Selma to Montgomery ‘Votercade’ held May 8th as part of National John Lewis Voters Advancement Day activities

Votercade crosses Edmund Petus Bridge in Selma, (Photo by Sue Dorfman)

Over one hundred vehicles, including the Black Lives Matter bus participated in Saturday’s Selma-to-Montgomery ‘Votercade’ in support of passage of HR1/S1 The We the People Act and HR4 the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The Alabama Votercade was one of over 100 activities across America sponsored by a national coalition of voting rights and anti-voter suppression organizations headed by the Transformative Justice Coalition. All of the day’s activities were focused on raising awareness of the need to pass national legislation to restore the pre-clearance provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, stripped from the legislation by the 2013 Shelby vs Holder, Supreme Court decision and to counteract the many voter suppression actions of state legislatures, curtailing early voting, limiting dropboxes, increasing voter ID restrictions and other punitive measures primarily focused on discouraging and limiting the votes of Black, Brown, young and poor people. A rally was held in front of Brown’s Chapel AME Church in Selma, historic site of the start of the 1965 ‘Bloody Sunday March’ before the start of the votercade. Fay Rose Toure, Selma attorney and civil rights leader spoke about the significance of meeting at the church and in the George Washington Carver Homes, a public housing community that surrounds the church, which also housed many of the civil rights workers who took part in the original marches. Toure also announced upcoming SOS events and said we must keep our elected officials accountable to serve the people. Johnny Ford, former Mayor of Tuskegee and head of the World Council of Black Mayors said, “We’ve got to keep on marching for voting and to restore voting rights. We need to do it to honor John Lewis but also for future generations.” Former State Senator Hank Sanders said, “What we are doing today is filled with symbolism but symbols do not change things only hard work and persistence will change things and help us to pass HR1 and HR4. After we pass these bills, we will have to work even harder, longer and smarter than our opposition because as we change things they react and change their tactics and approach to challenge us. We will never win this fight against white supremacy without struggling .” Commissioner Sheila Tyson of Jefferson County said that she was organizing a statewide effort to stop local registrars from purging voter lists and wanted to fight to make the right to vote permanent. Latasha Brown, Co-Founder and Director of Black Voters Matter said that she had come to Alabama to help support local efforts to fight voter suppression. She asked the crowd to close their eyes and “Envision what would America be like without racism? Then work on creating what we envision.” Brown said the steps being taken by the legislatures in Georgia, Texas, Arizona and other places to suppress the vote is a ”reflection that we are winning, we are voting more than they expected us to vote. We have to keep voting no matter what obstacles that are put in our way.” Brown said, “We must develop a clear collective vision and work to bring it about. I know women who went door-to-door during the pandemic because they were committed to liberating everyone. Some of those people actually died of COVID fighting for people to vote and we can’t forget that or allow our opponents to diminish that.” After the rally, the cars lined up and drove the route over the Edmund Pettus Bridge headed to Montgomery. The votercade ended at a street festival in Montgomery. Persons interested in joining the struggle to advance voting rights may contact the websites of the organizations reference in this article.

SOS alerts voters to urgency of Medicaid expansion

Shown above ANSC President John Zippert, Latasha Brown, Shelly Fearson, Senator Hank Sander, Jeanette Thomas, Johnny Ford and Faya Rose Toure

 

The Save Ourselves Movement for Justice and Democracy (SOS) a coalition of forty social justice organizations in the state, held a press conference at the State House in Montgomery, Alabama. State Senator Hank Sanders of Selma said, “We are here today to alert voters, candidates and the press to the importance of healthcare and the expansion of Medicaid in the November General Election. Governor Ivey, as Governor, can take the step of expanding Medicaid for thousands of people.” A study by the Kaiser Foundation indicates that 500 to 700 people each year in Alabama are likely to die without Medicaid expansion – so this is a matter of life and death. The Alabama Hospital Association, a trade association for over 100 hospitals in the state says, “If Alabama expands Medicaid, almost 300,000 uninsured Alabamians would receive health insurance coverage, an estimated 30,000 jobs would be created, and $28 billion in new economic activity would be generated.  Alabama would also save millions of dollars on current state services.  “On average, in Alabama, almost one out of every 10 hospital patients does not have health insurance, resulting in more than $530 million annually in uncompensated care,” said Danne Howard, executive vice president and chief policy officer of the Alabama Hospital Association.  “Currently, 75 percent of Alabama’s hospitals are operating in the red, meaning the dollars they receive for caring for patients are not enough to cover the cost of that care.  Expanding Medicaid would be a significant investment in the state’s fragile health care infrastructure and would help maintain access to care for everyone.”

“In Greene County because we are a poor county, one in three patients do not have any insurance, which means we provide an average of $100,000 in uncompensated care per month. Expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act would help people in our county whose earn less than 138% of poverty (approximately $20,000 annual for a family of four) to secure affordable health insurance coverage,” said Dr. Marcia Pugh, Administrator of the Greene County Health System. Former Mayor of Tuskegee, Johnny Ford said “The SOS Health Committee would be remiss if we did not point out that Medicaid expansion is the issue, which must be in the forefront of voter’s minds as they go to the pools in one week. Walt Maddox and the Democratic candidates for statewide office have pledged to expand Medicaid to 300,000 working poor people on their first day in office. Incumbent Governor Kay Ivey has not expanded Medicaid during her tenure. She says that the state cannot afford the costs of expanding Medicaid. She is also supporting a proposed rule change, which will eliminate 70,000 caregivers from Medicaid unless they meet a work requirement, which will also make them financially ineligible for Medicaid coverage. Maddox says that Alabama needs to help its neediest people to receive health insurance coverage to improve healthcare and economic opportunities in the State of Alabama.” John Zippert, SOS Health Committee Co-chair pointed out that since 2010 when Medicaid expansion has been available under the Affordable Care Act, Alabama has lost $7 billion in Federal support under the program. For the first three years of the program, there was no cost to the states to participate. This has increased by 2.5% a year until it reached the maximum 10% this fiscal year. In addition in coming years beginning in 2020, the disproportionate share reimbursement rate payment to rural hospitals will decline because the program assumes coverage for low-income people in the state by Medicaid expansion under the ACA. Rural hospitals in states like Alabama, that have not expanded Medicaid, will begin to take a “double-whammy” for not expanding Medicaid – more patients without insurance coupled with lower reimbursement rates. Danne Howard, with the Alabama Hospital Association, notes that a recent study showed that hospitals in expansion states were 84 percent less likely to close than hospitals in non-expansion states.  “Alabama has had 12 hospitals close since 2011, and more are on the verge of closing if something doesn’t change,” she added. “Plus, the economic impact in other states has been tremendous; Louisiana has added 19,000 jobs; nearly 50 percent of new enrollees in Ohio have been able to receive mental health and substance abuse treatment, and the state has seen a 17-percent drop in emergency department use; Kentucky has seen an increase in state revenues of $300 million.” SOS calls this critical issue to the attention of voters and urges every registered voter to vote on November 6, 2018 with the need for equitable health insurance coverage in mind.