Newswire: Black women leaders declare ‘State of Emergency’ for vote on Kristen Clarke’s nomination for DOJ Civil Rights position

Kristen Clarke

By Hazel Trice Edney

 (TriceEdneyWire.com) – A coalition of organizations led by some of the most powerful Black women in America has called for the immediate vote on the confirmation of civil rights lawyer Kristen Clarke, President Joseph Biden’s nominee for the position of assistant attorney general for civil rights. Nominated five months ago, Clarke, a graduate of Harvard and Columbia University Law School, was interviewed during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing April 14. The Committee finally voted 11-11 along party lines May 13. This means the full Senate will now determine whether to vote her nomination up or down. Black leaders across the nation fear the Committee could drag out the confirmation debate into the summer months as crucial civil rights issues lay dormant.  Republicans have tried to argue that her past views have been too radical, including on police reform. Democrats say she is just what America needs.  Clarke’s philosophy on civil rights is best expressed through her own words. “Where you see wrong or inequality or injustice, speak out, because this is your country. This is your democracy. Make it. Protect it. Pass it on,” she said in her written testimony before the Judiciary Committee. “I’ve tried to do just that at every step of my career, from the voting rights project at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, to the Civil Rights Bureau in the New York State Attorney General’s Office, where I was the state’s top civil rights enforcement officer. And since 2015, I’ve led the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, one of the nation’s leading civil rights legal organizations.” Given the crucial issues being dealt with by America’s civil rights community, including voting rights, police brutality and police killings of Black people, leaders say that Clarke’s background of fighting for justice on those issues alongside other civil rights leaders makes her a perfect fit to lead the division.  “In the time that we’re in, we know that she is more than up to the task. And we want to express the reasons that we believe she is up to the task and an excellent choice and we want to make sure that she is also treated fairly,” said Melanie Campbell, president/CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable. “History has shown us that we have to always speak up; especially when it comes to women of color who are put up for these positions to serve and she has been a servant leader all of her life.” In that regard, Campbell partnered with Johnnetta Betsch Cole, national chair and president of the National Council of Negro Women, to brief Black reporters by Zoom on the efforts of Black women’s organizations to push Clarke’s nomination through. That May 7 meeting was followed by a Call to Action, livestreamed across multiple media platforms May 11. “Today in our country, hatred and bigotry are on the rise. White supremacy is emboldened to carry out an insurrection in the Capitol of the United States of America. And there’s a wave of voter suppression bills being passed that look like and smell like – because they are like – old Jim Crow laws,” Cole told the reporters. “For such a time as this …so many more sister presidents are committed to smashing another glass ceiling.” Karen Boykin-Towns, NAACP board vice chair, stressed the urgency of the issues now faced by the civil rights community. “This nation needs its top civil rights law enforcement officer, and we need her now. Police violence continues to take the lives of Black Americans; We see a rise in hate crimes against the AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders); domestic terrorism rooted in White supremacy represents our greatest internal threat. And on top of everything, we are still struggling with devastating racial impact of a pandemic that is now going into a second year. The work of a civil rights division has never been more critical and who leads it matters greatly,” Boykin-Towns said. “Since the murder of George Floyd, there has been over a hundred police killings of Black people. We’re in a state of emergency. And so, her confirmation now and not to linger into the summer is so imperative.” Boykin-Towns said NAACP local leaders are working individually as well as collectively and putting a “full court press” on the confirmation. The coalition was also joined by Jotaka Eaddy, chief organizer of the Win with Black Women Collective;  Virginia W. Harris, president, National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc., and Beverly Smith, national president/CEO for Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Clarke is no stranger to the nation. She is often seen among national civil rights leaders during press conferences and is often called upon by national media to speak on issues. “Her dedication to the pursuit of justice and her track record are invaluable,” said Harris.

Newswire :  Voter suppression scheme snuffed out in Georgia

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Contributor

 

