Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"Just Vote:" Sometimes It's Not That Simple

Last month I was invited along with several other young professionals through YP4C's (Young Professionals United for Change) partnership with the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Committee to participate in a Google Hangout at Google's offices here in NYC for a virtual town hall. Google hosted the "webcast" signature event for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Annual Legislative Conference.  That event is the CBCF's annual Town Hall, which focused this year on voting rights and the current issue of voter suppression laws.

I was excited to not only see Google's offices (I heard it was an amazing space similar to the profile I did on Etsy and Zappos here), but to hear more about the efforts to suppress voting. I had heard about the issue mostly in passing, especially in my home state of Ohio, but didn't know the depths that some states were going to to disenfranchise voters. 

{Image Credit}
The panel was moderated by Columbia professor Marc Lamont Hill and included Rev. Al Sharpton, Rep. Marcia L. Fudge, Rep. John Lewis, Donna Brazile and Crystal Wright (aka Conservative Black Chick), Rep. Melvin L. Watt and Ron Christie.

Before the panel started Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver shared his personal story about his grandfather refusing to vote because of the poll tax requirement during the Jim Crow era. He then brought it current and shamed any black person who refuses to vote especially with the legacy of voter suppression our country has had even suggesting that their black card be revoked - the response to his strong statement could definitely be heard not only in the Google hangout but in the audience as well. 

The panel was bipartisan and it was interesting to hear the Republican views that race does not play into voter suppression. Crystal Wright even suggested that if black folks could get in line for concert tickets then they should be able to vote. Rev. Al Sharpton was especially tactful at explaining that it was more than this - there are hardcore tactics being used to disenfranchise voters with certain states trying to enact laws to change voter requirements from what they were prior to Obama being elected. They even shared a story of an elderly women who had been voting for decades only to see the law in her state changed so that she had to through several expensive hoops to get her out of state birth certificate in order to vote which had never been an issue in previous elections. 

Overall, the panel raised awareness and only emphasized to me even more the importance of voting. The common excuse I hear from many in my generation that it doesn't make a difference is simply not true. It is a statement in support of our country's struggle towards Civil Rights to go to the voting polls regardless of political affiliation. 

I would like to thank YP4C, Google, ANA and the CBC for the opportunity to participate in the virtual town hall. 

Oh and I have to say yes, the Google offices are fab! {You can see a virtual tour here.}

Are you aware of voter suppression laws in your state? To learn more you can text VOTE to 62227 (standard text messaging rates apply).