Filed Under:  Civil Rights, National, News, Politics

Voting-rights advocates discuss protective measures as election nears

29th October 2012   ·   0 Comments

Since the beginning of 2011, politicians across the country approved 25 laws and two executive actions in 19 states that would make it harder to vote for millions of eligible Americans. But then voting-rights advocates fought back. Citizens rejected these laws at the polls, nearly a dozen courts overturned or weakened restrictive measures, and the Department of Justice blocked others.

But while there were a number of voting-rights victories in the month leading up to the Nov. 6 election, voting-rights advocates point out that there are laws in place in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin.

They say that while as Election Day approaches, it is important for voters to know the rules in their respective states, and also know that there are volunteers focused on Election Protection ready to help them if they run into trouble at the polls.

Between April and November, NAM has partnered with the Brennan Center and other national research and advocacy organizations to host monthly teleconference calls, produce weekly columns and alerts, and host roundtables in key states. The goal is to build a collective news and advocacy platform in the ethnic media sector to counter voter suppression efforts and ensure every eligible voter can vote.

Among those who participated in Tuesday’s teleconference call were Myrna Perez, Senior Counsel, Brennan Center for Justice, Voting Rights Victories; Eric Marshall, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Election Protection; Evan Bacalao, NALEO, Protecting Hispanics at the Ballot Box; Jeanette Lee, Asian American Justice Center, a pilot Asiamulti-lingual Election, Protection Hotline for FL and VA’ Derrick Beetso, Staff Attorney, National Congress of American Indians, Protecting the right to vote for Native Americans

Eric Marshall said that on Election Day, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and a coalition of voting-rights groups, will be working hard to ensure that every vote is counted and no eligible voter is deprived of his or her right to vote.

“We’ll be organizing legal and field volunteers to monitor polling in over 80 counties and cities across the country,” Marshall said. “We’ll be connected through a network of command centers and call centers. On Election Day, we’ll be situated to help voters over the phone follow up with reports we’re getting to the media over the phone or online at the polling place to verify what is happening and potentially help work with poll workers to find solutions. We’re prepared to file emergency Election Day litigation.”

Derrick Beetso said Tuesday that the National Conference of American Indians has targeted 18 target states with high populations of Native Americans, as well as areas that have had voter-suppression issues in past elections. NCAI has used webinars and worked with the National Native American Bar Association and other groups to disseminate information about voting rights and voter ID laws.

“Our goal for 2012 is to try to have the greatest turnout ever in Indian country,” Beetso said. “In previous elections we’ve had a lot of registered Indians but didn’t show up to the polls as well as a lot of people that were eligible to register but didn’t register. While these numbers keep growing and we have had a significant impact in a lot of elections, we think that we can do better.

“One of the things that we have on our side is we have a significant amount of our population that is below the age of 18 and will turn 18 and be eligible to vote within the next four years,” he added. “We’re trying to get the youth involved and eligible to vote.”

Derrick Beetwo told The Louisiana Weekly that four years ago the Native American vote significantly impacted several key elections.

“Our education outreach has always been very good,” he told The Louisiana Weekly. “Traditionally, Native people vote but it’s when they come to the polls and don’t have the IDs that we have to step in.”

Although NCAI was only formed last year, Beetso says that lessons learned from efforts to suppress the Native American vote helped to fuel the National Congress of American Indians’ strategies to prevent those kinds of voter-suppression tactics from being used again in 2012.

“There are a lot of examples of different areas where Native people were up against ID laws that didn’t protect them in 2008 but it set them up in 2012 to be able to vote with different documentation,” Beetso said. “It’s something that we’re always doing and we’re always a part of. We know every four years we’ll be involved in voting-rights issues.”

Additional reporting by The Louisiana Weekly editor Edmund W. Lewis.

This article originally published in the October 29, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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