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

CAN WE ALL GET ALONG; IS HATRED A GREATER MOTIVATOR THAN LOVE?

Depiction of the House vote on H.R. 3590 (the ...
Depiction of the House vote on H.R. 3590 (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) on March 21, 2010, by congressional district. Democratic yea Democratic nay Republican nay No representative seated (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Kirk Clay

Analyzing Partisan Manipulation and Voter Mobilization

After witnessing the woman’s healthcare debate, I’m reminded that every politician becomes a little “Etch A Sketchy” when appealing to their base. Just like the etch-a-sketch easily erases an image, they use language in a way that if called to question, they can deny any intent to disrespect others. They use terms like “Obamacare” and “self-deportation” or twist remarks about foreign policy to spark a reaction from their base. Underneath this is a subtle reference to values in a manner that manipulates their base.

What’s worse is that election year tactics like “Death Panel” town hall meetings produce obstructionist legislators. The use of shock to motivate the base also triggers a downward spiral that adds to the dysfunction in Washington and encourages the 60 member Tea Party Caucus. It’s an outrage that during one of the toughest periods in American history longstanding GOP moderate forerunners have been held hostage. Outside of the bi-partisan response to the financial crisis in 2008, there has not been a real attempt to legislate in a post-partisan manner.

What’s clear to me is that after 40 years of one party control of the house, some of the most conservative elements in this country came together and developed a strategy to win a majority in ’94. Now, the philosophy that “you can’t win without demonizing the opposite party” has become edict and only the American voter has the ability to break this cycle. Will politicians attempt to manipulate voters with the use of fear and hate? Will they use wedge issues to mobilize and turnout their base on Election Day?

I think back to the 2006 elections when these extremist unleashed a harsh “cultural war” to get their base to vote. The political atmosphere is similar to that of today.  However there’s strong evidence that things may be different this time.  We’ve had six years of new registrants and many young voters plus voters of color (VOC) will return to the electorate in 2012.

This political geography is highlighted in majority minority cities like Norfolk where its population grew 3.4% to 242,803. This increase gives Norfolk more than 83,000 “key” Voters of Color. Also, People of Color are 26% of Virginia’s Citizen Voting Age Population. They were 24% of vote share in 2008 and about 23% in 2010.

If a modern coalition of conscious Whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Women, Unions, and Young Voters all demanded honest and trustworthy candidates, we could revitalize and expand our democracy. The truth is, we all love our country and that means every community in it. That’s what motivates most Americans to be compassionate. Hate only motivates “Etch A Sketchy” candidates to become partisan obstructionists. In my part of town, you can’t win without love. That’s popping the clutch.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC

POLITICS IS A TEAM SPORT, COMING THROUGH IN THE CLUTCH

English: Cartogram of the 2008 Electoral Vote ...
Image via Wikipedia

By Kirk Clay

Political Trends May Reset 2012 Electoral Map

Every Thursday, I take my son to winter baseball camp. I enjoy watching him learn the fundamentals of fielding, throwing, and hitting. I watch him go over the same routine countless times so he’s prepared to make a clutch play if needed. As his dad and coach, I remind myself about Reggie “Mr. October” Jackson’s quote which speaks to the significance of me being there as the coach/manager for my son, “I’ll tell you what makes a great manager: A great manager has a knack for letting you know that they believe in you. They make you get more out of yourself. And once you learn how good you really are, you never settle for playing anything less than your best.”

I wish we could say the same about the GOP’s commitment to civil and human rights. They have made many attempts at garnering support among People of Color.  But as this week’s Arizona Republican debate came to an end, I began to contemplate if the GOP will lose that support.

For instance, the candidates’ answers on immigration reform made me wonder if they truly understood the depth of the firestorm that their “anti-immigration” rhetoric was fueling.  They threatened to veto the Dream Act, expressed full throated support of regressive Arizona-style immigration laws, and they were noticeably silent during the Adalberto Jordan scuffle.

Are they aware of the impact that these positions will have on People of Color when they vote?  Do they realize that these remarks indicate a pull away from any type of commitment to civil and human rights which was used by George Bush to sway People of Color to join the GOP bandwagon? 

Or maybe this suggests that they are ignoring the power that Arizona’s Voters of Color bring to the ballot box and gambling on the past where McCain won his home state by nine percent in 2008, Bush won by nine percent in 2004 and Bush won by six percent in 2000.  In fact, Bush won over forty percent of the Latino vote in 2004.  Maybe they believe they can back away from civil rights issues because they can win without any votes from People of Color.

What the GOP may not understand is that their policies toward Voters of Color (VOC) are turning states like Arizona into a battleground due to significant population shifts.  Remember that according to the 2010 census, Arizona’s population increased significantly in the last ten years. They gained a new congressional seat plus an extra Electoral College vote.
My advice to “political experts” is to not underestimate the VOC voting machine. For example, People of Color in Arizona make up 24% of the voting age population and in 2008 an impressive 74% of those registered to vote went to the polls. In fact, Voters of Color made up 18% of the vote share in the general election.

This number increased to 20% in 2010, a Tea Party wave year. Think about what could happen in 2012 if every eligible Voter of Color is energized? Particularly in cities like Phoenix where the population grew by 9.4% to 1,445,632 which included more than 280,000 “Key” Voters of Color. These Phoenix voters recently elected a Latino City Councilman and a new Democrat Mayor.

Keep this in mind– the entire Electoral College math could shift if significant investments by progressives, philanthropists, labor and political insiders were made to energize and turnout POC voters in Arizona.  If this happens and Arizona becomes a CLUTCH state, it could go from red to blue.  

Whether or not this is the year that Arizona becomes a CLUTCH State is unclear. The political geography and demographic numbers are there. All that’s needed is the level of support required to build the electoral vehicle to get the best performance from the emerging electorate.  I believe that the time has come for a political game changer to step to the plate. That’s popping the clutch.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC