Could African-American Women Voters Win the Election for Obama?
In the 2008 election, voter turnout among African-American women surged and helped in part to elect President Obama. In response, Republicans have pushed restrictive voter ID bills designed to throw hurdles up between minority voter turnout and actual votes cast.
Not surprisingly, a lot of black women are not having it.
The Washington Post reports that the wave of new voter restrictions designed to tip the scales in the GOP’s favor has inspired African-American women to go out and register voters in order to make sure they are not disenfranchised in November. Featuring a group of women in Ohio, the piece details how African-American women are finding their voice and their power in this new political economy.
Judith Browne-Dianis, co-director of The Advancement Project, said black women showed in 2008 they can turn out in record numbers. But in 2010, “we sat home and while we were sitting at home, there were others that were plotting and what they decided to do was to change the rules of the game.”
The women invoke the name of abolitionist and women’s suffragist Sojourner Truth, and repeat civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer’s famous line — “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired” — as a rallying cry. They talk strategy about checking to see who’s been purged from voter rolls or locating documents that voters need to get photo identification. All along, they remind voters of the time, before the Voting Rights Act of 1965 became law, when black people were kept from voting.
Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said a voter hotline set up by several groups already gets a thousand calls a day. Callers are typically people who don’t know if they can vote, whether their felony conviction keeps them from voting or what ID is required in their state, if at all.
Her organization has created a computer app that allows people to verify their registration status, get help registering online, learn about voting requirements in their state, find polling places and receive other assistance.
It is this coordinated effort with an understanding of the personal civil rights struggle and victory that voting represents among African-Americans that can truly push back against the tide of cynicism and lust for power driving the voter ID rush. It is offensive, at its core, to target populations that have been historically and systematically oppressed for nothing more than the color of their skin. With some hard work and a little luck all that cynicism from the right will be for nothing.
Photo from mikebaird via flickr.