Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The fight is on against voter suppression

Corporate-backed politicians are trying to limit the number of citizens who can vote in order to enact deeply unpopular laws that would empower billionaires, crush unions, eradicate public education and weaken consumer protections.

A group of state lawmakers and civil rights leaders are fighting back against voter suppression. They gathered in Atlanta Wednesday to announce the formation of the American Values First  (AVF) campaign. It will combat voter suppression in states where anti-worker lawmakers have passed laws to make it difficult to vote.
The Washington Post reported:
The new push comes in response to Republican initiatives to rewrite election laws in key states. Republicans in North Carolina and Florida moved to cut the number of days on which a voter can cast a ballot early. Arizona and Florida both imposed new restrictions on groups that sign up voters for absentee ballots. And Republican-led legislatures in states from New Hampshire to Michigan to Florida passed legislation requiring voters to show photo identification before they receive a ballot.

Democrats have criticized the new rules as overly restrictive, making it more difficult for an eligible voter to cast a ballot. Their legislative response: Make it easier for eligible Americans to register to vote and to sign up to receive a ballot by mail.

Michael Sargeant, who is directing the new campaign, said:
Some of these efforts have been ignored for too long, and now people understand that this is not something you can sit back and watch. You have to get involved and stop it.
Citizens are already trying to stop voter suppression in North Carolina, where Gov. Pat McCrory signed a new restrictive law last week. The new voter suppression law is a target of North Carolina’s enormous Moral Monday protests, and it’s being challenged in the courts. Now American Values First is drafting model pro-voter legislation that can be used in North Carolina and across the country.
The voting rights group is a response to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)(need link), which has long financed and influenced state lawmakers.  Friends (and funders) of ALEC like the Benedict Arnold Koch brothers and North Carolina kingmaker Art Pope have played outsized roles in restricting voting, harming unions, eradicating public education and outsourcing government functions for the benefit of billionaires. 
On Wednesday in Atlanta, legislators from Georgia, Iowa and Nevada were among those on hand to praise the AVF effort. Besides crafting legislation, the group will publish guidelines on how voting rights groups can fight these repressive efforts that reduce early voting, thwart registration and limit the ability of their political enemies to participate in our democracy.
Rev. Joseph Lowery, the 91-year-old civil rights leader who was a contemporary of Martin Luther King Jr., said there is a need to renew the civil rights movement:
There must be something to this vote, because they spend so much time and money trying to take it away.
Morehouse College student Spanky Edwards said more people need to become involved in the fight:
It is basically up to us to organize, to work side-by-side with these other organizations, because ultimately they affect us directly. Like I said, we live in this city, we live in this state. So, this is just as much our problem as it is yours.
Campaigns like American Values First have become essential since the Supreme Court made a grievous error in June by rolling back a portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act rules. The U.S Justice Department responded by saying that it will step in to challenge voter suppression efforts. But the best resolution is to stop ALEC-backed policies like these before they are implemented.