The Urban League sounds the alarm on democracy
In its latest State of Black America report, the storied civil rights organization paints a portrait of a nation in crisis ahead of a consequential series of midterm elections.
We’re less than seven months from the midterm elections, the results of which are likely to be determined by which party turns its voter base out.
The US saw what happened in 2020 when historically marginalized communities take to the polls — Trump was relegated to one term, Democrats held and reclaimed congressional majorities and the first woman of color ascended to the vice presidency.
In response, states across the country have worked to prevent a repeat of what we saw in the previous election. And civil rights groups are working overtime to educate voters about what they’re up against.
Case in point: The National Urban League, the oldest and largest community-based organization dedicated to securing economic and social justice for African Americans and against racial discrimination in the US, will release this morning its State of Black America report at Clark Atlanta University.
The event will feature a reading of the report’s top findings and VIP panel discussions, capped with a voter-participation rally with students and VIPs.
The Urban League said this year’s report paints a portrait of a nation in crisis and focuses on what the organization describes as the plot to destroy democracy.
It explains the well-funded and -organized statewide efforts that strip voting power away from communities with Black and brown voters, drafting bills and passing laws making it harder to vote, delegitimizing the voices and votes of people of color across this country and intimidating election officials for carrying out their duties and upholding the legitimacy of the 2020 election.
“Our focus is on democracy and I think whether you’re a young voter or older person without the right to vote, you’ll never impact student debt, you’ll never impact health equity, you won’t have a seat at the table on minimum wage,” Marc Morial, president and CEO of the Urban League, said to Supercreator. “What we’re trying to do is centralize the idea that if you do not protect the right to vote, all of our other policy aims are going to become academic exercises where we’re calling for it.”
The report also includes the Equality Index, which demonstrates how well Black Americans are doing in comparison to white people when it comes to their economic status, health, education, social justice, and civic engagement. (This year’s Equality Index is 73.9 percent. In other words, rather than having full equality with white people in 2022, African Americans are missing more than a quarter of the pie.)
The Urban League decided to promote the report at CAU in part to uplift and engage young voters, a critical coalition in upcoming elections.
“I don't think we do enough to create a dialogue on campuses to get our young people in our college students involved,” Morial said to Supercreator. “And this is about beginning to try to do more. I think all at all what I've learned is when people have the facts, when they understand the history and the facts, they're very, very supportive of this battle to protect American democracy.”
It’s unclear how much institutional support organizations like the Urban League will receive from Congress and the White House, which are preoccupied with the crisis in Ukraine and rising inflation at home.
Since Senate Democrats ascended to the majority in Jan. 2021, they have repeatedly tried and failed to pass comprehensive voting rights legislation through every mechanism imaginable — as reported here, here, here — obviously to no avail.
And although President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in January gave stirring speeches in Atlanta, critics said it was too little too late and only came after Biden’s signature Build Back Better plan was stalled by conservative Democrats. The White House did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
In the interim, a group of so-called moderate Republican and Democratic senators is negotiating a compromise that would clarify how Congress counts electoral votes and strengthen protections for poll workers. The legislation wouldn’t solve any of the immediate threats to voter enfranchisement though.
Since last year, the Department’s Civil Rights Division has filed complaints in Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, New York and New Jersey and separate briefs in Ohio, Florida and Arkansas to challenge new anti-voter laws or gerrymandered maps in the states. A spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on the progress of these filings or if it plans to take any other states to court for violating the Voting Rights Act.
As the primary season picks up ahead of the midterms, the Urban League reiterated its five-point point plan to empower voters to resist the recent attacks on voting rights and ensure their voices are heard.
First, and fundamentally, the organization urges you to check your registration status.
Second, you should know the voter ID laws in your state since each has different standards. For example, some accept state and college IDs, others only accept valid driver’s licenses and some require ID to vote in person.
Next, know where you vote.
Then, make a plan before you head to the polls. As states have worked to eliminate or restrict early or mail-in voting, casting your ballot may require you to stand in line at your polling place. The Urban League says the best way to prepare is to develop a plan for voting in your district well in advance.
And finally, vote in every election. Federal elections attract much of the national attention but many consequential decisions that govern how you work and live and who wins and lose are made at the state and local levels.
“Politicians pay attention to the people who vote. They mostly pay attention to the people who vote for them. And if we are not in that number, we can have a difficult time impacting what they think and what they say,” Morial said. “And it is about the right to vote. And I keep coming back to that because without a seat at the table, we cannot impact these issues.”
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Today in Politics
President Biden this morning will receive his daily intelligence briefing. He will then travel to Menlo, Iowa to tour a biofuel plant and speak about how his agenda plans to lower gas prices and costs for working families. The president will return to Washington DC this evening.
Vice President Harris this morning will travel to Philadelphia to speak about labor unions and worker empowerment. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh will also speak. Harris will return to Washington DC this evening.
The House is out.
The Senate is out.
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