Voting Activists Hit Emergency Mode

Hazel Trice Edney | 10/9/2012, 9:47 a.m.

As all the hype over debate performances between President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney continues, Black voter mobilization and election protection activists remain focused on a 'state of emergency' in preparation for Nov. 6 polling precincts where the real showdown will take place.

"I think this is the worst civil rights battle that I've seen in my lifetime," says Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "And I think it rivals the 1960s and the 50s actually. People have really decided that the only way to win elections is to suppress the Black vote. This is a purposeful, deliberate strategy. And the only thing we can do is to fight back and make sure they don't win."

Over the past two years, Republican administrations have moved to enact new legislation that require voter identification cards, photo identifications, cut backs on voting days and times, erroneous purging of voters from rolls and other rigid registration and identification requirements. Those most affected will be racial minorities, senior citizens, veterans, youth, low-income people and previously convicted felons. Though the supporters claim the new laws are to prevent voter fraud, there is little or no evidence of a voter fraud problem in U. S. politics.

Therefore, election protection activists by the millions will dispatch across the nation or monitor telephone lines before and on Election Day Nov. 6 in order to protect the sanctity of the vote. Having proclaimed the situation a "state of emergency", Black civil rights groups have initiated a a unified voter registration, get-out-to-vote and election protection campaign.

"It's as bad as we allow it to be," says Melanie Campbell, president/CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. "We know what we're up against. Everybody's exposed. No matter what the barriers are. Our history in this country, we've had barriers before."

Campbell continues, "The legal groups - the Lawyers' Committee, the Advancement Project, the ACLU - all of our legal groups have been doing a great job in pushing back from a legal perspective and winning in a lot of cases because it's egregious and it's obvious that these laws that have been passed over the last two years were based on a partisan advantage. We all know that and the public knows it more. Now people need the tools to know what to do about it."

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies recently released a statement reporting that a broad coalition of civil rights, social justice and faith-based and other organizations representing communities of color has "declared a state of emergency on voting rights in the U.S. and said that millions of people could be disenfranchised by restrictive voter laws."

The coalition has called for voters to take steps to ensure that they are aware of any new laws in their states and how to assure that their votes will be counted. Among the steps:

Check your registration status

Check the documentation needed to register and to vote

Check the deadlines for registration and early/absentee voting