Voter suppression—making more difficult our right to vote—undermines our democracy. Voting is what makes each of us equal to the other. In our democracy, it is the one exercise that is our ultimate expression of citizenship.

Mt. Zion Baptist Church and ISAAC are hosting The League of Women Voters Kalamazoo’s “Stand Up: Protect the Vote”, a public forum on voter rights, at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, October 16, 2017 at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, 120 Roberson Street, Kalamazoo, MI.

Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the right to vote is preservative of all other rights. Without access to the ballot box, citizens are not able to protect other rights that matter to them.

Yet, our ‘right to vote’ has recently become our ‘fight to vote’. Nationwide, efforts are underway to purge voter lists, eliminate polling places, increase wait times, require photo IDs, and demand documentary proof of citizenship. These efforts have already denied thousands of people their right to vote, and forced scores of lawsuits in state and federal courts. The eligible voters most often denied their rights have been Black, Indigenous, Hispanic/Latino, and poor. The people defending their voting rights include the ACLU, the NAACP, the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Native American Rights Fund, and in some cases, the League of Women Voters.

This forum features an interactive presentation on the history of voters’ rights by Michigan League president Judy Karandjeff and advocacy vice president Joan Hanault. Come learn about this important history as we honor those in our community who have fought for these rights and against voter suppression.

Four participants will leave the forum with a gift: a boxed set of the three-volume graphic novel “March” by Congressman John Lewis; “The King Years” by Taylor Branch; “The Fight to Vote” by Michael Waldman; or “Give Us the Ballot” by Ari Berman.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization, which encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

The League’s history began with the ratification of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. While millions of women achieved these rights, millions more continued to be disenfranchised. Women of color were subjected to the same voter suppression measures men of color had endured for years, like poll taxes, literacy tests and grandfather clauses. It took another 45 years of organizing and protests against the voter suppression measures before a semblance of full enfranchisement came with the legislative milestone, the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

However, the struggle did not end there, as Spanish-speaking and other non-English speaking minorities fought and gained access to bilingual ballots in polling places, as enacted in the 1975 extension of the Voting Rights Act. Each of these milestones was a marker in voting rights but not the end of the journey.

Today we are in an era of a voter fraud commission that is working to undermine confidence in elections, claiming millions voted illegally in 2016. Despite no proof, the activities of the commission, as well as those of state legislators who continue to target voting rights, are causing more citizens to be disenfranchised. Minority voting is being suppressed through state voter ID laws, reduced early voting, purging voter lists, eliminating polling places and increasing wait times, and even requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote. Voting is a basic building block of democracy and we need to protect it.

If you want more information, you can contact the League of Women Voters Kalamazoo Area at (269) 544-0303.

– ISAAC, Mt. Zion and League of Women Voters

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