Why Voting in 2016 Is An Act of Self-Defense
News Four years ago, the civil rights movement marked a new turning point, as over 66 percent of black voters turned out on Election Day and set a new record unseen since 1964.
For some, 2012 marked an historic shift, an acknowledgement that the minority participation following the election of President Barack Obama in 2008 wasn’t unique to one man or moment.
But even as multiple generations are standing up to face injustice in our cities and schools and demand better, the newly-strengthened electorate is viewed by some not as progress but as a threat.
As we enter the crucial presidential election of 2016, we are facing the most coordinated attempt to suppress election turnout since the Voting Rights Act was passed 50 years ago. States with the worst legacies of racial discrimination have spent the last three years imposing new requirements, cutting back voting opportunities and services and actively purging voter lists in hopes of making it more difficult for minorities, the young, poor and old to be part of the election.
When more than 33 states pass new laws requiring a photo ID to vote, but cut back and shut down the government offices where voters can obtain the required cards, the need to act is clear.
"...it is clear that the power of the vote, as W.E.B. Du Bois noted 100 years ago, is self-defense."
When states like North Carolina abolish successful programs that allowed 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote through their high schools and cut back on early voting periods in heavily-populated areas, the need to act is clear.
When states like Georgia and Virginia start purging voter rolls in the weeks before elections with little notice or explanation, the need to act is clear.
In an age where black people remain incarcerated at three times the rate of whites, when unemployment, economic inequality and criminal justice are experienced at catastrophically higher rates by race and neighborhood, it is clear that the power of the vote, as W.E.B. Du Bois noted 100 years ago, is self-defense.
How to be heard
From April 16 to 18 more than 100 other organizations will combine for Democracy Awakening, a new mobilization in Washington, D.C. to defend against attacks on voting rights and the influence of money in politics. The event will be followed by the Congress of Conscience, a direct, targeted action challenging lawmakers to restore protections of the Voting Rights Act.
Securing our future requires action. Call your local board of elections to register to vote. If you have moved in the last year, make sure that you are able to cast a ballot. Ask your friends, family and other loved ones to do the same. Most of all, cast your vote in state primaries and the November 6 election.
Believe in this country. Believe in justice. And know that what you do about it in this moment matters.