DEMOCRACY IS THE GREATEST SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT; LET’S EXPAND THE ELECTORATE

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By Kirk Clay

 

We All Want To Do the Responsible Thing

 

If you noticed a person pushing a car up a hill would you help them? What if it was in the sweltering heat and that person was somehow different from you? Would it matter if they were a Democrat or Republican?

No-excuse early voting in U.S. states, as of S...

No-excuse early voting in U.S. states, as of September 2007. in-person and postal in-person only postal only none (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It didn’t for my baseball teammates in Toledo. Once while coming home from practice, we noticed a man having problems with his car.  He started to push his car towards a slight declining hill.  My teammates and I didn’t hesitate to lend a hand.  We asked if he needed help. Before he could answer us, the car started rolling backwards. We didn’t wait for his answer. We all got behind the vehicle and began to push the car back towards the hill.

 

We didn’t know much about fixing cars in those days but we knew that if the vehicle was pushed in the right direction and someone turned the ignition, the engine would start. That is called popping the clutch. So, that’s just what we did. We all pushed and once the car began to pick up speed while rolling down the hill, we didn’t care which one of us jumped into the driver’s seat to pop the clutch — as long as we got the vehicle working again.

 

Voting reminds me of that car. It is one of most important vehicles that Americans have for getting from one place to another — or for influencing the policies that affect our lives. Therefore, when people need help voting, we should make every effort to help them because it makes our democracy work better.

 

I wish that was the logic behind Ohio’s new law which restricts early, in-person voting. The new law sets the Friday evening before election-day as the deadline for voters to early vote in-person. This law turns a blind eye to the thousands of voters who historically vote during the three days before Election Day. It dampens the impact of early-vote campaigns by many organizations who take advantage of that last weekend to urge voters to vote early. Ohio is one of 32 states that allow voters to cast an early ballot by mail or in person without an excuse.  This increases civic participation and strengthens our democracy.

 

As we know, voting early helps to ease the long lines on Election Day — something that makes headlines every election cycle. In 2000, the lines were so long in many places around the country that precincts closed before voters could cast their ballot.  Nearly a million voters—close to 3% of all registered voters—had this experience.  This led to legal contests in St. Louis which affected the outcome of the Missouri’s U.S. Senate race.  By closing the polling places before everyone in line was able to vote, many voters were disenfranchised. Voters who made extraordinary efforts to go to the polls were denied ballots due to no fault of their own.

 

Each of the nearly 200,000 polling places nationwide will handle about 500 voters on Election Day. Since we only have about 700,000 workers at the polls, early voting is an effective way to make sure that voters are not disenfranchised.   In 2008, more than 1.7 million Ohio voters cast ballots early – close to 30% of all ballots.  For 2012, Election Day is predicted to be more taxing as America gears up for record-breaking voter –turnout.  This is especially of concern for voters of color (VOC).

 

According to the National Urban League’s “The Hidden Swing Voters” report, Voters of Color (VOC) could turnout in an even higher rate. The study proposes that if African-American registration rises to 78.3% we could see 3 million more African American voters in 2012.

 

The Latino community grew to 50 million in 2010 while the Asian American – Pacific Islander (AAPI) population increased to 5.2% of the national population. If those demographic trends materialize, VOC could make up more than 23% of the eligible electorate.

 

In swing states like Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia, there is a significant VOC population. These states were GOP strongholds until recently. Also, each state turned blue as the demographics began to change. There is strong evidence that political geography is the reason that Democrats improved their 2000 performance by more than seven points in each state. Moreover, experts believe that Virginia’s and Nevada’s recent purple propensities are powered by the 55% and 71% AAPI growth since 2000.

 

Population growth is an essential factor in predicting turnout. The Ohio law is based on the misconception that VOC will not be 17% of the electorate in 2012. As an unintended consequence, Ohio may disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters. Worst yet, this will turn a blind eye to the profound and chronic problems of race and discrimination in voting practices.

