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The Right to Register and Vote is Not a Partisan Issue By Jesse Jackson

August 27, 2022

The Right to Register and Vote is Not a Partisan Issue
By Jesse Jackson



( - The right to vote, Dr. Martin Luther King taught in his famous “Give Us the Ballot” address, is one of the “highest mandates of our democratic tradition.” Democracy is founded on the right of citizens to decide via popular, free and fair elections who should represent them. Across the world, the U.S. champions democracy. Yet at home the right to vote is embattled.

The United States trails most other developed democracies in voter participation. Our neighbors – Mexico and Canada, our European allies, our Asian friends like South Korea, and Australia all have higher voter participation than the U.S. does.

The reason isn’t a mystery. In most democracies, national governments take responsibility for registering their citizens to vote. In many countries, registration is automatic when citizens become old enough. In others, like the United Kingdom, governments take responsibility to seek out and register eligible voters, something like how our Census Bureau takes responsibility to get people counted in the census.

In the U.S., voting laws are decentralized. In most states, getting registered is left to the individual. Some states purposefully make it more difficult to register – requiring various forms of documentation, requiring in-person as opposed to online registration, limiting volunteer efforts to get people registered and more.

So, while turnout of those who are registered – 86.8 percent in 2020 – is relatively high, only 64 percent of the voting age population is registered. That compares to 92 percent in England, 93 percent in Canada, and 94 percent in Sweden.

Failures in registration lead to lower voter turnout – and disproportionately impacts those who are younger, less educated, and less wealthy. Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans are also less likely to be registered – and thus to vote.

The problem is reinforced by how our high-cost electoral campaigns are run. Campaigns target those who vote – not those less likely to vote. Candidates often make little or no effort to appeal to those who tend not to vote. That lack of appeal and attention then makes their turnout even worse.

Making it easy to register and vote should be embraced by all Americans no matter their party or their politics. The Freedom to Vote Act would set national standards for voting, including automatic voter registration, same-day registration, online registration, and standards for maintaining voter rolls and the like.

It failed in the Senate due to a filibuster supported by all Republican senators. Sen. Marco Rubio, (R-FL), a former presidential contender, claimed that the Act and the renewal of the Voting Rights Act constituted a “radical progressive agenda,” pushed by “Marxists in Washington, DC” and a “leftist elite class.” The Chamber of Commerce opposed making voting easier.

Since Donald Trump spread the Big Lie that the election in 2020 was stolen, Republicans in states across the country have sought to make it harder to register and vote. Last year, according to the Brennan Center, Republican legislators in 19 states passed 34 laws making it harder for Americans, and particularly Black and Latino Americans to vote. Hundreds more were filed this year.

The purpose is clear. In the South after the Civil War, Jim Crow laws were passed to keep Blacks from voting. The plantation crowd wanted to keep newly freed Blacks from combining with working and poor whites to form multiracial coalitions to transform their states. “Thus,” Dr. King noted, “the threat of the free exercise of the ballot by the Negro and the white masses alike resulted in the establishment of a segregated society."

Today is no different. Republicans – supported by corporations and the rich – want to limit the ability of working and poor people to come together and vote to transform the country. So, claims of voter fraud focus on urban areas with large minority populations. And voter restriction schemes are targeted to make it harder for those populations to vote.

But America cannot credibly champion democracy abroad while undermining it at home. Those like Sen. Rubio, who consider democracy a Marxist plot, do this nation a great disservice. The right to register and vote is not a partisan issue – it is a democratic essential. And now once more, citizens must rally to defend it from those who would undermine it.



Environmental Justice Concerns Loom Over Rail Merger by Hazel Trice Edney

August 22, 2022


Environmental Justice Concerns Loom Over Rail Merger

By Hazel Trice Edney






( - A few months back, I wrote a column focused on my misgivings about the proposed merger of two huge railroads – Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern. As I wrote at the time, I feared that the merger would add to the environmental and health burdens already facing communities of color by introducing more rail traffic and more carbon emissions while also negatively impacting things like emergency response and commute times.


I hoped that my piece – along with the continued concerns raised by stakeholders throughout the merger’s regulatory review process – might raise some eyebrows within the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, the federal body charged with evaluating the merger’s merits. Environmental justice is no joke, after all. And aren’t the days of simply forcing communities of color to bear the brunt of the pollution caused by industry, shipping, refining, and other such activities behind us by now?


Unfortunately, it seems for the time being that my hopes for racial justice amid this railroad super-merger were misplaced. To understand the source of my disappointment, look no further than the location of the public hearings scheduled by the Surface Transportation Board.


