Newswire: Senator Doug Jones emphasizes the importance of the 2020 Black Voter Turnout in exclusive fireside chat with NNPA President Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent

Sen. Doug Jones shaking hands with NNPA’s Ben Chavis;

Jones makes a point to Chavis during interview

The importance of Black voter turnout, the Reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, bipartisan politics, the Futures Act and environmental justice, counted among the topics candidly tackled during a historic fireside chat between National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., and Alabama’s Senator Doug Jones, a Democrat.
Held inside the Hart Building at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., the engaging hour-long conversation marked the first time that a sitting U.S. Senator sat down for a live-streamed video with the Black Press of America.
During the discussion, Jones said that voter turnout – particularly that of African Americans – was crucial to his stunning upset of Republican Roy Moore in the 2017 Alabama Special Election.
“The right to vote was hard fought for African Americans in this country, and I think too many people take that for granted. I think we proved that in the special election in 2017, that every vote counts,” said Jones.
Jones said voting rights had been under attack since the 2013 Shelby V. Holder decision, which eliminated a lot of voter protections. “It’s not the same as the old Jim Crow laws, but there’s still efforts out there to suppress votes and keep people from having that free access to the booths,” he stated.
Jones noted that he’s working to restore “teeth” in the Voting Rights Act, but doubts that the current GOP-led Senate and President Trump’s administration would approve. “I don’t see it happening, so it’s all the more important to get out and vote in the 2020 elections,” Jones stated.
Chavis asked Jones about the role Black women played in his winning election to the Senate. “It was critical. We focused on making sure that we got the African American vote out,” Jones stated.
“We did get more African Americans as a percentage out than even when President Obama did in his first race, a fact that I was very proud. The Black community came out and worked hard. It’s community engagement; it’s a 365-days a year job. And, that’s why the Black Press is so important because it keeps the community engaged,” he stated.
Late last year, Trump signed the Futures Act, a bipartisan measure that would put more funding into Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other minority-serving institutions.
“It was incredibly important. When it comes to federal dollars, there are two pots of money HBCUs get: Mandatory funding and discretionary funding,” said Jones.
“The mandatory funding is absolutely critical so they can plan each year. There’s a lot of budgetary tugs that fought us, it wasn’t easy, but we were just persistent, and that’s the key in legislation in Washington, to be persistent,” he noted.
Jones continued: “So we were able to get that mandatory funding so that a base amount of money would go to HBCUs. In my two years in Washington, we have been able to get about a 30 percent increase in discretionary funding for HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions.
“Providing that base is important to them and the economy of states like Alabama and North Carolina, and others.”
Chavis spoke to Jones about race relations and asked about the senator’s forecast for the South and whether he sees a more inclusive and diverse South rising. “So many of the divisions we see in the country started in the South. It can also be a place of healing and bringing people back together, and I see tremendous opportunity in the South,” Jones stated.
“I think my election was something that people looked at and said the South was changing. The demographics are changing to some extent, but I think people’s hearts and minds are changing,” he added.
“We went from a one-party state in Alabama with Democrats, to a one-party state with Republicans. There was never anything in between. When you get competitive political parties, you get people who have to talk to each other, and that’s what you need.
“These young people coming up don’t have the same kind of biases and prejudices you saw when I was growing up. They also are beginning to see that the state is better off when everybody in that state benefits from it. I think the South can lead the nation in healing.”
Jones also spoke of the importance of closing the achievement gap, although he said it’s a complicated issue. He said education and getting broadband into rural communities are keys to helping close the gap.
The senator also noted that he’s a proponent of raising the federal minimum wage, but conceded it couldn’t be done overnight. He stated that Trump’s 2017 tax cuts have helped to provide businesses with the needed resources to make a minimum wage hike possible.
With climate change a serious and growing issue, Jones stated the importance of the Black Press to continue to cover topics of environmental justice.“A lot of work needs to be done,” he stated. “But, I don’t have much confidence in the Environmental Protection Agency under this administration, which is why the 2020 election is very important.”
Jones concluded the chat by noting the critical role of the Black Press, his disappointment in mainstream media, and his message to veterans in the wake of the new conflict with Iran.
“I think the press, in general, is critical. Overall, I’m a little disappointed in mainstream media, and I think the Black Press has a unique role, so the Black Press must stay focused on the issues,” Jones stated.

Newswire : SPECIAL NNPA REPORT: Election process in Malawi exhibited best of African Democracy

By Stacy M. Brown,NNPA Newswire Correspondent

NNPA delegation to observe Malawi elections

LILONGWE MALAWI, AFRICA —May 22, 2019 — Late Wednesday, Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) head, Dr. Jane Ansa, continued to urge the international media and local stakeholders to hold off from announcing premature election results. The country’s activated election system received praise for the peaceful way its 6.9 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday.

With lines in some places that stretched as far as the eye could see – and after many voters walked several miles to participate – the process had some noting that the Western world, including the United States, could learn a lesson from Malawians in Democracy.
“After the election, life has to continue … we are brothers and sisters,” said Augustine Suwedi Chidzanja, an election official in the Salima Central District, which is about 90 minutes from Lilongwe.
In a meeting with National Newspaper Publishers Association President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., who headed an independent African American Election Observers Team, Chidzanja said he was surprised to learn that many Americans aren’t allowed to vote if they have a felony criminal record.
“Prisoners here in Malawi do vote,” he said, as an assistant observed that he didn’t see a deterrent that would keep Americans in prison from returning to prison upon release because “all their rights” have been taking away.
“We are living in Malawi and we think that the United States is the No. 1 Democracy, but what [I now understand] leaves a lot to be desired,” said Chidzanja, who also noted that while America has a two-party system, Malawi has 51 political parties.
The top three presidential candidates in Malawi’s 2019 Tripartite elections – Incumbent Peter Arthur Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Dr. Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), and Vice President Saulos Chilima of the United Transformation Movement (UTM) – each cast their vote in their respective villages.
Mutharika, 78, voted in Thyolo; Chakwera, 64, voted in Malembo; and Chilima, 46, cast his ballot in Lilongwe.
The first election results numbers authorized by MEC showed Chakwera in the lead with 533,217 votes (37.65 percent), Mutharika at 524,247 (37.01 percent), and Chilima at 293,978 (20.76 percent).
Malawi operates a first past the post system, which means whoever comes out on top regardless of the percentage will be declared winner – in contrast, America’s Electoral College System allows for someone to win the presidency even if they lose the popular vote.
“It is pleasing to note that polling appears to be underway in all the areas where we have observers, meaning materials have been delivered and polling staff were ready,” said European Union Elections Observer Mission (EUOM) Chief Miroslav Poche. The EUOM deployed more than 80 staff members at polling stations across the country.
It’s believed that the voter turnout may have exceeded 90 percent. “We salute the people of Malawi for their historic voter turnout and exhibition of true Democracy for all of the people,” Chavis said.
“Multi-party elections don’t exist in the United States of America, yet here in the heart of Africa in Malawi and in other nations across the continent, there are, in fact, successful multi-party elections that provide a wide diversity of political opinions for all those who vote,” Chavis said.
The NNPA president and CEO also said it’s his intention to invite officials from Malawi to observe the 2020 elections in the United States. “Maybe Americans can learn something from Africans about how to fully embrace and practice democracy for all without voter discrimination or suppression,” Chavis said.
Chidzanja indicated that he’d relish the opportunity to observe the U.S. election.
“We will keep in touch as brothers and sisters after this,” Chidzanja said. “We are brothers and sisters no matter how many parties there are. There’s a lot to be done and, after the elections, life continues, so think of Malawi as your home,” he said.