Just a quick reminder if you haven’t found a moment yet to make it to the polls today, there’s still time! GBN Lifestyle/Sports Editor Lesa Lakin and I have hit our respective voting places already – fortunately we had good weather – we urge you to do the same if you haven’t already. We must never forget the sacrifices those who came before us have made – marching, protesting, even dying – to secure every citizen’s right to vote.
So let’s protect our rights and let the powers that be know when we demand change. If you don’t like your local, state or federal laws or officials, foster change by making your voice heard. If you’re not sure where your polling place is, click here to enter your address to find out. If you don’t have transportation, Lyft and Uberare offering free or discounted rides. If you get to the polls and there is some discrepancy, you have the right to demand a provisional ballot. Keegan-Michael Key and Chris Rock lay the facts out about this beautifully in the video below:
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.”
If you live in Lowndes County and are of voting age, it’s a safe bet that Perman Hardy has spoken with you about voting at some point in the past 25 years.
As one of the thousands of sharecroppers who worked white men’s land in Lowndes County over the years, 59-year-old Hardy recalls picking cotton after school growing up. She eventually finished her education, bought her own home, and had a successful career as a home health nurse.
But for the past two-and-a-half decades, Hardy has dedicated much of her free time to another pursuit: trying to ensure that every single person in Lowndes County shows up to the polls for every election in Alabama. A native of the unincorporated community of Collirene, she has done about as much as one person possibly could to boost turnout in the impoverished, majority-black county with a population of just 10,458 people.
“That’s my goal is to make sure everyone votes. That’s always been my goal. This is what I do every election,” she said as she steered her forest-green Chevrolet Tahoe through Collirene, a rural area that was once home to several cotton plantations that employed generations of slaves and sharecroppers. “We’re in an epidemic poverty county so it’s so important for us to vote today,” she told AL.com. “I took some people today who’ve never cast a ballot before.”
On Tuesday, like she says she does every time Alabamians head to the polls, Hardy spent more than 10 hours driving registered voters to polling stations who did not have transportation or were otherwise unable to make the trip without help. Over the course of the day, she personally drove more than 50 people to polling sites across Lowndes County.
According to blavity.com, Octavius Valentine Catto will be honored with a statue outside of Philadelphia’s city hall this September. Catto’s statue will be the first monument built to honor an African American erected on public land in the City of Brotherly Love. Although Catto’s memorial has been in the works for years, in the wake of the push to take so many Confederate statues down across the nation, the timing for this statue’s unveiling could not be better.
In Charleston, South Carolina on February 22, 1839, Catto was born a free black man. Catto excelled at his studies, attending a school for black children in Philadelphia, the Institute for Colored Youth, an institution he later led.
According to phillyvoice.com, in his early 20s, Catto was already an active leader in the African American community. He was a member of the 4th Ward Black Political Club, the Union League Association, the Library Company and the Franklin Institute. He demanded that African Americans fight in the Civil War and helped get their regiments inducted into the war. In 1863, at the height of the Civil War, he joined the army and enlisted as a volunteer in defense of the state of Pennsylvania.
Catto was also a major in the Pennsylvania National Guard and played baseball as captain and second baseman for the Pythians, an African American baseball team. He was inducted into the Negro League Baseball Museum’s Hall of Fame.
Beyond being an educator, ball player and a war hero, Philadelphia is celebrating Catto for his local civil rights activism, which went into full gear after he was kicked off of a segregated horse-drawn trolley. He staged a sit-in on the streetcars, refusing to move off of the car. The driver drove the car off of its track and unhitched its horses, unsure how else to get rid of Catto. Catto remained aboard; the other passengers and the driver left him there. Catto also defended several black women who were forcibly ejected from the city’s streetcars, and used a fine levied against his fiancée to drum up publicity for his cause. Finally, in 1867, due in large part to Catto’s pressure, the city desegregated its streetcars.
Remember the Titans scribe Gregory Allen Howard has teamed with Chris Columbus’ 1492 production company to tell the story of Fannie Lou Hamer, a sharecropper with a sixth-grade education who became an important voting-rights advocate and founded the first integrated political party in the South in mid-’60s Mississippi.
Hamer grew up in a family of 20 kids and picked cotton for most of her life. After going to a doctor to have a tumor removed, she discovered she was given a hysterectomy at age 47 by a white doctor, without her consent, because of a movement by the state to sterilize women to reduce the number of poor blacks in Mississippi.
Hamer became a Civil Rights activist, surviving assassination attempts
and a near-fatal beating to get her moment at the Democratic National Convention, where she challenged President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968 with her legendary, “Is This America?” speech.
While LBJ hastily called a ruse press conference in the hope of diverting attention away from her speech, Hamer’s powerful words were widely broadcast and reverberated around the world. Howard, who studied Hamer’s accomplishments as a college student, has long been obsessed with bringing her story to the screen. Hamer died in 1977.
Donella Wilson, at 107 years old, has never missed a local or national election since she cast her first vote in the 1940s. And Wilson, who was born in South Carolina to parents who were former slaves, says she is ready to cast her vote one more time and perhaps make history once again.
