- Faith & Family
Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-FL, District 17) says it’s no secret that Republican governors and state legislators in Florida and in close to a dozen other states are working hard to keep a certain group of people away from the polls in 2012. And while some see it as a battle between the GOP and Democrats, she believes the plan is to disenfranchise Blacks, college students and the elderly. That’s why she has gone on national television shows and satellite radio drumming up support for what she calls the “vote from home campaign.”
Can you answer the following
questions related to the right to vote?
1. Which constitutional amendment granted citizenship to former slaves and provided equal civil rights protection under the law?
2. What act gave freedmen the same rights as other U.S. citizens with the exception of the right to vote?
3. Do prisoners have the right to vote?
4. When did women get the right to vote?
5. Which amendment gave women the right to vote?
6. What is the amendment that gave Blacks the right to vote?
7. What amendment gave 18-year-olds the right to vote?
8. Why did Congress pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965?
“The recent voting laws that our governor and state legislators have put in place will make it much more difficult for minorities, college students and senior citizens to vote,” she said. “I don’t think it has anything to do with trying to prevent voter fraud — it has everything to do with suppressing the votes of Blacks, specifically, followed closely by Hispanics and then the thousands of college students whose current addresses don’t match up with their homes. Seniors who don’t drive or cannot afford a voter ID also face not being able to vote. When President Obama won in 2008, most Blacks voted on the Sunday prior to Election Day. We called it Souls to the Polls and it was a day of celebration. But it was also a day when a high percentage of Blacks voted. Florida has since eliminated that day for voters. We cannot sit idly by and let those with their own motives keep us from exercising our right to vote.”
Wilson, 69, has engaged the support of ministers from Orlando, Jacksonville and Miami — over 100 in total. In the coming weeks she will have information distributed throughout the state so that all eligible voters can register for absentee ballots.
“We know there are roadblocks in our way but that only means we have to find other ways to secure our votes,” she said. “The absentee ballot is the one remaining method — it allows people to vote from home and doesn’t require that they have an ID. You don’t have to wait in line or worry about getting to a specific place to cast your vote. The ministers with whom I have talked are going to help lead the campaign from their pulpits.”
Wilson stressed that the campaign is not about getting Obama re-elected nor is it about partisanship.
“The point is to make sure everyone who is eligible to vote, can vote and then to make sure their vote is counted,” she said.
Other members of Congress agree with Wilson
In a series of recent hearings at the U.S. Capitol Rayburn House Office Building led by Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan, District 14), 82, leading attorneys from the ACLU, Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law and Representative Jerrold Nadler ( D-NY, District 8 ) all weighed-in on state voting laws and how recent changes in the law have impacted voters.
“We don’t need to educate members of the legislature, especially Republican members,” Nadler said. “This is a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise poor people and minorities. They are in on the conspiracy and the effort is as concerted as were previous policies under Jim Crow. We just hope that we can make sure they don’t succeed.
Arnwine pointed to her organization’s Map of Shame which uses color codes to illustrate the states that either have in place or are hoping to put in place laws that make it more difficult for people to vote.
“This is a serious situation and even with the lawsuits filed by the ACLU and other grassroots organizations, the 2012 election may already have come and gone before these cases make their way to court,” she said. “Voters and those who care about the right for all to vote must remain vigilant.”
By D. Kevin McNeir