Election season is starting and KICK-The Agency for LGBT African Americans, is hoping to get voter involvement kick-started with the first ever Voter Engagement Forum on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 7 p.m at the Sunday Dinner Company Restaurant located at 6470 E. Jefferson Ave. There is no charge to attend and refreshments will be served.
“2012 is going to be an important year for people of every background to exercise their right to vote. It is especially important for our community to be engaged and empowered to make our voices heard,” said KICK in a press release. “We saw low levels of turnout from both the African American and LGBT community in 2010 after record levels of participation in 2008. In order to make sure we are represented in the process, we need to engage our community.”
Democratic National Committee’s National Deputy Political Director Steve Walker is coming from Washington, D.C. to speak at the event. KICK has also reached out to the Republican Party, and is hoping they will come speak with the group in the future.
People of color played a crucial role in the 2008 election, accounting for 26.6 percent of the vote according to a recent NAACP study. The study looked at how 14 states have imposed new measures designed to “unfairly and unnecessarily restrict the right to vote and exact a disproportionate price on African-American and other voters of color.”
The states include those that experienced the largest growth in total African-American population during the last decade: Florida, Georgia, Texas and North Carolina, and three states that saw the highest growth rates in Latino population: South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee.
In Michigan, Senate Bill 0754 was proposed by State Sen. Mark Jansen (R- Gaines Twp). This bill would require a person to show a photo ID when registering in person or else their application is treated as a mail-in. It requires groups doing voter registration drives to comply with a series of bureaucratic requirements unlike those in the past or by other states, and it requires all voter registration forms be turned in within one business day if collected at a voter registration drive in the week prior to the registration deadline for a Federal election. The bill was recommended by committee on Dec. 6, 2011 and could be voted on at any time.
The state is also being impacted by PA5187, signed by Gov. Rick Snyder. The act changes the rules for redistricting. It reduces the number of Oakland County Commissioners from 25 to 21, and gives the power to draw the electoral maps to the very commissioners who are currently in power and will be effected by the districting lines.
Restrictive measures include:
-Tightening the requirements for voter registration or making the voter registration process unnecessarily difficult by imposing severe restrictions on persons who conduct voter registration drives or requiring individuals to produce documentary proof of citizenship in order to register to vote.
-Increasing disfranchisement of people with felony convictions.
-Substantially reducing the opportunity to vote early or by absentee ballot.
The report from the NAACP gives a history of Block the Vote initiatives, including this most recent wave. It also gives people the tools to fight these efforts. The report calls on voters of color to get involved.
“Advocates, voters, and communities cannot stand on the sidelines and accept this contraction of voting rights. In-stead, we must push back, employing all available tools and advocacy techniques from litigation and political action, to grassroots organizing,” the NAACP report stated.