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Wood engraving. 1867. Depiction of first African American men voting
The First Vote
The Republican Party in its current configuration is openly defying and attempting to destroy the U.S. Constitution. How ironic that the party that once fought for the 15th Amendment is now blatantly and with malice aforethought attempting to take this country back to before 1870, with efforts to disenfranchise a huge segment of the voting population.

The most fundamental right in a democracy is our right to vote. Voting became a right for people of color after fierce struggles during Reconstruction, which resulted in the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The "privilege" of voting that the landed colonial founders did not choose to extend to Native Americans, enslaved Africans, women and white laborers who were propertyless was amended and extended only after battles in both the political and public arena, which continued into the 1960s and are once again a battleground today.

The road to victory for our right to vote was paved in blood.

Right in front of our eyes we are watching successful attempts to erode democracy. We the people, has become "we the corporation," and its shining symbol is vested in the person of Willard Romney—corporate greed personified, wedded to Paul Ryan's tea party express. I have not forgotten the "musings" from teapartiers like Judson Phillips who advocated restricting the franchise to only those who hold property.  

You shouldn't forget them either, because the well-funded and well-oiled machine of voter repression, intimidation and disenfranchisement is coming to a ballot box near you.

One wing of this movement calls itself "True the Vote." In essence it should be called "Screw your Vote."

The Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights (IREHR) has issued a chilling report focusing specifically on voter suppression in North Carolina, but tying them in to a national agenda.  

Read the full report, written by Devin Burghart and Leonard Zeskind, with a foreword by Rev. Dr. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP.

The Tea Party and Narrowing the Franchise
Over the past two years, the Tea Party movement has changed the American political and social landscape. It has given a megaphone to unfounded fears of an imaginary white dispossession and resentment. It has helped reshape the anti-immigrant movement. It has helped enforce measures to limit trade union rights. It has unseated Republican Party moderates such as Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, and elevated anti-choice Republicans such as Cong. Paul Ryan. None of the accomplishments threaten the very fabric of democracy, however, in the same way as Tea Party efforts to suppress the vote.

In previous reports, IREHR has documented the existence of Tea Party national leaders opposed to voting rights for people without property, and Tea Party leaders who advocate the repeal of the Fourteenth Amendment, and equal rights before the law promised by it.  IREHR has pointed out some of the most prominent white nationalists in the Tea Party ranks, and those Tea Partiers who simply act like racists and bigots. In this report, the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights details voter suppression efforts in North Carolina.

Colorlines has been following their efforts for months now, and reporting on the push back against them, most recently from Congressman Elijah Cummings.
Map of True the Vote activities
Colorlines Infographic on the spread of True the Vote
Melissa Harris-Perry discussed True the Vote, and interviewed Congressman Cummings.

(Continue reading below the fold.)

The road to gaining our franchise was long and hard. In October 1947, the year I was born, the NAACP went to the United Nations to present "An Appeal to the World."

The lawyers and scholars gathered and presented in the petition facts about lynching, segregation, and the gross inequalities in education, housing, health care, and voting rights.

“At first [the American Negro] was driven from the polls in the South by mobs and violence; and then he was openly cheated; finally by a ‘Gentlemen’s agreement’ with the North, that Negro was disfranchised in the South by a series of laws, methods of administration, court decisions, and general public policy, so that today, three-fourths of the Negro population of the nation is deprived of the right to vote by open and declared policy.”

They returned to the UN twice this year, to address voter ID laws and felon disenfranchisement.

Voting rights groups Demos and Common Cause have issued a report "Bullies at the Ballotbox."

NEW YORK – As the elections approach, strong enforcement of voter protections is needed to prevent attempts to block voters from casting their ballot, according to a report released today by voting rights groups Demos and Common Cause. The study, “Bullies at the Ballot Box: Protecting the Freedom to Vote from Wrongful Challenges and Intimidation” focuses on voter protection laws in10 states where elections are expected to be close, or where large challenger operations are expected or have taken place during recent elections.

True the Vote and other Tea Party-affiliated groups are reportedly recruiting 1 million volunteers to object to the qualifications of voters in targeted communities on and before Election Day, according to the study. These volunteers are being rallied to block, in their own words, the “illegal alien vote” and “the food stamp army.” Their stated goal is to make the experience of voting “like driving and seeing the police behind you.”

“Ballot box bully” tactics include:
· Targeting registered voters in communities of color, student voters, and voters facing foreclosure to challenge their eligibility to vote and kick them off the voting rolls.
· “Hovering over” voters waiting to cast their ballots and otherwise intimidating voters at the polls.
· Encouraging states to engage in systematic purges of voter rolls, in violation of federal law.

“Voting must be free, fair and accessible to all, and voters should know their rights,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “It is important to maintain the integrity of our election system, and that means that candidates, parties and political activists should be focused on persuading and turning out voters, not bullying them or trying to manipulate the law to freeze them out of our democracy.”

The ten states reviewed in “Bullies at the Ballot Box” are Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. In addition to assessing the current state laws, the report provides recommendations to protect citizens from these large-scale, well-organized efforts to intimidate or block them from voting.

Voter intimidation comes in many forms. One recent effort has been visual—large, prominently displayed billboards.

Clear Channel (owned by Bain Capital) has recently put up billboards with intimidating messages in predominantly African-American neighborhoods in Ohio and Wisconsin, documented here by Kossak Richard Myers, and featured by MSNBC's Rev. Al Sharpton.

ColorOfChange has an petition to Tell Clear Channel: Take Down These Billboards.

(Sunday morning update)

It looks like people pushing back, taking action, has had an affect. My morning news feed had this item. Clear Channel Agrees to Take "Voter Fraud" Billboards Down. Daily Kos member anastasia p has the story in detail.

Without active opposition on multiple fronts, rest assured they would still be there to intimidate voters.

What can you do?

Get informed. Support organizations that are protecting your right to vote, in the coming election and in the future. Volunteer to help with election protection.

Election Protection Coalition

The nonpartisan Election Protection coalition was formed to ensure that all voters have an equal opportunity to participate in the political process.

Through our state of the art hotlines: 1-866-OUR-VOTE (administered by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law) and 1-888-Ve-Y-Vota (administered by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund), this website, and comprehensive voter protection field programs across the country, we provide Americans from coast to coast with comprehensive voter information and advice on how they can make sure their vote is counted.

Made up of more than 100 local, state and national partners, this year's coalition will be the largest voter protection and education effort in the nation's history.

Throughout the election process, our volunteers - more than 10,000 strong - will be entering data and information into OurVote live (developed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation), an interactive environment painting the most comprehensive picture of election irregularities from the perspective of the voter available anywhere. Unique in the excitement of this political season, Election Protection focuses on the voter - not on the political horse race - and provides guidance, information and help to any American, regardless of who that voter is casting a ballot for.

Don't take your right to vote for granted. You may lose it.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Oct 21, 2012 at 09:30 AM PDT.

Also republished by Barriers and Bridges and Black Kos community.

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