“I never thought I would live to see a day like this,” Wilson told WISTV.com. “I’m over 100 years old!”
Wilson has had to struggle some recently to retain her right to vote. She had to secure a new ID and registration card, but now she is ready and prepared for her opportunity to say something, and is heading to the polls, not just to back up her beliefs, but to remember those who came before who fought for the right she currently has.
“We couldn’t spell ‘vote,’” Wilson told the news station. “We didn’t know what the word meant other than we had an opportunity to say something and cast a vote, praying as we go along, that the vote could count to help us as a Negro race.”
Wilson said she remembers President Barack Obama’s historic election, expressing how “proud and thankful” she was to witness it.
And she hopes to witness history once again on Tuesday, saying that she planned to cast her vote for Hillary Clinton. “I’m looking for her to be our first female president,” she said. “I think it’s an honor, a precious gift from God.”
Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, has just debuted a new website documenting the struggle of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to secure voting rights for African Americans. The site, entitled “One Person, One Vote: The Legacy of the SNCC and the Fight for Voting Rights,” went live one week before the 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” voting rights march in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965.
Students and faculty at Duke University worked with veterans of SNCC and other civil rights leaders to develop the website. The site includes a timeline, profiles of the key figures in the struggle to secure voting rights, and stories relating to the struggle.
Wesley Hogan, the director of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and the author of Many Minds, One Heart: SNCC’s Dream for a New America (University of North Carolina Press, 2007), stated that “this is an enormous achievement, to find ways to bring these experts who were so central to the voting rights struggle, into the formal historical record through their own words and on their own terms. The project comes at a moment when our nation is both commemorating key victories of the civil rights movement and seeing those victories challenged by new restrictive voting laws in many states.”
Just a quick reminder if you haven’t found a moment to make it to the polls yet today, there’s still time! GBN Lifestyle/Sports Editor Lesa Lakin and I have taken the #blackwomenvote initiative seriously and hit the polls already – fortunately we had good weather – we hope you can find time to do the same if you haven’t already. Voting is important… as our history and the poster below remind us:
If you don’t like your local, state or federal laws or officials, get out there and help foster change by making your voice heard. If you’re not sure where your polling place is, click here to enter your address and find out!
The Higher Heights Leadership Fund is on a mission to get more black women to vote in the upcoming midterm elections. The 2012 presidential elections had the biggest turnout for black women, with black women consisting of nearly 60% of black voters who participated. They actually had the highest turnout of any group.
And yet the number isn’t nearly the same for midterm elections. Just 46.5% of black women voted in the 2010 midterms. It’s not easy to get people excited or interested in midterm elections, but these elections do matter.
It’s incredibly important to create a more representative democracy in our country. That goes for those who vote as well as those we elect. And black women are underrepresented in our government.
So the Higher Heights Leadership Fund started the #BlackWomenVote campaign in order to get more black women to the polls during these upcoming midterm elections.
#BlackWomenVote provides information about voting and the election, like “Pledge to be a Higher Heights Voter,” “Personal Voting Plan,” “Knowing your Voter Status,” “Sister-to-Sister Calling List,” and “Activate your Online Network.”
“Black women have the potential to take this country by storm. We have the collective power to elect representatives who will champion our interests and support legislative actions that will that will improve education, health care and economic opportunities for our communities,” the Black Women Vote website states.
It’s so important to get out and vote and make our government a more representative one.
This is the only way to ensure that every voice is heard. Voters have the opportunity to make sure that their interests are being taken into account and that they have someone speaking up for those interests. The midterm elections might not seem as important as a Presidential election, but they really could have a big affect on people’s lives. Will you join #BlackWomenVote?
Attorney General Eric Holder called on a group of states Tuesday to restore voting rights to ex-felons, part of a push to fix what he sees as flaws in the criminal justice system that have a disparate impact on racial minorities.
“By perpetuating the stigma and isolation imposed on formerly incarcerated individuals, these laws increase the likelihood they will commit future crimes,” Holder said during a speech at a criminal justice reform event hosted by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights at Georgetown University Law Center on Tuesday. “They undermine the reentry process and defy the principles of accountability and rehabilitation that guide our criminal justice policies. And however well-intentioned current advocates of felony disenfranchisement may be, the reality is that these measures are, at best, profoundly outdated.”
Holder said that current laws forbidding felons from voting make it harder for them to reintegrate into society. He pointed to a recent study, which showed that felons in Florida who were granted the right to vote again had a lower recidivism rate. …
Holder does not have the authority to force states to change their laws, but his request could influence the debate to restore voting rights. His appeal is part of a broader effort currently underway by the Justice Department to reform the criminal justice system, which U.S. officials say often treats minority groups unfairly.
Eleven states currently restrict voting rights after a person has been released from prison and is no longer on probation and parole. These laws affect about 5.8 million Americans. It’s estimated that 2.2 million are black citizens—or nearly one in 13 African-American adults.
“It is unwise, it is unjust, and it is not in keeping with our democratic values,” Holder said. “These laws deserve to be not only reconsidered, but repealed.”