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JOURNAL Summer 2013 s Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chair of the Democratic National Committee, commented that “it is shocking that we need to have a forum on voting rights in 2012, but we press on.” According to Brazile, there were 180 voter ID laws up for legislators around the country to consider. The 17 states that have passed such laws account for 280 electoral votes, 80 percent of the votes needed to win the presidency. “We haven’t seen these types of hurdles since 1965,” said Brazile. “This should bother everyone.” Sharpton also contributed findings of the U.S. Department of Justice stating that there has been .0003 percent case fraud in the electoral process. “This is a solution looking for a problem and not a problem looking for a solution,” said Sharpton. As a civil rights icon, Rep. Lewis stressed the importance of looking at the history of the African-American struggle. He recalled giving “a little blood for the right to vote” and friends of his dying for the right that is often taken for granted today. “People ask, ‘Why do we talk about the past?’ Because, if we fail to remember the past, we will repeat the history,” said Lewis. “We don’t want to go back!” Congresswoman Fudge shared the post-election restrictions being imposed on voters in Ohio. Identification requirements in Ohio were not the problem. Instead, conveniences such as weekend voting – when historically many African-American voters go to the polls – and extended hours have been discontinued. These same services were available in the state’s primary election earlier that year. According to Fudge, the Brennan Center for Justice established that 22 percent of African-American males age 18 – 24 have a valid driver’s license and African Americans have IDs at only half the rate of white Americans. “Understand, as they try to limit our ability to shape our own futures and write our own history, we can’t let them do it and we can’t go back,” said Fudge. “The idea of requiring people to register to vote, in my estimation, has always been undemocratic. We need to be encouraging participation and not doing something to discourage it,” said Watt. Hill gave Christie and Wright the opportunity to dispute the racialization of voter ID requirements. Although both conservatives agreed that some of the statutes being imposed on voters are discriminatory, they remained adamant in their argument that requiring voters to present IDs is a necessary burden of the electoral process. “These voter ID laws were designed to allow people to have confidence and integrity in the ballot box and it has been upheld in the Supreme Court,” said Christie, after citing the 2008 case of Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, in which the United States Supreme Court (in a 6 – 3 decision) upheld Indiana law requiring voters to provide photo IDs and found the law did not violate the Constitution of the United States. Wright contended that the blame for the lack of IDs in 11 percent of American voters and 25 percent of African-Americans should fall on those individual citizens. “Our question should be: What’s wrong with the 11 percent? They need to get with the game because voter ID fraud does occur,” said Wright. Panelists were eager to refute Wright’s statements and attempted to explain the difficulty voters might have obtaining IDs in time for the November election. Fudge explained that in cities like New York and Philadelphia, IDs are not needed because commuters utilize public transportation. Sharpton reminded Wright that voter ID laws vary from state to state and to be careful not to “compare apples to oranges” when discussing the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings. Brazile reminded the conservative panelists that in cities like New Orleans, records were destroyed by natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina. Members of the audience asked additional questions adding to the already heated discussion. Although panel members did not come to a consensus on whether or not new voter laws are discriminatory, they did agree that information on all the new requirements must be made available in order for voters to know what to expect when they go to cast their ballot. Following the town hall, attendees received a CBC Voter Guide Toolkit that included information on state laws requiring voter identification and registration along with civic engagement opportunities. Other workshops held throughout the conference touched on numerous issues affecting the African-American community including: homelessness; the digital divide; healthcare; education; HIV/AIDS; and unemployment. Delta Sigma Theta’s National President Cynthia M. A. Butler-McIntyre served as a panelist during the antihazing forum hosted by Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) Sept. 21. During the discussion facilitated by Rev. Sharpton, parents of hazing victims commented on how hazing has affected their lives. Leaders and representatives of the nine Black Greek-letter Organizations on the panel discussed their anti-hazing policies and efforts to eliminate incidences of hazing throughout the country. s


SummerJournal2013
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