Briefing Notes No 51
June 14, 2019
Capturing the Flag (2018)
After-screening panel discussion and Q and A with DAUK members Laura Mosedale (moderator), Maya Buchanan, Siera Burtrum, Adrienne Johnson, Julie Shields In collaboration with: DAUK Black Caucus, DAUK Voter Registration, Policy Network and Resolutions Committee – Voting Rights and Democracy Group.
Eric Holder: “The right to vote is not only the cornerstone of our system of government—it is the lifeblood of our democracy.”
About the film
Set in North Carolina in 2016, this fly-on-the wall documentary vividly portrays the obstacles that many voters confront in casting their ballots. With its focus on the work of voter protection activists, it offers an intimate and inspiring insight into how citizens can make a difference in securing our voting rights.
The challenges to our voting rights
Alexander Keysaar: “Our history makes plain that the right to vote can be as fragile as it is fundamental”
Getting out the Democratic vote is the foundation for everything we want to achieve. While the right to vote is the touchstone of our democracy, it has increasingly become a starkly partisan issue. Since 2010, Republicans have advanced gerrymandering and systematically developed measures targeting likely Democratic voters. While African American voters have long been a primary target for voter suppression, other ethnic minorities (Hispanic, Asian Americans), students and young people, women, the elderly, the disabled, and those facing financial hardship are all adversely and disproportionately impacted by many of these measures. In 2016, it was estimated that 12% of all voters encountered at least one problem with voting (Brennan Center).
The methods deployed have been wide ranging: restricting the operations of organizations conducting voter registration, purging voter rolls (via a variety of means), Voter ID laws, felon disenfranchisement, restricted early voting, limited/unequal allocation of polling stations and voting machines, and more. Republicans’ success has largely been due to their control of state legislatures, governorships and offices of Attorney General, since it is at the state level that districts (for federal and state offices) are determined, and detailed regulation of voter eligibility and administration of elections are established. However, these laws and regulations can be challenged in the
courts, through ballot initiatives as well as legislation. And, increasingly, are.
Since Republican appointments to courts (e.g. circuit courts) could have important impacts, passing legislation and initiatives that promote voting rights is crucial.
The gains in securing voting rights
However, the tide may be turning. While Republicans remain inventive and relentless in proposing new measures, there is much more activism and awareness around voting rights and election issues. In 2018 voters in several states supported measures to establish non-partisan re-districting commissions, restoration of voting rights for felons and automatic voter registration. The collapse of Trump’s ‘voter fraud’ commission, recent developments (in Texas and elsewhere) suggest that claims of voter fraud are less powerful and subject to much more scrutiny.
By including specific measures to promote voting rights and combat voter suppression in H.R. 1, House Democratic representatives laid out plans to set a ‘federal floor below which states cannot drop’ and a thereby a challenge to Republicans on these basic issues: not one Republican voted for this legislation.
Vigilance and activism have been effective and are still required. Get informed, engaged and support campaigns!
Overseas Voting: our votes count!
All votes must be counted before election results can be certified. In 2018 Stacey Abrams set down a marker that candidates should not concede until all votes are counted.
And our votes demonstrably do make a difference in tight races.
We need to register to vote, request our ballots, vote and then check with our local election officials that our votes were counted. If you are eligible, voting for state offices is critical! Democrats Abroad has set up its own Voter Protection and monitoring program. Watch this space!