The efforts of a prominent Washington, D.C. organization has resulted in a major voting rights victory for individuals of color in a small – but significant – Georgia town. District-based Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law led others including the ACLU of Georgia and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in successfully getting election officials in Randolph County, Georgia, to keep open polling sites in the mostly Black precincts. Officials in the town had voted to close the sites ahead of the midterm elections and as African-American female gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams counts as the favorite to win her race to become the state’s first Black female governor. “We won,” said Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Our community partners beat back a voter suppression scheme that was being undertaken by officials in Randolph County. Remarkably, officials were trying to shutter 7 of 9 polling sites in this poor, majority Black community,” Clarke said. The scheme undoubtedly was hatched to silence Black voters in the small rural, low-income community where many residents lack access to public transportation, she added. “The burden would have been felt heaviest by Black voters, who are three times more likely than white voters to lack access to a vehicle. We pushed back against this textbook example of voter suppression and we prevailed,” Clarke said. The effort has galvanized national civil rights and voting rights groups aiming to block attempts to suppress minority voter turnout in Georgia and in other states ahead of critical midterm elections, according to USA Today. The Congressional Black Caucus urged county election officials to drop the plan, saying it would violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act to close the polling sites so close to an election. “We are deeply concerned that the bedrock tenets of democracy would be under attack should this proposal be adopted and implemented,” the caucus wrote in a letter. The two members of the Randolph County Board of Elections and Registration voted unanimously not to make changes. The board, which has one vacancy, held two hearings on the proposal. Tommy Coleman, an attorney for the county in southwest Georgia, said he doesn’t think the board members meant harm by considering the proposal but that it might have been ill-timed. “It gives you the appearance that you’re trying to do something to alter the vote in November. I don’t think that’s the case. I’m certain it isn’t,” he told USA Today. “The people who do this in rural Georgia – these two people – are just volunteers.” The issue garnered national attention in part because of the historic nomination of Abrams, the Georgia Democrat who could make history if she wins in November. Abrams and Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is also running for governor, both called for officials to drop the plan. The proposal was offered earlier this year after the county hired a consultant when the election superintendent quit three weeks before the May primary, Coleman said. The consultant, Mike Malone, recommended closing the polling sites because they didn’t comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. But, Coleman said, the proposal “doesn’t seem to be backed up with any real data.” Critics of the proposal argue the sites were used for elections earlier in the year and in the years since the county was called out in 2016 for not complying with the ADA. “Why all of a sudden do you want it to be ADA compliant when you haven’t complied in all of this time?” said Helen Butler, executive director of the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples Agenda. “What is the rush if it wasn’t a rush in all these years,” added Butler, who also serves on the Board of Elections in Morgan County, Georgia. Nse Ufot, executive director of the New Georgia Project, a nonpartisan civic engagement group, said county election officials could have moved polls to local churches and other sites that are ADA compliant. “This is a blatant attempt at voter suppression,” she said. “Voter suppression in Georgia is a lot more sophisticated, I think, than people realize.” Coleman described Randolph County, the sixth smallest in the state, as very poor and struggling with a declining population and economic base. He said there have been discussions about the cost of polling sites because there were few voters there. For example, he said, one precinct had about 100 people. But Coleman said the timing of proposing closures could have been better. “It was probably ill-timed. We certainly went through the primary and the runoff from the primary and why we would need to do it before November in the teeth of this kind of heightened political environment, I think, is what the problem was,” he said. “It needs to be given more thought away from elections.” There have been lawsuits in the past over the county’s noncompliance with the ADA, Coleman said. The county used a $200,000 grant to upgrade some buildings, including the courthouse. Coleman said he suspects there are some buildings, including some of the firehouses that have been used for polling sites, that are not in full compliance. Coleman couldn’t say what steps the county will take to comply with the ADA, but he said, “I think they will now.” Meanwhile, Clarke and others celebrated the victory and vowed to remain vigilant on such issues. “The defeat of this proposal shows the power of resistance and the impact that we can have by leveraging our voices against injustice,” Clarke said. “We have seen these voter suppression schemes before – they have been pervasive throughout the 2018 midterm cycle… Now we move on to fighting other counties in Georgia that are entertaining similar tactics.”

ALEA expands hours at Eutaw Driver License Office

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) is expanding hours of operation at the Eutaw Driver License Examining Office and eight other field offices in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Transportation to better serve Alabama and make services more convenient for citizens who live in outlying areas.
“Beginning Monday, March 20, our Driver License Division will operate its Eutaw office from 8 a.m. to noon and 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. each Tuesday,” Secretary of Law Enforcement Stan Stabler said. “Combined with the expanded hours of operation at eight other outlying offices, we will offer 26 additional days each month of service to our citizens.”
The Eutaw office is at Greene County Courthouse, 400 Morrow Avenue.
The SOS Coalition for Justice and Democracy sponsored a caravan last fall to all of the driver’s license offices closed in the Black Belt region. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund filed a successful complaint with the U. S. Department of Transportation closing these offices in rural African-American majority counties.
An Alabama Drivers License is a critical state authorized photo identification card needed to be able to vote. Without a valid Alabama license voters have to secure a special voter registration ID, which is available from the Voter Registrar’s office. SOS and other civil rights and social justice organizations in the state protested the closure of the driver’s license offices because it made it more difficult for voters to secure the necessary photo ID to be able to vote.
The other eight locations are in Bibb, Bullock, Butler, Hale, Lowndes, Macon, Perry and Wilcox counties. Depending on size of town or city and demand, office hours vary from one day each week to three days each month.
• Centreville (Bibb): 8 a.m.-noon and 12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m. the first and third Thursday
• Union Springs (Bullock): 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. each Thursday
• Greenville (Butler): 8 a.m.-noon and 1-4:30 p.m. each Monday
• Greensboro (Hale): 8 a.m.-noon and 12:30-2:30 p.m. each Thursday
• Hayneville (Lowndes): 8 a.m.-noon and 12:30-4:30 p.m. each Wednesday
• Tuskegee (Macon): 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. each Tuesday and Wednesday
• Marion (Perry): 8 a.m.-noon and 12:30-2:30 p.m. each Tuesday
• Camden (Wilcox): 8 a.m.-noon and 12:30-2:30 p.m. the first, second and third Tuesday ALEA makes every effort to meet the needs of the state’s citizens. In October 2015, the agency reduced operating hours in 31 outlying Driver License Offices because of limited funding. ALEA adjusted operations in November 2016 and expanded services in seven locations, including Troy, Livingston, Rockford and Butler.