DOJ Sends Out Federal Civil Rights Officials Nationwide To Monitor Voting Rights Act Compliance

Nov. 3, 2020 — 3:27 p.m.

The U.S. Justice Department is dispatching personnel to monitor voting rights in 44 jurisdictions around the country throughout Election Day to ensure they are not violated, according to a statement from the agency.

Many of the places being monitored are in battleground states where votes can shift the electoral balance between Democrats and Republicans. Six Florida locations, including Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach Counties are on the list. In addition, multiple locations in Arizona, Michigan, Georgia, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania will be subject to monitoring

“Our federal laws protect the right of all American citizens to vote without suffering discrimination, intimidation, and harassment,” Eric S. Dreiband said in the statement, Assistant Attorney General for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. “The work of the Civil Rights Division around each federal general election is a continuation of its historical mission to ensure that all of our citizens can freely exercise this most fundamental American right.”

Monitors, which include civil rights personnel from the Civil Rights Division and civil rights and civil personnel from U.S. Attorney’s Offices will work to ensure compliance with the federal Voting RIghts Act. The officials will also maintain contact with state and local election officials, the DOJ says.

The DOJ will also take complaints from the public on voting rights violations through its call center, officials say. Individuals with complaints can go to civilrights.justice.gov or by calling 800-253-3931.

 

Texas Republicans Fail To Get Drive-Thru Votes Tossed  

Nov. 3, 2020 12:01 PM

Texas Republican efforts to get 127,000 drive-thru ballots tossed out have officially been rejected by the court. NBC News reports that in Harris County, the state’s third-largest county, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied an appeal by State Republicans just before midnight on Monday (Nov 2). 

“It is ordered that appellants’ motion for injunctive relief to issue a preliminary injunction banning drive-thru voting on Election Day, November 3, 2020, is denied,” the official order issued by the three-judge panel. 

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The Republicans questioned the legality of the votes cast at drive-through voting sites in the area. Judge Andrew Hanen, who had been nominated to the court by George W. Bush, wrote that while the Texas Election Code enables drive-thru early voting, it doesn’t enable the use of movable structures like tents as polling places.

“If the plaintiffs had standing, the Court would have found that the continuation of drive-thru voting on Election Day violates the Texas Election Code,” Hanen wrote.

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Shortly after the ruling, Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins took to Twitter to explain that sites will remain open. Speaking about a Toyota Center site that will remain operational, he explained that since it “fits the Judge’s definition of a ‘building’: it is a ‘structure with walls and a roof’ and ‘a permanent structure,’ it is thus unquestionably a suitable location for Election Day voting.”

According to the Houston Chronicle, The 127,000 votes cast in drive-thru ballots in Texas came primarily from precincts that included Hillary Clinton and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke won in 2016 and 2018 respectively. 

New Georgia Poll Shows Trump With Slim Lead Over Biden 

Nov. 3, 2020 – – 10:51 AM

With polls opening around the country on Election Day, it’s shaping up to be a neck-and-neck finish for President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden in some key battleground states. In a new poll conducted in Georgia, Trump is slightly ahead of Biden in what looks to be a very tight race. 

WSB-TV in Atlanta, GA reports in an exclusive poll, conducted by Landmark Communications, Trump has 50.1% of the vote while Biden sits at 46%. 

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This differs from a previous poll that was conducted on Oct 28 where Trump was ahead of Biden by just one point. In that poll, Trump had 48% of the vote while Biden had 47%.

Earlier this morning, Vox reported that Biden has a large national lead and has consistently led polls in states that would give him the 270 electoral votes that he needs to secure the presidency.

Trump’s defeat isn’t sealed though — looking at the difference between final polls and the results of voting from 2016’s election make it clear that he still has a chance. Vox reports that he’ll most likely have to win the state of Pennsylvania to proceed. With 20 electoral votes in the balance, the fight for victory there will be instrumental in determining the outcome of the election.

RELATED: Stevie Wonder Reminds People What’s At Stake At Joe Biden Rally In Detroit

Another state that Trump has to win is Florida, which has 29 electoral votes for grabs. A recent poll dictates that Biden is up with a 2.5 percent lead. Texas is even bigger, with 38 electoral votes at stake. A recent poll shows that Trump is up by 1.1 points there, but with such a close lead, it’s still up for grabs. 

The election is shaping up to be a hard-fought battle. Stay tuned to BET.com for more updates on what’s going on in the race.

Campaigns Make Final Push For Black Voters

Nov. 2, 2020

In a final push the Biden and Trump campaigns are appealing to Black voters, knowing that the demographic could make the difference in several key battleground states on Election Day.

In Florida, Joe Biden’s wife, Jill appeared with members of George Floyd’s family on Sunday (Nov. 1) in a “Souls To The Polls” events at Tallahassee, Fla.’s  Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, one of the city’s best known places of worship. 

