provide a unique “lens into what it means to be an American and that those milestones in American history, as viewed through that lens, really amplifies that notion.”

On its opening night, November 16, the state-of-the-art digital projection imagery will also be accompanied by a live, outdoor program, produced and directed by Ricardo Khan, former artistic director of the Tony Award-winning Crossroads Theatre Co. Actor Erik Todd Dellums will serve as master of the ceremonies, which will include remarks by other dignitaries, including Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser; and U.S. Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton.

Continue reading “National Museum of African-American History and Culture To Become Five-Story Screen to Show 3D “Commemorate and Celebrate Freedom” Video Nov. 16-18”

NAACP Begins 860-Mile Justice March From Selma to Washington D.C.

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On November 29, 2014 in Ferguson, Mo., members of the NAACP and their supporters began the first day of Journey for Justice, seven-day 120-mile march from the Canfield Green apartments where Michael Brown was killed to the Governor’s mansion in Jefferson City, Mo. (SCOTT OLSON/GETTY IMAGES)

NAACP leaders on Saturday kicked off a 40-day “Journey for Justice” march across the South, beginning with a rally in Selma, Ala., a city that played a pivotal role in the the 1960s civil rights movement, according to The Associated Press.

The goal of the march is to “call attention to the issue of racial injustice in modern America,” the report says. The trek will span across eastern seaboard states before ending in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 15.

The event began on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where peaceful marchers were attacked by police in 1965 spurring the passage of the Voting Rights Act, which was signed into law 50 years ago this week. In November, the group led a march from Ferguson, Mo., to Jefferson City, Mo., in protest after Darren Wilson, a white police officer, was not indicted in the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen.

“We know we can do the distance because our lives, our votes, our jobs and our schools matter,” said Cornell William Brooks, president and chief executive of the NAACP, reports Reuters.

“Let us march on, let us march on, let us march on till victory is won,” said Brooks, as he led about 200 marchers across the bride on the first leg of the journey, Reuters writes.

article by Lynette Holloway via theroot.com

Attorney General Eric Holder Opens New Front in Voting Rights Battle

eric holderWASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced on Thursday that the Justice Department would ask a court to require Texas to get permission from the federal government before making voting changes in that state. The move opens a new chapter in the political struggle over election rules after the Supreme Court struck down a portion of the Voting Rights Act last month.  His statements come as states across the South, from Texas to North Carolina, have been rushing to enforce or enact new restrictions on voting eligibility after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder.

“This is the department’s first action to protect voting rights following the Shelby County decision, but it will not be our last,” Mr. Holder said. “Even as Congress considers updates to the Voting Rights Act in light of the court’s ruling, we plan, in the meantime, to fully utilize the law’s remaining sections to subject states to preclearance as necessary. My colleagues and I are determined to use every tool at our disposal to stand against such discrimination wherever it is found.”

The move relies on a part of the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court left untouched in the Shelby County case. The court struck down the coverage formula in Section 4 of the law, which had subjected Texas and eight other mostly Southern states to federal oversight based on 40-year-old data. The court suggested that Congress remained free to enact a new coverage formula based on contemporary data, but most analysts say that is unlikely.

Striking down the law’s coverage formula effectively guts Section 5 of the law, which requires permission from federal authorities before covered jurisdictions may change voting procedures.  The move by the Justice Department on Thursday relies on a different part of the law, Section 3, which allows the federal government to get to largely the same place by a different route, called “bail-in.” If the department can show that given jurisdictions have committed constitutional violations, federal courts may impose federal oversight on those places in piecemeal fashion.

State officials have celebrated the Shelby County ruling as lifting an obsolete relic of the civil rights era that unfairly treated their states differently from other parts of the country, while civil rights advocates have lamented it as removing a safeguard that is still necessary.  Lawyers for minority groups have already asked a court in Texas to return the state to federal oversight. The Justice Department’s action — filing a “statement of interest” in that case — will bring the weight of the federal government behind those efforts.

Continue reading “Attorney General Eric Holder Opens New Front in Voting Rights Battle”

Eric Holder Wants Voting Rights Act Provision Upheld by Supreme Court

Eric Holder

WASHINGTON (AP) — On April 4th, the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death, Attorney General Eric Holder challenged the Supreme Court to uphold a key section of the Voting Rights Act that requires all or part of 15 states with a history of discrimination to get federal clearance before carrying out changes in elections.

Holder made the comments Thursday in a speech to a civil rights group whose founder and president is the Rev. Al Sharpton. Focusing on issues he regards as important during President Barack Obama’s second term in office, Holder vowed to protect the voting rights of all Americans, safeguard young people from gun violence and improve the criminal justice system.

Opponents of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 say the pre-clearance requirement has outlived its usefulness. Starting in 2009, the Supreme Court made clear its skepticism about the present-day need for the provision. The court is considering a challenge on the issue from Shelby County, Ala., near Birmingham.

Continue reading “Eric Holder Wants Voting Rights Act Provision Upheld by Supreme Court”

Voter Protection Initiative Unveiled By Congressional Black Caucus

WASHINGTON — The Congressional Black Caucus held a series of events throughout the country on Tuesday to educate communities on voter suppression laws and to help ensure eligible voters aren’t turned away at the polls in November.

Members of the CBC have partnered with community leaders and local and state elected officials in their districts to present the “For the People” voter protection initiative. The goal of the project is to give local leaders the tools to inform constituents of what documents and procedures are required to vote. Continue reading “Voter Protection Initiative Unveiled By Congressional Black Caucus”

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