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

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

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

FAIR HONEST ELECTIONS for VOTERS OF COLOR

Map of Section 5 Covered Jurisdictions
Map of Section 5 Covered Jurisdictions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Kirk Clay

Reflecting on the past, thinking of the present, and looking towards the future

 

Recently I was talking with a friend from Texas about the special election in Arizona to fill their 8th congressional district as the result of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords retirement. During that conversation we began talking about the American dream and the recent wave of political vitriol surrounding citizenship documents, birth certificates, and the removal of Voters of Color (VOC) from the voter rolls.

 

I spent a lot of time espousing the virtues of expanding democracy to include greater numbers of VOC. I believe that a diverse electorate may help to end the two year-long “do nothing” agenda. My friend pointed out that this opportunity to expand democracy is under attack by the wave of “voter suppression” laws and executive orders in multiple states.  He noted that Texas Republicans passed a controversial law to concentrate on voting impostors. Thankfully, the Department of Justice will interrupt this effort by not granting a clearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

 

I thought about the fact that the landmark Voting Rights Act was first passed in 1965 to outlaw voting practices that disenfranchised thousands of Americans.  States with both (a) “tests” or “devices” that restricted the opportunity to register and vote and, (b)  less than 50% voter registration or voter turnout could no longer make changes with respect to voting without “clearance” from the Department of Justice.  This includes everything from redistricting to polling places.

 

Here we are more than 45 years later in the 21st century with extremists who remain vigilant to make it difficult for Americans to participate in democracy.  According to a comprehensive report by the Brennen Center, since 2011 more than two dozen states have passed or attempted to pass laws and executive orders that disenfranchise voters.

 

In Florida, the governor pressed election officials to identify non-U.S. citizens on the voting rolls. The list of 2700 people and comprised largely of people of color, was found to have a 78% error rate.  More than 500 people on the list have been identified as actual citizens.  This action by the governor has produced three federal lawsuits, including a lawsuit filed June 12th by the Department of Justice that claims Florida’s purge program violates two federal voting laws.

 

A Florida coalition of conscience which includes progressive Whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Unions, and young voters are also contesting Gov. Scott’s efforts.  Voters are fed up with partisan extremists.  They remember the “pregnant chads” in 2000 which became part of the determining factor for George Bush receiving a 534 vote victory over Al Gore.  During that same election cycle Florida’s Secretary of State had ordered election supervisors to purge ex-felons from the voter lists.  Experts later reported that the list “flagged” close to 91,000 names of which more than 57,000 were purged.  More than half of the list—54%—was African American and Latino.

 

Following the 2000 debacle, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002 to create standards for states to follow and to update outdated voting systems. HAVA required that each state transition to electronic voter lists.

 

Very important questions we should ask are “what will our democracy gain from implementing laws that will have a disproportionate impact on voters of color?” and “why would politicians throw away votes?”  Have party politics become so polarized that politicians can’t avoid self-inflected wounds?

 

For example in Florida voters of color make up 29% of the voting age population and 69% are registered to vote.  In 2008, voters of color were 28% of the electorate although more than a third did not vote.  Imagine the impact that voters of color could have on advancing progressive policies if all who are eligible to vote were mobilized and voted.

 

The same is true for Texas, where the Latino population accounted for 65% of the State’s growth between 2000 and 2010.   Among young voters between the ages of 18 and 19 year olds 60% are people of color and 41% Latino. Census data shows us that Houston grew by 7.5% to 2,099,451. Imagine what could happen in 2012 if we energize and turn out 814,000 registered VOC in Harris County? Especially in places like Houston where there are over 400,000 “Key” VOC.

 

Today, we have laws in place designed to ensure that the playing field is level. Our country needs every voter to participate in this election to ensure our government works for everyone. We are a team of 300 million Americans and we all love this country. Therefore, there is no excuse for denying an eligible voter the opportunity to vote. We must not compromise the promise of freedom especially if it compromises diversity.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC

THE NEW MAJORITY IS THE FUTURE, AND THE FUTURE HAS ARRIVED

FEMA - 45525 - FEMA hosted Latino Leadership S...
FEMA – 45525 – FEMA hosted Latino Leadership Summit in Washington, DC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PAC+ Launches Latino-Focused TV Advertising Campaign in Arizona

Today, PAC+, a new national network of leaders focused on democratizing money and politics to give voice to America’s New Majority, will launch a television advertising campaign targeted at the Latino electorate. This is PAC+’s first ad in Arizona, the center of the right wing’s attack on Latinos, and the fastest growing sector of the New American Majority. The ad will be the first Latino-focused ad by an independent group this cycle.

PAC+ is a newly formed national PAC created to flip the balance of power from Red to Blue by harnessing the potential of the demographic revolution.  PAC+ is a PAC of many donors, not mega donors, and aggregates annual membership fees from professionals across the country, distributing those resources to strategically selected races in its target states (AZ, CA, NM, TX, OH, and GA).

“Romney has acknowledged that ‘he’s sunk’ if he can’t make inroads with Latinos. We intend to sink him, and to get the rest of the progressive community to join us,” said Steve Phillips, Chairman of PAC+. “PAC+ selected Arizona for the launch of its paid media program to highlight the state’s political significance and its untapped potential to the progressive community, which is not yet convinced of the value of investing resources in this electorate,“ he added.