Along with them was Benjamin Crump, the attorney representing them and several other families of victims of police shootings throughout the country. “We have to use this energy of the protest to engage in a democratic process,” Crump said to reporters, according to Politico.

According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Sen. Kamala Harris made stops through Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties in an effort to send the Biden campaign’s message to Black voters in those communities.  Former president Barack Obama spoke in the Atlanta area on behalf of his one-time running mate on Monday (Nov. 2), according to WXIA.

If those two states are turned in favor of the Democrats, Donald Trump’s road to a win would become narrower. But the president still has a message of his own for Black voters.

“In 2016, I had a straightforward question for Black Americans: “What do you have to lose?” Trump wrote in an op-ed published in several Black newspapers around the country. “Black Americans don’t have to ask what they have to lose in 2020. Instead, the question should now be, “how much more do we have to gain?”

In Pennsylvania, another state that could determine the election, volunteers have been stomping for Biden throughout its various Black communities in order to motivate voters. 

“There’s a lot of energy out there,’’ said Stephanie Young, chief officer for communications and culture for When We All Vote told USA Today. “All of the circumstances that we’ve been faced with this year have really created a more informed and more passionate and a more engaged electorate.”

In 2016, Black voter turnout was diminished, particularly compared to the years Obama ran for president. But many say they are voting this year as a result of the many issues confronting them. But polls conducted by The Washington Post with ABC News in late September and early October found Biden leading Trump among African American likely voters, 92 percent to 8 percent.
 

 

Older Black Voters May Be Strongest Democratic Supporters In Election

Oct. 28, 2020

It’s no secret that Black voters are expected to turn out overwhelmingly to vote for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election by as much as an 80-point margin. But the most reliable demographic is said to be Black voters aged 65 and older and they could make the difference for the Democrats.

“Black older voters are truly the stronghold the Democratic Party has in terms of consistency, reliability and turnout,” said Chryl Laird, assistant professor of political science at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine told NBC News.

But all of the get out the vote efforts, social media campaigns, celebrity endorsements and digital media won’t be what drives them. Instead, it’s history.

Black voters of that generation are old enough to remember the Civil Rights movement, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the political upheaval of the 1960s, school busing controversies in the early 70s and the economic divestment of the 80s in Black communities.

So many voters look at voting as an obligation that they can’t take for granted.

“My story around voting goes way back where it is viewed as a right that you must carry out,” said Oglatha Ingram, 79, a Pennsylvania social worker.

Older Black voters may remember why they are voting, but the current political climate is what is driving them. The coronavirus pandemic, for example, is something that has been devastating to the Black community and has particularly affected senior citizens. That makes people like Brenda Hale 74, focused on ending President Trump’s tenure in the White House.

“We cannot survive another four years of this, another four years of economic destruction, another four years of suffering from Trump’s mistakes with the coronavirus … even another year of not having a plan to handle Covid-19,” she said. “The health and wellness of the country — that is at stake.”

NBC News cited the African American Collaborative Research poll in which 90 percent of voters 60 or older agreed with the statement “Trump is racist,” which is 11 points more than 18-29-year olds who agreed.

That means for the older demographic, the election is a contest that will determine the very fate of the nation.

“…It’s not beyond reality that we’re close to civil war if this man gets back in office, because Black people, to me, we’re tired,”said Beatrice Swoopes, a 74-year-old Kansas City resident.

 

Ohio Turning Out To Be Crucial State For Black Vote In 2020

Oct. 23, 2020

Nationwide, African American voters are overwhelmingly backing Joe Biden to the tune of as much as 81 percentage points according to Pew Research data. But to win the election, there are places where he will have to do more convincing of Black voters in order to carry the state and its electoral votes. Ohio is one of them and political watchers say that the campaign should pay attention.

The Oct. 9 Great Lakes Poll run by Baldwin Wallace University and in partnership with Ohio Northern University and Oakland University shows Biden leading Donald Trump in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — all critical states. But Trump leads Biden in Ohio, 47-45 percentage points. Black voters, according to one analyst, are making the difference.

About 6 percent of voters in the poll identified as Black, of that group, 17 percent back Trump, while 72 percent are behind Biden. Among white likely voters, Trump enjoys a three-point lead in Michigan and Pennsylvania, but is behind Biden by four points in Wisconsin. However in Ohio, he’s ahead by ten points.

While Biden’s lead is stronger in urban areas in these states, he is weaker in rural areas. Trump won Ohio in 2016 by more than 446,000 votes.

“The data show Biden with stronger support among Blacks and urban and suburban residents in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and less support in Ohio. White voter support for Trump is strongest in Ohio, where he also has the biggest lead among rural voters,” Tom Sutton, political science professor and director of the Community Research Institute at Baldwin Wallace University, wrote on Cleveland.com

So Biden must increase Black voter turnout in each of those four states to take a commanding electoral lead. But with the way poling is going, the road may still be rougher for Trump, Sutton says.

“For Biden to win, it will be critically important to increase Black and urban voter turnout in Ohio, as well as in the other three states,” wrote Sutton. “Polling shows Trump possibly losing one or more states such as Arizona and Georgia. Should he lose both, Trump must hold onto the four Midwest states to win with 275 Electoral College votes. Biden can lose Ohio and win the presidency. For Trump, it will be much more difficult.”

 

1 in 16 Voting Age Blacks Cannot Vote Due To Voter Disenfranchisement, Report Says

Oct. 21, 2020

More than 5 million people will be disenfranchised and unable to vote in the 2020 presidential election due to a felony conviction, which can disproportionately affect Black and HIspanic communities according to a new report.

The new study, released last week by The Sentencing Project, entitled “Locked Out 2020” says 2.3 percent of the voting age population will not be able to cast ballots despite the voting reform efforts that have taken place in many states.

Although felony convictions have declined by almost 15 percent since 2016, 5.17 million people remain unable to go to the polls. The number is a major increase over the past generations. In 1976, 1.17 million were disenfranchised, 3.34 million in 1996, 5.85 million in 2010 and 6.11 million in 2016.

Further, 1 in 16 African Americans of voting age find themselves disenfranchised, which is a rate 3.7 times higher than non-Blacks. More than 6.2 percent of Black adults cannot vote, compared with 1.7 percent of non-Blacks.

“The bedrock of any democracy is the right to vote,” said Amy Fettig, executive director of The Sentencing Project, in a statement, according to Commondreams.org. “Laws that exclude people from voting have destabilized communities and families in America for decades by denying them a voice in determining their futures. Voting is a vital responsibility of citizenship that must be encouraged and defended.”

 

Poll Worker Fired After Turning Away Voters Wearing ‘Black Lives Matter’ Shirts

Oct. 20, 2020

A poll worker in Tennessee was fired on Friday (Oct. 16) after it was learned by election officials that he had turned away voters who were wearing t-shirts and masks that read “Black Lives Matter.”

“What he did was patently wrong and he was fired,” Suzanne Thompson, spokeswoman for the Shelby County Election Commission, told the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

An operations manager went to the polling place in Memphis where early voting was taking place and terminated the worker, according to the newspaper.

Tennessee state law prohibits specific names of candidates or a political party in polling places, but slogans like “Black Lives Matter” do not violate that law. Another poll worker, who was reportedly a friend of the fire worker, quit the next day, the Commercial Appeal reported.

 

Justice March From Kenosha To Milwaukee To Coincide With Start of Early Voting in Wisconsin

Oct. 19, 2020

Early in-person voting is continuing to spread to crucial battleground states and on Tuesday (Oct. 20), Wisconsin joins that list, which has already brought out millions of voters to cast ballots in the tense presidential race.

In Kenosha, Wis., the site of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in August, Civil Rights icon Rev. Jesse Jackson will be joined by Gregory Bennett Jr., CEO of Peace in the Streets Kenosha, Inc.; Tanya McLean, Executive Director, Leaders of Kenosha (LOK); and Justin Blake, Jacob Blake’s uncle and a number of civic leaders and local activists, to kick off a justice march from Kenosha to Milwaukee.

When the march reaches its destination, 33 miles away, State Sen. Lena Taylor, State Rep. David Bowen, and Maria Hamilton, the mother of Dontre Hamilton, who was killed by Milwaukee police in 2014.

“It’s time for people to understand that a lot of people died for African Americans to have the right to vote,” Bennett, according to the Kenosha News. “I don’t care who you vote for, just vote. Don’t be a part of the problem, be a part of the solution. If you don’t vote and you can, then don’t complain.”

According to data from the Wisconsin Elections Commission, the state has more than 3.5 million registered voters. It does not keep voter statistics by race.

“By voting in this election, you and I have the opportunity to elect officials who truly are in these seats representing ‘all of the people’ and not ‘some of the people,'” McLean told the Kenosha News. “Don’t be silent. Make sure you are a part of the solution. Go out and vote.”

 

North Carolina Sees Long Lines, Enthusiasm As Early Voting Begins

Oct. 16, 2020

Keeping with nationwide trends with states that opened early voting, North Carolina is also seeing extremely long lines at the polls.  

The state elections board said that 230,000 ballots were cast on the first day of early voting on Thursday (Oct. 15), according to the Associated Press. By comparison, 166,000 were cast on the first day in 2016. In addition, more than 500,000 have cast mail-in absentee ballots. That makes a total of 730,000 of the 7 million registered voters in the state who have already made their choices.

In Democratic-leaning Durham County, a government tracking tool reportedly measured more than an hour wait at several polling places. Others reported more than two- or three-hour waits.

“I’m just so anxious to make a difference,” Carolyn Edmonds, who stood in line at North Carolina State University, told the Raleigh News & Observer. “I want to make my voice heard, and so should everybody.”

North Carolina is a presidential battleground state that carries 15 electoral votes for whoever wins on Nov. 3. Donald Trump won the state in 2016, but polls currently favor Democratic challenger Joe Biden, about 49-46 percentage points.  

Other states, including Georgia and South Carolina have also began early voting and are reporting similar numbers of people eager to cast ballots as Election Day nears.

Democratic U.S. Senate Candidate Raphael Warnock Leads Republican Opponents in Poll

Oct. 14, 2020

A new poll places Georgia U.S. Senate candidate Raphael Warnock in the lead over opponents Sen. Kelly Loeffler, the incumbent and Rep. Doug Collins, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

The survey, conducted by WSB-TV and Landmark Communications, shows Warnock supported by 36.2 percent of people polled in Georgia. Loeffler, who was chosen by Gov. Brian Kemp to replace the retiring Johnny Isakson had 25.8 percent and Collins came in third at 23.3 percent. 

Another Democrat, Matt Lieberman only garnered 3 percent in the poll. He has faced calls to quit the race in recent weeks by Democrats who are backing Warnock.

“The only fight left in this race is whether it’s going to be Loeffler or Collins in the runoff,” Mark Rountree, president of Landmark Communications told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The race is a special election and had no primaries prior to the run of the candidates, meaning it was open to Democrats and Republicans. About 21 candidates put their names on the ballot, which will be decided on Nov. 3.

However, if no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two candidates will face each other in a run-off election in January. That election will decide who finishes Isakson’s six-year term.

Warnock is leading in the polls, despite having raised a fraction of what his main opponent has raised. According to Federal Election Commission campaign finance data, Warnock has raised about $4.4 million, while Loeffler has raised more than $17 million. Collins is behind them both at $3.7 million.

 

Georgia Voters Make Unprecedented Effort, Brave Long Lines For Early Voting

Oct. 13, 2020

The first day of early voting in Georgia on Monday (Oct. 12) brought long lines, some technical issues, and signs that voters are motivated in ways state officials haven’t been in years.

Voters arrived at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, where 300 voting machines were placed. Early in the day, computer glitches caused longer wait times than usual to cast a ballot, reported the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Lines had to be paused when electronic equipment failed to work properly, increasing wait times. In some places, people waited as long as eight hours before they were able to vote.

 “It was a little frustrating,” Adrienne Crowley, who was at State Farm Arena, told the AJC. But she was determined to stay in line. “I would have waited all day if I had to.”

Election officials anticipated large crowds on the first day of early voting. In 2016, 90,000 people showed up and this time far more were expected.

“We’re seeing extreme and tremendous turnout on the ground and around the state,” said Georgia Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said, according to the AJC. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm around this election, and you’re going to see high turnout. Because of that, we’re going to see lines.”

Voters repeatedly said that this vote was important to them and they would wait as long as it took.

“It’s the first day, so people are trying to get a jump on things,” voter Michael Benefield, who was at a Gwinnett County polling location, told the AJC.“Just based on the climate of the country, folks are trying to get out early and make their intentions known.”

 

In New Campaign Ad, Samuel L. Jackson Says Vote, Dammit!

Oct. 12, 2020

Actor Samuel L. Jackson is starring in a new ad released by the Biden-Harris campaign that takes aim at voter suppression efforts, and gets candid about why everyone should go to the polls.

In the 60 second ad, with interspersed photographs from the Civil Rights movement and a sound byte from Martin Luther King, Jackson breaks down the importance of casting a vote.

“If your vote didn’t matter, they wouldn’t try so hard to take it from you,” said Jackson. “Vote early. Vote like your life depends on it. I’m exercising my right to vote and you should, too.

“Not because I want you to, but because he doesn’t,” said Jackson after several images of President Trump flash on screen.

 

Kamala Harris Debate Performance Gets Biden Campaign Financial Boost of $12 Million

Oct. 9, 2020

A day after the vice presidential debate between Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence, the Biden campaign reported raising $12 million, a further financial boost to the campaign, Politico reports.

Biden had brought in $10 million in the three hours following the first presidential debate against Donald Trump, which broke a fundraising record.

Harris has already become a monetary draw for the campaign. In the 48 hours after she was selected by Biden to be his running mate, it raised $48 million. Biden supporters have been giving small donations online, which have added up to a large war chest. The Federal Election Commission reports updated through the end of August, Biden’s backers have given more than $486 million in contributions to his effort.

By comparison, although his rival Trump is known as a billionaire real estate mogul, has raised $233 million in contributions, a nearly 48 percent difference.

Although September fundraising numbers from both campaigns have not been released, but an unidentified source told Politico that the September total will be larger than the prior month.

In August alone, the Democratic National Committee and fundraising committees linked to it raised a combined $365 million.

 

Trump Campaign Releases Video Targeting Black Voters

Oct. 8, 2020

The morning after the vice presidential debate in which Kamala Harris, the first woman of color to be nominated to a major party ticket for vice president, the Trump campaign released a video seeking to take Black voters away from his rival Joe Biden.

President Trump has consistently parroted himself in saying he’s done more for the Black community than any president since Abraham Lincoln. In this video an African American repeats him as part of a vignette in which Black women and men praise his record.

The release of the video comes at the same time he called Harris a “monster” as he criticized the Biden campaign in an interview with Fox Business on Thursday morning (Oct. 8).

RELATED: Trump Calls Kamala Harris A ‘Monster’ Post-Debate Fox Business Interview

“He’s not mentally capable of being president. You know that, everybody knows that” Trump said to Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo. “And this monster that was on stage with Mike Pence, who destroyed her last night by the way, this monster she says ‘no, no, there won’t be fracking, there won’t be this…’ Everything she said is a lie.”

Trump’s outreach to Black communities has long leaned on policies he has instituted during his term including funding for HBCUs, prison reform, lower unemployment and opportunity zones. He has accused Democrats of only pandering to Blacks.

“From increasing taxes, eliminating charter schools, being against school choice, increasing energy prices, sending jobs overseas, putting illegal immigrants first, the radical Biden/Harris agenda presented by Kamala Harris at the debate is going to hurt Black Americans,” said Paris Dennard, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee in a statement.

Trump launched his “Platinum Plan” last month that outlines his agenda for the Black community, which counters the Biden campaign’s plan which was released several months ago.

In the debate Wednesday night, however, Vice President Pence, while defending Trump’s record, did not mention the plan, but criticized Harris, saying that she “walked out of the room” when South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott presented a police reform bill in the senate.

RELATED: Sen. Tim Scott Says His GOP Police Reform Bill Similar To Democrats’ Plan

For all of his outreach efforts, however, poll numbers among African Americans do not reflect an increase of support for Trump.

Recent polling by the Pew Research Center indicates that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has nearly an 89 percent lead over Trump among Black voters.

Poll Shows Black Voters’ Mindset In Final Weeks of Election Cycle

Oct. 7, 2020

As the nation gears up to watch the vice presidential debate between Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence, polling numbers are showing where Black voters’ minds are going into the final weeks of the campaign.

RELATED: Five Things To Watch For When Kamala Harris And Mike Pence Go Toe-To-Toe

Survey results posted on Twitter by the Black Futures Lab, an organization that advocates for transformative political engagement, show several issues that top the list of priorities for African American voters. A slight majority said racism is foremost for them, followed by the coronavirus pandemic, and then the economy.

About 63 percent are not satisfied with the direction of the country and 64 percent disapprove of President Trump’s performance. Another 62 percent say police should be held accountable in criminal situations and 39 percent are behind defunding the police.

But a large majority 74 percent — an equal amount of African American men and women — plan to vote in the 2020 election. 60 percent say they will vote in person early or on election day. Another 31 percent will be utilizing mail-in voting procedures. However, 25 percent say social distancing issues must be addressed.

Downballot Contest In Long Island, N.Y. Could Produce A Historic First

Oct. 6, 2020

One of the lesser known, but more interesting downballot races this election cycle is the House race between Democrat Jackie Gordon and Republican Andrew Garbarino in New York’s 2nd Congressional District, which sits in a traditionally conservative area of Long Island.

Both candidates are vying to replace Rep. Peter King, a 14-term veteran who announced plans to retire last year. King endorsed Garbarino earlier this year, but Gordon seems to be picking up momentum headed into November.

Gordon, 55, a veteran of both wars in Iraq, and a former public school teacher and guidance counselor. She has spent the last 13 years serving on the Babylon, N.Y. town council and has a reputation for supporting veterans and working with their families.

RELATED: Meet Jackie Gordon: 5 Things To Know About The Democratic Candidate Vying For Congress

Garbarino, 36, is a New York State assemblyman and also a lawyer. He’s running to continue King’s legacy in Long Island. He says he wants to strengthen infrastructure, protect against criminal groups like MS-13 and fight against tax increases.

But Gordon has raised $1.7 million for her campaign compared with $488,000 for Garbarino, according to the latest figures from the Federal Election Commission.

She would be the first African American to represent the district and her election would be a sign of a diversifying Long Island. But she says she’s disturbed by the divided nation this election cycle.

“I saw the craziness in Washington, and I knew, in order to change government, you have to change those who govern,” Gordon told City & State New York. “I think Trump has – I think it’s become really divisive. Almost any time anyone speaks, I hear the far right, the radical left, just this divisiveness. We definitely have a two-party system, but the two parties have to come together because we’re one body.”

One of the most divisive issues has been police reform. Garbarino has gotten the backing of the law enforcement community in his area, saying that he would “back the blue,” and noted to the Long Island Press that although George Floyd’s death was tragic, that “we can’t vilify every police officer for the actions of a few.”

Biden Makes Push For Votes In Miami’s Haitian, Cuban Communities

Oct. 5, 2020

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s strategy is extending to communities in South Florida that are predominantly Haitian-American and Cuban-American in the middle of a larger area that has swung back and forth between Democrats and Republicans over the past few election cycles.

The Miami Herald reports on Monday afternoon, Oct. 5. Biden and his wife, Jill Biden were scheduled to visit Miami’s Little Haiti Cultural Center and then they will go to the Little Havana area of the city to talk to voters about his “Reconstruir Mejor” (Build Back Better) platform.

Those two events take place before Biden heads to a “drive-in” rally in Boca Raton. After that he’ll participate in a socially distanced town hall at the Peréz Art Museum Miami, which will be televised on NBC. The network had previously extended a similar offer to President Trump, who is hospitalized after being diagnosed with coronavirus last week.

Florida has been known as an important swing state for years. In the 2000 election, it came down to a relative few votes — and a recount — between Al Gore and George W. Bush, who emerged victorious. Democrats held the state much of the time, but it swung back to Republicans when Trump ran in 2016.

 

Disproportionate Rejection of Black Mail-In Ballots in North Carolina Become Cause For Concern

Oct. 2, 2020

An analysis of 2018 mail-in absentee ballots in North Carolina showed that ballots sent by Black voters in the midterm elections were twice as likely to be rejected than those sent by white voters.

The study, conducted by Raleigh, N.C., station WRAL and ProPublica.org showed a disparity that raises concerns about voter disenfranchisement in the state. The pattern for the 2020 election is similar. The rejection rate for mail-in ballots from Black voters so far this year is about 3 percent, according to ProPublica, which is almost three times as high as the rate for white voters, state data shows.

Sandra Cosby, a Black woman who voted by mail in 2018, said her ballot was rejected and was one of 6,000 that were treated the same that year.

“I didn’t get any kind of communication at all,” said Cosby, 58, who told ProPublica that she doesn’t remember if she signed her ballot. “So that really shocked me, and to find out years later, really upset me. It really upset me.”

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, people are more likely to cast mail-in ballots than in prior elections. But because of the rate of rejections of Black voter ballots, the outcome the vote in crucial areas could possibly be swayed.

Local officials are unsure why Black voter ballots are more susceptible to rejection and that demographic information is not available when county election boards accept or reject them.

“There is no intentional malfeasance going on to deny someone their right to vote,” said Michael Bitzer, a professor of political science at Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C. “But with the history that North Carolina has of Jim Crow legislation, of poll taxes, of active voter suppression that this state has experienced firsthand for over 100 years, there is some reliable resentment and issues to be raised about this.”

Black mail-in ballots were 14 percent of about 104,000 cast in North Carolina in 2018, according to ProPublica. Those ballots were rejected at a rate of 14 percent, or more than twice the 6.3 percent rate of all statewide mail-in ballots and the largest of all racial categories.

Black make up the largest racial group in North Carolina Democratic voters, as they comprise 46 percent of party members. What’s more, although voting by mail has not made a very large difference, experts say that is now likely to change.

 

Jaime Harrison Running Neck And Neck With Lindsey Graham in S.C. Senate Race

Oct. 1, 2020

The South Carolina senate race is now closer than ever, and polls have Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison tied with incumbent Lindsey Graham at 48 percentage points among likely voters, Politico reports.

The news comes as early voting in the state is set to begin on Monday and Harrison, who is a favorite among African American voters has a solid chance of putting the Senate seat back in Democratic hands for the first time since 2003. It would also upend the legacy of conservative politics in the seat after Graham and Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond before him held it.

“We’re seeing what we’ve always known,” Guy King, a spokesman for Harrison’s campaign, told BET.com. “Jaime has a compelling story that resonates with everyone so the polls are showing what we’ve always known.”

RELATED: Jaime Harrison Is Running To Unseat Lindsey Graham And Change The Face Of Southern Politics

UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 11: Jaime Harrison sits down with CQ Roll Call for an interview on background on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. Harrison, a democrat from South Carolina is mounting a senate challenge to Sen. Lindsey Graham R-South Carolina. (Photo by Nathan Ouellette/CQ Roll Call)

Photo Credit: Nathan Ouellette/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

A Quinnipiac University survey also showed that 48 percent of voters view Harrison favorably compared with 43 percent who feel the same way about Graham. Harrison is also reportedly outspending Graham in advertisements in the state. The incumbent, on the other hand has been on Fox News soliciting donations.

South Carolina’s Black voters gave Joe Biden the boost in its February primary that sparked the momentum that eventually landed him as the Democratic nominee. King says the campaign hopes that same enthusiasm will hold steady and give Harrison a win.

“Right now we have over a million voters of color registered to vote,” he said. “Our movement has been targeted on those voters and all South Carolinians.”

 

Are More Black Voters Opting To Use Early Voting to Cast Their Ballots?

Sept. 30, 2020

Polls suggest Black voters are now 25 percentage points more likely to vote early than in the 2016 presidential election.

According to FiveThirtyEight.com, as many as 1.5 more African Americans could cast their ballots early in 2020 compared with the last election, possibly making a significant difference in battleground states. Both campaigns have undertaken major initiatives to engage Black voters in states like North Carolina, Pennsylvania Wisconsin and Michigan, each seen as crucial.

Still, FiveThirtyEight says, some polls have found that African Americans have real concerns about casting mail or absentee ballots. “I simply do not trust mail-in or absentee ballots,” Patricia Harris of McDonough, Ga. told the Associated Press. About 12,500 mail-in ballots were rejected in the Georgia primary in June. California disqualified more than 100,000 in their March primary.

Despite examples like this, Black voters could show a serious increase in the number of ballots they cast early and may be nearly as likely as white or Hispanic voters to vote by mail. But figures show that African Americans, 60 percent of whom live in the U.S. South, are accustomed to early in-person voting. Several voter advocacy efforts, including one backed by former First Lady Michelle Obama, are encouraging them to keep up that behavior.

Whether they vote in-person or by mail, the likelihood is that there will be an increase in early voting among Blacks, perhaps spurred by a preference to vote by mail. It remains to be seen how Blacks will use polling places on Election Day, Nov. 3.

Biden and Trump Will Face Each Other, Along With 2020’s Biggest Issues in First Debate

Sept. 29, 2020

As what has become an increasingly difficult week for President Trump moves forward, he’ll be facing questions about several recently surfaced issues as well as long term problems in the first of three debates with challenger Joe Biden Tuesday night (Sept. 29) at 9 p.m. EDT. 

Fox News’ Chris Wallace will moderate the debate, which takes place at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland. The topics he has selected will cover several subjects, beginning with Trump’s record in the White House and Biden’s while serving as vice president under Barack Obama. 

But they will also include Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to succeed Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court; the coronavirus pandemic; the U.S. economy; the nationwide unrest, and the 2020 election’s integrity.

Despite increases in poll numbers over the past few days, Biden will be faced with convincing undecided voters that he can offer solutions to those issues and hopes to avoid apathy among Black voters, who will be crucial in several battleground states.

“I do think that people are motivated,” said State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, a Democrat from Philadelphia told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I also think people are incredibly disheartened by the drain of all that has come with the mismanagement of this pandemic.

“But I often push back on this amorphous idea of enthusiasm because … an enthusiastic vote, an unenthusiastic vote counts the same,” he said. “A vote is a vote.”

RELATED: Trump’s Tax Returns: 5 Fascinating Details From NYT Investigation

Trump is facing major scrutiny after The New York Times released its investigation over his tax returns, which found that Trump only paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017 and none in 10 of the past 15 years.

Another investigation by U.K. network Channel 4 found that his 2016 campaign used data from millions of Black voters in what has been called an attempt at suppressing their votes with attack ads on Facebook.

Vice president Mike Pence will face Sen. Kamala Harris in the only vice presidential debate of the 2020 election cycle on Oct. 7, and the following presidential debates take place  Oct. 15 in Nashville, and Oct. 22 in Miami.

 

Presidential Campaigns Fighting For Black Voter Engagement in Michigan

Sept. 28, 2020

Both the Biden and Trump campaigns know that Black voters in Michigan are crucial in the battleground state that the president won by only 11,000 votes in 2016. But with everything the state has faced in 2020, including the coronavirus pandemic and the economic fallout that followed, the two campaigns are also learning that engaging Blacks at the polls has become a huge challenge.

Local Democrats have said that they are disturbed that the Biden campaign has not been as engaging as they would like.

“We don’t have any type of engagement in Detroit, and it’s just mind-boggling,” Nicole Small, a member of Detroit’s charter commission told the Associated Press. “And now you have, especially young Black voters and people living in poverty, saying, well, what difference is it going to make if we vote for Biden or if we vote for Trump? They’re being dismissed and overlooked by the Democratic Party.”

Joe Biden visited the state earlier in September, and his running mate Kamala Harris came to both Detroit and Flint last week in a campaign stop. Meanwhile, Donald Trump volunteers have been running a ground game by knocking on doors throughout Michigan. They have also opened a campaign office on Detroit’s heavily Democratic West Side, where residents say they have not seen Republicans before.

But Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, who is African American, told the AP he’s confident that Democrats will show up for Biden..

“A lot of Black folks are having that experience of getting punched in the gut several times in 2020,” Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, who is African American, told the Associated Press. “But I also know that Black folks, Black women in particular, are going to take care of business … Donald Trump is such an existential threat to Black life and Black futures and I think we’re going to show up and make sure that he’s no longer president.”

However, the Republicans, understanding the value of each Michigan vote are also scrambling for Black votes there, too.

“Joe Biden has attempted to paint President Trump as someone he’s not in a veiled attempt to hide his own abysmal racist record on Black America,” said Trump campaign spokesman Ken Farnaso in a statement, according to the AP. “With President Trump in the Oval Office, Black Americans can rest assured that they have a true fighter and advocate working on their behalf.”

