WASHINGTON - Voter discrimination halted in Arizona. 90,000 Black voters disqualified in Florida. Tom Tancredo’s call for restoring ‘Jim Crowe’ discrimination to voters. Tones of concerns and courage were struck by the Black Leadership Forum [BLF] discussion on voting at the National Press Club.
BLF is an alliance of over 51 national African American civil rights and service organizations in the United States that gathered an impressive panel of national Black civic activists to survey the role of Black voters in the coming mid-term election. Key among the panel’s concerns were voter tactics developed from the intolerance of the racist south and now given new life by the Republican Party’s anti-immigrant witch hunters and its Tea Party allies.
Colorado candidate for governor Tom Tancredo, who wants to craft literacy tests to determine who should be allowed to vote, was singled out as dangerous to the fundamental principles of a democracy.
With higher voter participation rates than the population as a whole, black Americans, particularly black women, have come to understand the importance of voting to shape public policy. Panelist Barbara Arnwine urged all Americans to use their family trees to call on their sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, cousins and kin to turn out to vote. Ms. Arnwine is the National Director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. She went on to take exception to those Arizona sheriffs that are openly supporting campaigns to “Stop Latinos from stealing the vote” as counter to America’s highest values. Arnwine praised the courage of former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s for remarks that no voter requirements can be more burdensome than those defined in the Voting Rights Act. O’Connor’s position stems from the 9th Circuit Court’s recent ruling overturning Arizona’s Republican Party efforts to disenfranchise broad swaths of that state’s citizens from freely voting in elections.
Addressing why all Americans should participate in elections, Hilary Shelton commented ‘with 30% of those now covered with the new health insurance coming from communities of color, we have a stake in the outcome of this election that deserves our participation.’ Shelton is Director and Senior Vice President of Advocacy for the NAACP’s Washington Bureau.
Dr. Wilmer Leon, a political scientist, went on to add “Black turn-out is not crucial to Democrats, its crucial to us (and our well being in this country)”. As a result of the collapse of the economy brought on under President Bush’s administration, Blacks are a disproportionately larger number of the unemployed and more likely to have homes in foreclosure than the general population.
BLF’s panel also raised questions about the erroneous re-classification of 90,000 registered black voters in Florida as ex-felons ineligible to cast a ballot in the mid term elections now underway.
Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever, Director of the National Council of Negro Women observed the connection between talk of a tidal wave in Tuesday’s election to ‘disincentive’ tactics long used to silence some segments of the voting population.
“If politics is defined as who gets what, when, and how much, civic awareness and political engagement in the 2010 mid-term elections is critical for all Americans, particularly people of color” said Gary Flowers, Executive Director and CEO of BLF.
The Black Leadership Forum’s member organizations heavily engaged in national electoral policy advocacy include: The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, National Black Caucus of State Legislators, National Organization of Black County Officials, National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials, National Conference of Black Mayors, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, National Urban League, NAACP, National Council of Negro Women, Hip Hop Caucus, National Conference of Black Women, and IMPACT.