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Around the country, activists and organizers are concerting efforts to ensure that our right to vote is fully recognize, restored and respected for all of us! As voter registration deadlines are quickly approaching in many states --which you can find at Iceberg Slim's Motherlode of All Registration Diaries-- it is important to consider how we can effectively participate and engage in comprehensive election protection strategies. Many election protection and voting rights resources are available; this diary will be a first of a series of ways you can directly engage in recognizing, restoring, and respecting the right to vote!
There has been a lot of attention and resources provided for the election protection of first time voters and students, and much of my attention--both professionally and personally--has been and will continue to be dedicated to this cause. However, we need to be very aware of the voter suppression tactics that affects all segments of America, as many times the same strategies, resources, and vehicles of these tactics are employed during, before, and after election day!
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People For the American Way Foundation (proud "parent" of YP4) launched Restore My Vote to restore the voter rights of former felons in Florida. It was developed in part to address the finding of voter suppression tactics as assessed in "The New Face of Jim Crow" The New Face of Jim Crow: Voter Suppression in America released in 2006:
"The disenfranchisement of felons and ex-felons currently excludes 5.3 million Americans—disproportionately racial minorities and low-income Americans—from participating in the democratic process....
Supporters give various reasons for their support of disenfranchisement of felons, but the historical motivation behind such laws is unambiguous: they sought to keep African Americans from the voting booth and were passed before the civil rights movement. Today, these laws still disproportionately affect African Americans and other racial minorities.
Nationwide, more than thirteen percent of adult African American males are denied the right to vote because of past felony convictions, and Black men make up over a third of the total disenfranchised population. In six of the states that deny the right to vote to ex-offenders one in four Black men is permanently disenfranchised. The laws disproportionately affect Latino men as well: sixteen percent of Latino men will enter prison in their lifetime, compared to less than five percent of white men."
In April 2007, Florida Governor Charlie Crist pand Clemency Board to adopted new regulations to streamline the clemency process for ex-offenders who have committed non-violent crimes and have their rigt to vote restored.
People For the American Way Foundation obtained through a public records request a list of the names of more than 250,000 ex-offenders in Florida whose right to vote was restored. People For is actively outreaching to these eligible voters to support them in every step of their re-enfranchisement. By building outreach strategies with election officials, the general public and religious communities--People For's Restore My Vote project is a bold, proactive initiative to provide direct services for formerly incarcerated persons reclaiming their right to vote.
Bordering them is my home state of Alabama. In the lovely little town of Dothan (Yes, the same Dothan, AL that has been highlighted recently for Blumberg Family Foundation's $50K offer to Jews to live there) activists are taking the next step of voter enfrachisement. Just consider that only two generations ago, after Voting Rights Act of 1965 in Alabama, registration rose from 24 to 57 percent in 2 years. As of 2008, voter registration among Blacks leads the increase in voter registration numbers in Alabama, now representing nearly a quarter of both the voting electorate and population in Alabama.
Kenneth Glasgow a local activist, was highlighted for his work with the "ALL OF US OR NONE" campaign to register former and current incarcerated persons who are guaranteed restored voting rights as defined by a 1996 Alabama Constitutional amendment. This is part of a broader campaign to address other enfranchisement and civil rights issues for formerly incarcerated persons, including access to obtain family assistance and student loan benefits. All of Us or None began as a campaign in California to restore voting rights for ex-felons, and expanded operations to states that revised constitutional provisions.
While I support the movement to completely rewrite the Alabama Constitution, this is a step in the right direction to for securing voter enfranchisement for all citizens.
Even the hip hop game is getting in the mix. Hip Hop Caucus launched its "Respect My Vote" project this summer actively supported by T.I.: "I look forward to urging the masses to take advantage of the right that I no longer have." As you may know , because of a recent felony conviction, along with spending most of his adult life on probation, T.I. has been uneligible to vote; however he is actively encouraging young people to get registered and vote through public appearances and outreach--even sporting the new "Respect My Vote" shirt at the 2008 MTV VMAs.
Along with community activist and founder of HHC, Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Respect My Vote specifically works to combine the power of Hip Hop Culture with new media grassroots organizing tactics to mobilize and educate young people between the ages of 18 and 29, who are not in college. As part of its mission, Hip Hop Caucus is working to support the re-enfranchisement of formerly incarcerated persons:
We want the recertification and restoration of voting rights for the 10 million persons who have loss their right to vote as a result of a felony conviction. Although these persons have served time in prison, their voting rights have not been restored in 40 states in the U.S.
These organizations all represent the growing movement to recognize, restore, and respect the right to vote for all of us! Check out the links to these orgs, pass the word and get involved! Next week, I'll explore the major election protection campaigns to protect the student's right to vote, and steps you can take to engage!