 

Our ultimate goal should be to pass laws that expand democracy to every American. It’s clear that we need a coalition of compassionate Whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Women, Unions, and Young Voters acting together to widen the circle of freedom so that the American promise of liberty and justice for all is realized by all. That’s popping the clutch.

 

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC

 

 

THE SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS COMPROMISE AND REJECTS POLARIZATION

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By Kirk Clay

U.S. circuit judges Robert Katzmann, Damon Kei...

U.S. circuit judges Robert Katzmann, Damon Keith, and Sonia Sotomayor at a 2004 exhibit on the Fourteenth Amendment, Thurgood Marshall, and Brown v. Board of Education. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Voters of Color May be the Key to Political Civility

The recent Supreme Court decisions regarding Arizona’s immigration law SB 1070 and The Affordable Care Act reminded me of another significant moment in American history–the Court’s ruling on the Brown v. Board of Education case.  That ruling had a profound impact on the lives of every person in the country and helped move this country forward with regards to civil rights, social justice and equality.

Just like the 1950s, it is hard to measure the impact that these decisions will have on the social fabric of this country and the world. However, it’s clear that we are witnessing a watershed moment. And for many voters of color (VOC), these rulings are a strong signal that no matter how dysfunctional Congress has become, there is hope.

As the Presidential campaign picks up speed, voters are starting to pay attention to the triple impact that their vote will have in November.   The next President may have an opportunity to appoint at least one new Justice to the Supreme Court who will have the power and responsibility to continue making landmark decisions that can move our country forward as the Congressional leaders who are elected struggle to respond to those Supreme Court decisions.

Healthcare is going to be a huge issue for igniting greater civic engagement among VOC. According to a recent Gallup survey, 21% of Latino registered voters rated healthcare as one of their top priorities.  In states like Texas, 20% of children in the state have no health coverage and 37% of Latinos have no health insurance. Many adults living in major metro areas around the state are uninsured:

Beaumont-Port Arthur area—26%

Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown area–24%

Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington area–21%

San Antonio area–18%

Austin-Round Rock area –18%

Interestingly enough, these metro areas also have a significantly high Latino and African American populations.

This and other issues will be the true story behind this election. The truth is that even if there isn’t a clear indication of a “change” election, the landscape is set for voters to hold obstructionist law makers accountable. There are 19 new seats, 36 open seats, 2 vacancies, and 57 seats where no incumbent will be on the ballot. Many of the new seats are solid People of Color (POC) prospects.

Census data shows the Latino population increased by 15 million in 2010, and 20% of that growth happened in Texas. People of Color are already the majority in Texas and their vote trends in the Democrats’ favor.

Latinos make up about 25% of the state’s new registrants in 2009 and 2010. People of Color represent 54% of the state’s total population and 41% of the citizen voting age population (CVAP).  They represent 40% of registered voters and just a little more than 19% of frequent voters. Also, over 3 million registered Latino and African American voters stayed home in 2010. Just imagine what would happen if a modern coalition of conscious Whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Women, Unions, and Young Voters came together and increased Latino turnout from 24% to 49% and African American turnout from 35% to 49%. Together, we could add over 1 million more VOC.

This could be the difference in congressional races in areas where so many VOC are uninsured. For example, Fort Worth grew by 38% to 741,206 and now has over 140,000 registered “Key” VOC with close to 95,000 infrequent voters. If properly resourced, and the electorate continues to expand, we may see a significant voter turnout increase. These voters may vote for more progressive Congressional leaders and begin the process of putting TX’s 38 electoral votes in play for future elections.

No one is entirely sure how voters are going to respond to these last 2 years of impasse. The truth is that The Affordable Care Act was an example of politicians compromising to get something done. First it was voted out of Senate Committee with the support of a Republican, then passed with the help of two Independent Senators and recently upheld by a Republican appointed Chief Justice.

Will voters reward compromisers? Or will this be the 21st century battle over civil and human rights that lights the fire of social justice and changes the tone in the House? Now is the time for all Americans to embrace hope and play a part in shaping our nation’s future. That’s popping the clutch.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC

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