First off, there are only a handful – four in fact - of in-person hearings actually occurring along the proposed route, which immediately disenfranchises millions of minority voices from being able to voice their concerns directly to the decision makers. And there are no hearings in Michigan, although the merger would bring 50 percent more traffic through parts of the state that already struggle with air quality issues as well as a new intermodal facility for Detroit whose air quality was recently graded as failing by the American Lung Association. Similarly other prominent areas up and down the rail line, such as Minneapolis, who would see a significant uptick in dangerous oil trains rolling through its downtown, were skipped by the federal regulators.


Maybe the most of egregious decision by the STB was the location of its hearing in Texas.


In the Lone Star state, Harris County Precinct One is home to more than a million residents living in Houston and nearby unincorporated communities. It’s one of the most heavily populated communities on the route of the proposed merger between Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern, and also one a handful of “non-attainment” areas along the route. (Non-attainment areas are those deemed by the federal government to exceed allowable thresholds for certain environmental pollutants.) If approved, Precinct One residents would see about eight additional freight trains moving through their community every day. Those trains would bring in tow more than just freight. They’d also bring all the problems I articulated in my last piece: emissions, dirty air, delayed rail crossings, longer commutes, slower emergency response time, and more.


Precinct One is no stranger to dirty commerce. And while most would agree that a certain amount of pollution is unavoidable in an economy like ours, the fact of the matter is that this corner of Harris County has already carried more than its share of the weight associated with growth and gains in the broader economy.


Children living in neighborhoods along the merger’s route – which will follow existing Union Pacific rail lines – already suffer from a disproportionately high rate of asthma. And 24 percent of Black children in Harris County have asthma, according to a 2015 survey – more than double the rate for other demographic groups. Adding more trains to these already heavily trafficked routes – in a community that already hosts an elevated concentration of polluting industries and transit – will only exacerbate these serious health concerns.


To put a finer point on it, communities in Precinct One and across Houston have a genuine stake in the outcome of the merger review process. Their concerns aren’t invented, they aren’t trivial, and if the merger proceeds as is, they can’t be avoided. Why, then, has the Surface Transportation Board declined to hold a public hearing within the community? Hearings like these are commonplace, and while they may seem old fashioned, they represent the most direct and impactful way for a citizen or another stakeholder to state their case on issues that matter to their specific community.


To his credit, Precinct One County Commissioner Rodney Ellis has been vocal in his requests that the Surface Transportation Board host a hearing in his community. He’s also articulated requests intended to mitigate the impact of the merger if it is approved, from installing HEPA filters in schools to conducting multilingual outreach to communities with surface-level rail crossings so residents can anticipate and plan for longer commutes and other impacts.


Despite months of outreach from Commissioner Ellis, and despite the clear environmental justice concerns at play, the rail companies haven’t reached out to Ellis. And perhaps even more concerningly, the only public hearing that the federal regulator, the STB, announced would be held in Texas was scheduled Vidor, Texas – a town that was notoriously almost completely white until recently – instead of Houston. Vidor is in particular a town with a notorious and disturbing history of so many overt issues with racism that it has been dubbed by some as “the most racist town in America.”


I believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt. I believe that most of us want to do the right thing. And I believe the people overseeing this process want the best for all involved.


But I also believe an error has been committed, and that the people of Houston and other towns with significant minority populations  deserve a chance to say their piece when it comes to the merger. A public hearing may not resolve all of my concerns with the merger. But the absence of a public hearing will certainly make my concerns that much more pronounced.  Especially when the location that is selected may not be friendly for people of color to testify at once the sun sets.

For The Security Of The Nation, Donald Trump Must Be Removed From Office Immediately By Marc Morial

January 9, 2021

To Be Equal

For The Security Of The Nation, Donald Trump Must Be Removed From Office Immediately

By Marc Morial 


(TriceEdneyWiedr"The threat the president poses to our democracy is not short-lived and must be cut off urgently and decisively — before it leads to even greater degradation to American democratic processes and traditions. It will need to happen quickly, even with other demands pressing on our country’s leadership like certifying the election results, rolling out the coronavirus vaccine and calming a nation in crisis.” – Law Professors David Landau and Rosalind Dixon

The events of this week have shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that every day that President Trump remains in office is a threat to our national security.

Incited by Donald Trump’s unhinged fantasies about the election he lost, a mob of his supporters smashed its way into the U.S. Capitol, terrorizing lawmakers and staff.  Four people are dead.

It is stunningly clear that Donald Trump is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.  He has constructed an alternate reality of conspiracy theories and wishful thinking, and unleashed a bloodthirsty mob to enforce it for him.

The nation cannot endure another two weeks of his illegal and unhinged efforts to maintain power. Vice President Pence and the Cabinet officers have a duty to invoke Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and Pence must step in as Acting President.