“This television advertising campaign is the first paid media work that PAC+ will be doing in 2012 and as such is the first salvo in what will be an escalating and sustained effort targeting Latinos in 2012 and beyond. It is the first television ad aimed at a Latino audience to be aired by any independent group thus far,” said Dr. Julie Martinez Ortega, Senior Advisor to PAC+. The advertising campaign will be a state-wide effort in Arizona that includes the Phoenix, Tucson, and Yuma media markets. The ads will air in Spanish and English-language media outlets and on both broadcast and on cable. “We’re still finalizing our fundraising for the ad,” said Martinez Ortega, “but it’ll certainly be in the high five-figures to low six-figures.”

The ad reminds Latinos and Progressive voters about what is at stake if Romney were elected President. It defines Romney for Latinos and Progressive voters by using his own words, in an effort to contrast him with President Obama and thereby motivate them to vote for Barack Obama in November. The ad is being released on the heels of the Romney campaign’s newest ad “Dia Uno”, which attempts to erase his damaging words and actions, which will negatively affect the everyday lives of Latino voters.

“PAC+ will not allow Romney’s history of and continued disrespect of contributions of Latinos to our nation to be erased like an Etch a Sketch by his handlers, especially vis-à-vis Latino voters. Romney’s words reflect his values and Latino voters must know what he truly thinks about the community and with whom he associates himself,” said Phillips. “PAC+’s ad will remind voters of this important fact.”

“It’s very telling that Romney’s Spanish-language ad is nowhere to be found on his website. PAC+ reminds Romney that he can’t have it both ways — excoriating Latinos on one hand, and acting like he’s welcoming them with the other,” said Martinez Ortega. “There is a saying in Spanish, ‘Dime con quien andas, y te dire quien eres’ (“Tell me with whom you associate, and I’ll tell you who you are”) and Romney’s key advisors, allies, and supporters comprise some of the most anti-Latino voices in Arizona and in the country.”

PAC+ was launched on March 21st by a National Board of over 70 community and political leaders in 16 states and is “powered by” PowerPAC.org, a social justice advocacy organization that coordinated the country’s first independent expenditure for Obama in 2007 and conducted a $10 million, 18 state electoral program targeting African American and Latino voters in key states.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPac

WHAT WILL DRIVE YOUNG VOTERS OF COLOR TO THE POLLS?

Missouri State Highway 1 in Kansas City, Missouri.

By Kirk Clay

Measuring the Intensity Level of Young Voters of Color

I was recently recruited to help train a team of young political organizers on micro targeting voters of color (VOC). The training marked the launch of a collaborative voter empowerment program by national and local organizations of color. This was part of their efforts to lay the ground work for capturing and energizing 18 -29 year old voters. As I began to pull together research data on voting trends for my presentation, I began to realize how important the young VOC will be in 2012:

● A recent poll from Gallup shows President Obama with a lead over Mitt Romney among voters under 30.

● According to new poll from Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, President Obama has increased his lead over Romney by 6 points to a 17 point margin.

● In 4 months, Obama’s job approval has increased from 52% to 66% among Latinos.

● Obama leads Romney in a head-to-head by thirty-nine points.

● Latinos are not the only young VOC feeling the President; he leads with African Americans by seventy-eight points.

After seeing these facts and figures, I immediately began to search for issues and places where this dynamic may have an impact. I talked to a young friend who lives in Missouri to get a “heartland” perspective about the findings. He immediately agreed with the survey, “I see it too, just look at the whole student loan mess.”

He went on to say “these politicians agree on college affordability and can’t even come together to prevent the current interest rate from doubling.” I reminded him that this rancorous environment is similar to the 2006 midterm elections when the Democrats took control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. That year, young people were 15% of Missouri’s electorate and the Senator won by just 45,000 votes.

Is he right? Are young Americans looking for someone who can stand up to these extreme politicians? And are the extreme politicians so stubborn that they would rather let young Americans pay more for their loans than listen to their congressional leaders? Will it take a coalition conscience which includes progressive Whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Unions, and Young Voters to get Washington back on track?

Given this backdrop, I went back to the Institute’s poll which confirms my friend’s feelings. According to the poll, a clear majority (55%) of 18-29 year olds believe “elected officials don’t have the same priorities I have.” They also believe that politics has become too partisan (49%). What’s worse is that 59% believe that “elected officials” seem to be motivated by selfish reasons” and only 24% reported “liking” a political candidate on Facebook.

As my friend and I continued to deliberate, I realized the broader implications of energizing young Voters of Color. In 2008, the youth voter turnout was driven largely by a surge in Latino and African American youth. For example: 42% and 39% of young Latino women and men voted. Over 52% of the African American youth between the ages of 18 and 24 voted in 2008. That was the highest turnout rate among any youth group–by race and by ethnicity. Also, young voters were 21% of Missouri’s electorate–the President lost by only 39,000 votes. That is significant if you add the fact that VOC increased their 13% vote share to 19% in 2010.

My friend, who considers himself a “young professional,” says that there is ample opportunity for young voters to raise their voice. Young African Americans and Latinos are 15% and 18% of the total youth population respectively. In 2015, Young People of Color will be over 37% percent of the 18-24 age population.

Experts who think that young VOC can’t be energized in 2012 in the same way that they were in 2008 are mistaken. On the contrary, Kansas City, Missouri grew by 4.1% to 459,787 and is now close to 40% POC of which many voters are under 29. I believe they understand the relationship between political independence and democracy. They know that being registered makes you relevant and that sidestepping your responsibilities creates a vacuum that sucks hope out of the political process.

Now that these voters are showing signs of rejuvenation, experts will have to honor the power of their vote. As they become more engaged, the political organizations that invested in them will begin to invest again. As they become an asset, the issues that affect them will be debated more. As their interests become clearer their preferences will as well. As we learned in 2008, the power of the youth vote extends through their interests and affects policy for every American. That’s popping the clutch.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC