By Greg Moore
November 8th, 2016
Despite all the negativity that this election cycle has wrought upon us, it is important for us to assert and demonstrate that the African American Vote is a force to be reckoned with—with or without an African American at the head of the ticket.
It is important that African Americans maximize their political power through their vote in the upcoming election, as they did in the 2008 and 2012 elections when President Barak Obama was on the ticket. During that period the African American vote surged to historic levels.
African American research conducted by Brilliant Corners revealed that African American voters are pessimistic and cynical about the 2016 Election and convinced that their vote has no real-world impact.
During any election cycle voter and civic education is necessary to ensure that U.S. citizens in disadvantaged and undeserved minority communities are ready, willing and able to participate fully in the election process. Voter and civic education is necessary to ensure that these constituents understand their rights, our political system, the contests they are being asked to decide, and how and where to vote.
As we enter the final hours before the 2016 Election here are a few key points I think we need to take note of when making our final appeal to voters.
- There was an active effort to decrease African American voting strength: Many of the voter restrictive laws passed by Republican led legislatures over the past several years were designed to lower voter turnout of African Americans, millennial voters, and voters in urban and lower income communities. In one sense these voter restrictive laws have already achieved their goal with scores of new voting laws and procedures on the books that have had the effect of depressing African American voter mobilization efforts leading up to the Election 2016. Contributing factors to lowering African American turnout include cuts to early voting, restrictive voter ID provisions and reduced polling locations. These factors have contributed to the increasingly growing (and somewhat pre-mature) narrative of a lower African American turnout.
- The Motivation for Voter Suppressing: A quick glance at today’s electoral map will show that states which are still illuminated as “Battleground” or “too close to call” should be all the evidence skeptics need to finally understand why they were fighting so hard to make voting more difficult for African Americans, Latinos and people of color. Many of those schemes have now been exposed by the federal courts for what they were—blatant attempts to dilute the voting power of a large category of American citizens.
- Successful Voting Rights Litigation: Thankfully there has also been some of the most effective and landmark litigation ever waged by the NAACP and other civil rights and voting rights groups that has successfully challenged many of these new laws in battleground states like North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia and many other states. These victories have spared us what would have been an even more chaotic election. But these victories can only be sustained if we turnout in large numbers and elect a President, and a Congress that will see to it that voting rights is a high priority on their agenda.
- The U.S. Congress’ Failure to Act: For the past three years, the U.S. Congress has failed to act to restore the full strength of the Voting Rights Act that was gutted by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 25, 2013. Several bills have been introduced on a bi-partisan basis to fix the VRA formula only to be denied even a hearing by the Republican led House and Senate Congressional Committees. After waging a three-year legislative battle to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA), voting rights advocates’ only recourse is to hope and pray that Congress will find the moral and political will to correct these wrongs.
- Our Votes Matter More Than Ever: In the meantime, we need to maximize the impact of hard fought litigation by showing up in large numbers on November 8th – especially in states where litigation has been won. Most importantly we need to encourage every citizen to fully exercise their right to vote–even if they are among the millions of voters nationwide who were purged from voter list for one reason or another. Every American Citizens should have the right to cast a full unfettered ballot so that no one’s voice goes unheard. This election is too important to leave anyone’s voice behind so every vote matters and every vote should be counted—either by regular or provisional ballot.
Every election cycle we make the assertion that this is the most important election in our lifetime. The historic elections of 2008 and 2012 were certainly the case. But once again we have an opportunity to make history in this election and elect a woman as president for the first time in our nation’s 227-year history. That fact alone makes this a historic election.
Given the vitriolic, uncivil, racist and repressive nature of this election cycle; and the onslaught of millions of unregulated corporate and billionaire special interest dollars into the political system; we only have one real weapon left – one single sling shot to even the playing field. It is the right to vote and our full use of it during this most critical hour. It’s time …