We cannot speculate on the reasons for Trump’s unhinged behavior.  But we cannot allow it to threaten our national security. As shocking as it was, the insurrection was not even the worst of the deadly consequences of his utter inability to face unpleasant facts. More than 360,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, with new records for one-day death tolls being broken every few days.

On the very day he was whipping an armed mob into a violent frenzy, nearly 4,000 Americans died of the virus that he has allowed to rage, virtually unchecked, throughout the nation.

We do not know what the next two weeks will bring, but it almost certainly will bring more lies, more incitements to violence, and further breakdown of the functioning of the federal government at a time when we need it the most.

Inciting an insurrection is sedition. It is among the gravest of crimes against the nation. Removal from office is the very least of the consequences Donald Trump should face. But the penalties that he should pay should not be our primary concern at the moment. He must be removed for the security of the nation.

The spectacle of Confederate flags being paraded through the Capitol was a sickening reminder of his months-long crusade to invalidate ballots in states where Black voters turned out in record numbers. Outside, rioters flashed the “OK” hand signal that has been adopted as a white power symbol. They hung nooses. They flew the Kekistan flag, modeled on a German Nazi war flag.

Rather than condemn the violence, the chaos and the racism, Trump consoled the mob with words that recalled his appalling “‘very fine people on both sides” remark following a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

"We love you, you're very special,” he told the mob in a videotaped statement. "I know your pain; I know you're hurt.”

Donald Trump has repeatedly forced Americans to choose between love of country, and love of Donald Trump. It is one our great failures as a nation that we have been brought to the brink of disaster by his desperate need for constant adulation – which includes constant degradation of his political rivals and of the journalists who accurately report on his behavior.

The insurrectionists scratched “Murder the media” a door of the Capitol.  They smashed journalists’ equipment and assaulted a photographer.

“What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time?” an unnamed Republican official asked with regard to the support some members have given to Trump’s election fantasies.

The answer is horrifyingly clear.

Congress must formally censure every member who stoked the insurrection by promoting Trump’s fictitious narratives and baseless conspiracy theories about the election. This includes those who supported falsehood-based objections to the counting of electoral votes.

While they may consider their lies nothing more than political theater, “the prop revolvers were loaded with live bullets, and half the audience thought the drama was real,” professors Henry Farrell and Elizabeth N. Saunders wrote in the Washington Post.

We can take a measure of solace that the mob failed to prevent Congress from completing its count of the electoral votes and confirming that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the lawful President-elect and Vice President-elect.

Furthermore, the results of yesterday’s runoff election in Georgia offer hope that the incoming Senate will take its constitutional responsibilities seriously. Senators-elect Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff will replace two senators who supported and encouraged Trump’s election fantasies.

But we cannot afford to wait for Congress to act. Vice President Pence and the members of the Cabinet are well aware of their responsibility under the constitution.  They must act now to protect the country or bear responsibility for any tragedy that results from Trump’s worsening recklessness.

The New Terrorism, Like The Old Terrorism By Nkechi Taifa, Esq.


Jan. 11, 2021
The New Terrorism, Like The Old Terrorism
By Nkechi Taifa, Esq.


( — I am at Ground Zero. My law degree cannot protect me. My fancy address cannot protect me. My radio appearances and Zoom book tour cannot protect me. I check with, and for, my daughter against this madness as we all should the way the Black Power Movement taught me.On the 24-hour cable television there are many references to how the situation is comparable to the burning down of the White House during the War of 1812.

But my reference point keeps going back to 1925, when the Ku Klux Klan marched down Pennsylvania Avenue, showing their power and allegiance to a segregated capital city and a segregated United States in broad daylight while hooded, hidden.What happened Wednesday was neither hooded nor hidden. It was as open as the barricades that the Capitol police yielded — or invited. While victims of Jim Crow, COINTELPRO, and now Black Lives Matter attacks as Black Identity Extremists were at home or at work, celebrating an incoming U.S. Senate that now might provide some financial relief to those on food lines or about to be evicted, a mob of white privilege blatantly stormed the Senate and the House.Making the Klan look civilized, they came, they climbed, they smashed, they terrorized.

And they were allowed to do that because they were white.The double-standard here is too obvious to repeat. So let me just say this: this country has never forgiven H. Rap Brown for merely mouthing “Burn, Baby Burn,” or the Black Panthers for peacefully protesting with their legal arms at the Sacramento State Capitol. So how fast will these people be forgiven?As fast as, say, Abner Louima is now forgiving those who terrorized him? As fast as the survivors of Charleston had forgiven Dylan Roof, now seen as the canary in the coal mine, trying to warn us what was coming?

I hope Jacob Blake will be slow to forgive as he deals with a lifetime of pain because he dared turn his back on American authority.America loves forgiveness, because then it can get on to the business of forgetting.Those who are shocked to see the American flagpoles as weapons have very short memories. Ask any Black Bostonian about the flag as a weapon.Since we are talking about memory: President Woodrow Wilson, president during that KKK march, openly praised the Klan not unlike the way the current President has praised these latest terrorists. So what is new, really?“

I know how you feel.” It’s a new low for a country that was founded by genocide and slavery.

Nkechi Taifa is the author of the new memoir, Black Power, Black Lawyer: My Audacious Quest for Justice.

Was the Insurrection an Inside Job? By Julianne Malveaux

January 10, 2021
Was the Insurrection an Inside Job?
By Julianne Malveaux

( - If you watched the disgraceful invasion of the United States Capitol and the horrific destruction that took place on January 6, you observed a legion of limited-intelligence low-life louts.  But you’d be mistaken if that’s all you thought of the Trump-incited mob.  Those people could not have infiltrated the Capitol without the help of some "law enforcement" officers in the Capitol. 
Somebody had to open locked doors and side entrances.  Somebody had to tell the invaders where certain Congressional offices were.  And too many Capitol police officers took selfies with the invaders and treated them with extreme courtesy., going so far as to open doors for them and even walk them down steps.Why were the Capitol police so woefully unprepared for the throngs of people who had been communicating by Internet since an unhinged 45th President invited them to the Capitol weeks ago, on December 18? 
Contrast that under preparation to the army of thousands that Black Lives Matter activists faced this summer.  The contrast was stark.
After the invasion passed, many speculated about the inside nature of this invasion.  Some of the Capitol police seemed to feel quite comfortable, even chummy, with the invaders.  Why shouldn't they be?  Some members of the mob might be their cousins.  There is a historical relationship between so-called law enforcement and white supremacy, so it is easy to believe that the Capitol invaders may have had help from the inside.
We could go into history to explore the founding of the Ku Klux Klan and its purpose to terrorize and otherwise oppress Black people.  We could explore how many Klan members were also "law enforcement" officers.  In Wilmington, North Carolina, we could consider how sheriffs deputized more than two hundred racist civilians to force Black people to turn their property over to them and leave town.  But if we had to go back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, that would allow us to talk about how much our nation has changed instead of focusing on the intransigence of the myth of white supremacy.
Michael German of the DC-based Brennan Center for Justice released a report in the fall that explored law enforcement and white supremacists' connection.  Titled, Hidden in Plain Sight: Racism, White Supremacy, and Far-Right Militancy in Law Enforcement, the report is a comprehensive exploration of racism in law enforcement.  It documents notes ties between law enforcement and "violent racist and militant groups." It says that the FBI has not appropriately responded to the threat that is posed from this connection.  But, according to German, “Despite the FBI's acknowledgement of the links between law enforcement and these suspected terrorists, the Justice Department has no national strategy designed to identify white supremacist police officers or to protect the safety and civil rights of the communities they patrol.”
The Brennan report appropriately notes that “only a tiny percentage of law enforcement officials are likely to be active members of white supremacist groups.”   But even a tenth of a percent is enough. It only takes one-armed white supremacist to aid and abet the terrorists who stormed the Capitol.  It only takes one to unlock a door.  It only takes one to turn the other way as terrorists bring weapons into the Capitol.
The Brennan report documents several cases of white supremacists law enforcement “officers” who collect Klan paraphernalia, participate in racist social media posts, rant rhetoric on their government-issued radios, and more.  Few face any consequences.  Some have supervisors or police chiefs who look the other way.  Others have police union backing and often claim their First Amendment free speech rights. How does their racism affect their ability to enforce the law?  Ask Breona Taylor, or George Floyd, or Tamir Rice or Sandra Bland.
Why have federal, state, and local law enforcement failed to tackle evidence of virulent racism among police officers?  No wonder there is so little trust between law enforcement and the Black community.  If there were an active attempt to combat law enforcement racism, it would be almost unthinkable that anyone could see the Trump insurrection as an inside job.  But there has been no such attempt, perhaps because too many police officers are either outright racists or have sympathy with these racists.
What to do?  In March 2019, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin (D) introduced the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act.  It gained 22 cosponsors but was never put on the floor for a vote.  Durbin has now said he will reintroduce the legislation soon.  The Brennan report offers other recommendations, including diversity training, anti-racist enforcement, and the development of a database for law enforcement officers, since so many move from city to city, carrying their racist attitudes with them.
Was there an inside job with this Trump insurrection?  It is likely, and I look forward to the inevitable investigation and its results.
One can’t write about the insurrection without noting the murder of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick.  He was doing his work and defending the Capitol, and its flag has been flying half-mast in his honor.  It is telling that the White House has not lowered its flag, perhaps because they so forcefully incited the terrorists who invaded our Capitol.  Inside job?  The rot goes straight to the top.
Dr. Julianne Malveaux is a DC based economist and author.