On the grassroots level, the difficulty the parties are having with Black voters may come from the rough socioeconomic times they are undergoing in Michigan.

“We are in a dire situation as a Black community so we’ve got to understand our power,”  said Ramone Jackson, a Detroit activist who teaches about voting in local elections. “That power, it’s our Congress members, not the president. We’ve got to hold them accountable.”

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who represents Michigan’s 13th Congressional district, which includes a large part of Detroit and its suburbs tells the AP that she’s preparing a ground game of her own on behalf of the Democrats.

“I tell them this is not just about names on the ballot,” Tlaib said. “This is about the issues that matter to us. It’s about getting closer to ending the broken systems that have been so oppressive and painful for so many of our communities of color.”

 

In Philadelphia Campaign Stop, Sen. Kamala Harris Talks Boosts For Black Biz, Criminal Justice

Sept. 18, 2020

In an effort to engage Black voters in battleground states, Sen. Kamala Harris, toured Black businesses and organizations in Philadelphia on Thursday. It was her first appearance in the city since her running mate, Joe Biden announced that his campaign would be headquartered there, the Philadelphia Tribune reported.

In her stop, at a “Sister-to-Sister, Mobilizing in Action” event, Harris went through the details of policies she said would address particular issues in the Black community.

“The one thing about this COVID…it has been an accelerator…It has accelerated the disparities. It has highlighted the injustices,” said Harris, according to the Tribune.. “There are the issues that we need to address in our education system, in our criminal justice system, in our economic systems, in our public health system and not one to the exclusion of the others.”

She said that a Biden-Harris administration would provide access to capital for small businesses, which have been suffering much of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“One of our biggest areas of focus is what we need to do around access to capital, so we will put $100 billion targeted at Black and brown communities into low interest loans for small business communities that are working in the community,” she said. “Access to capital is simply about giving people the ability to start up. The entrepreneurship is already in the community but the access to capital is not.”

Regarding criminal justice, she said the campaign is proposing a national ban on chokeholds and carotid artery holds saying that if such a ban were already in place “George Floyd would still be alive today.”

“It is about what we need to do around police accountability as well as reform of the system as a whole. We need a national use of force standard,” said Harris. “In many jurisdictions, when there is an excessive use of force, the question that is asked about that use of force, is, Was that use of force reasonable? We all know you can reason away just about anything. The more fair question to ask is was that use of force necessary?”

New Black Voter Outreach Initiative Will Target 12 States, Run Digital PSAs and Ads

Sept. 17, 2020

A new major outreach initiative to get African American and other marginalized communities to the polls has been launched as the 2020 presidential election approaches.

The Black Voters Matter Fund says on its website that its intention is to increase voter registration, advocate for policies to expand voter access, develop election staff, candidates and training, and occasionally fund activities related to elections. 

This latest effort is aimed at getting voters engaged in 12 different states in the south and midwest through radio ads, digital PSAs and voter caravans.

“With just seven weeks until Election Day, it is more important than ever that voters remain active, informed, and engaged,” said LaTosha Brown, BVMF co-founder in a statement. “We are in the midst of a historic election year, one where Americans — particularly Black Americans — face the compounding crises of a global pandemic, record-high unemployment, police brutality, and rampant voter suppression. 

“But with the power of our votes,” she continued, “we can hold leaders accountable and create a path toward change in our communities. Today, we are launching this initiative to continue building that power and to help Black voters use the power of the polls this November.”

The ads began on Monday (Sept. 14), and will air until the day before the election, Nov. 2. The caravans will be led by 15-passenger vans and will drive around metropolitan areas in key states including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

The BVMF announced last week its partnership with BET and the National Urban League for National Black Voter Day on Friday (Sept. 18).

 

Black Religious Leaders Blast Trump Ad Showing Violent Protests With Biden In Church

Sept. 16, 2020

The leaders of an African American church in Wilmington, Del., say a Donald Trump campaign ad that shows footage Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden kneeling in a church sanctuary is racist and they want an apology for it.

Rev. Silvester S. Beaman, who is pastor of Bethel AME Church, which is shown in the digital ad spot told Religion News Service that it depicts church leaders and congregations as “thuggish rule breakers.”

It shows multiple videos of violent protests, then cuts to footage of Biden kneeling in Bethel AME in front of several church leaders, including Beaman. It ends with a visual that says, “stop Joe Biden and his rioters”

The footage is of Biden’s visit to Bethel in June after the death of George Floyd when massive protest began.

“The ad is overtly racist and offensive on numerous levels,” Beaman said. “It is a racist attack on the African American church, and because it was an attack on the Christian church, it should be offensive to every Christian and person of faith.”

The leadership of the African Methodist Episcopal Church denomination sent a draft of a statement on the ad to RNS, also decrying the depiction.

“This ad subtly incites white terrorism against people of color and attacks the Black Church and Black people for refusing to bow down to the idol called white supremacy,” the statement said.



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