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    Archive for the
    ‘rock the vote’ Category

    The Unsupervised Classroom: Why Changes to the VRA Opened a Can of Worms

    Monday, February 3rd, 2014

    I’ve got good news and bad news…and for the sake of ending on a good note, I’ll start with the bad:

    In the summer of 2013, the US Supreme Court reviewed and phased out section 4b of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). (You can read section 4b of the VRA of 1965 here.)

    If all of this doesn’t seem like a big deal, think again. Say “Goodbye,” to Federal Preclearance and brace yourself for the wrath of States Rights.
    Imagine a classroom full of 5th graders. Now, imagine the teacher leaving the classroom unattended for a few minutes. We’ve all experienced it, the classroom becomes a free-for-all: some kids stand on chairs, some throw paper balls, and others take out snacks to sneak a munch or three. Let’s not apply this analogy too strictly, but in a way, when the Supreme Court eliminated section 4b of the VRA, some states took on the persona of an unsupervised 5th grader. In this situation we have 3 students: Arizona, Kansas and Texas.

    Student One: Arizona. Here, it is now required that citizens submit “sufficient” proof of citizenship in order to vote in the upcoming election. (A list of acceptable documentation for proof of citizenship is here.)

    What does this mean? Voters who register with the federal form, and those who have recently moved (since they will have to register in a new county) will be excluded from voting in the upcoming state/local level elections (Governor, Attorney General, etc…) unless they provide additional/affirmed documentation of citizenship.

    *cough* SHOW ME YOUR FREEDOM PAPERS! *cough* Excuse me.

    Student Two: Kansas, where a similar approach has been taken on, first time voters are being prompted to provide proof of citizenship, in addition to fulfilling the requirements on the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) federal form.

    What does this mean? New registrants cannot vote in federal elections unless they provide proof of citizenship. In the event that the new voter sends in the NVRA form only, he/she will be placed on a “suspense list” and will not be permitted to vote until providing proof of citizenship.

    Student Three (my personal favorite): Gool Ol’ Texas, which is prompting voters to provide a photo ID when voting in person.

    What does this mean? Texas voters are now required to present an approved form of photo identification in order to vote in all Texas Elections. (Here is a list of the acceptable forms of photo ID.) Seems fair enough, but what makes this law particularly tricky is that it disproportionately affects minority voters.

    Since elimination of section 4b interferes with enforcement of section 5, lets just say that the Supreme Court opened a figurative can of worms. And while there is nothing wrong with States’ rights, lest we forget, in the past they have been used to justify some more than questionable policies—such as Jim Crow and discriminatory marriage laws.

    Now here’s the good news:

    It’s up to us as to combat voter disenfranchisement. We can pressure our lawmakers by informing, educating, uniting, writing letters, emails, making phone calls and most of all voting. While we may not have the same views, it is our responsibility to make sure that our voices are heard.

    “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.” – Justice Ginsburg

    I have a feeling this is the start of what will be an…interesting few years for voter rights in the upcoming elections. Be sure to stay tuned to Rock the Vote for updates and followups on the VRA and state voter legislation.

    And remember…don’t ditch your water repellant gear just yet, it’s still raining out there.

    Saundrea "Drea" Shropshire
    Bio: Saundrea "Drea" Shropshire is currently a senior at Howard University. Majoring in Political Science and minoring in Swahili Studies, she plans to attend law school in the fall of 2015. An avid biker, knitter, painter, movie enthusiast, music junkie, reader and writer, she takes on all tasks with the utmost tenacity and dedication. She also has many leather-bound books, and her apartment smells of rich mahogany.

    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com

    An Open Letter to Cory Booker from Rock the Vote

    Friday, October 18th, 2013

    Dear Senator-Elect Booker,

    Congratulations! I am writing on behalf of Rock the Vote to commend you and your team on Wednesday’s victory. You brought important issues to light throughout the campaign cycle from reducing gun violence and better educating our country’s young people, to economic empowerment. We are confident that New Jersey will continue to prosper under your leadership.

    As you know, Rock the Vote’s mission is to register, educate, and empower young people such that they can participate in our country’s democracy. This begins at the local level – which is why we’ve been there – in high school classrooms, at concerts and festivals, and on college campuses – talking to young New Jersey voters about this important special election.

    As you know (and further evidenced by the young people who worked on your campaign and those that cast their ballots for you on October 16th), young people are a powerful collective that not only care about their state, but that are engaged! And they will play an increasingly important role in shaping the future of politics.

    We hope that as the Senator of New Jersey – especially as the Senate’s seventh youngest member, ninth-ever African American and only the fourth black senator ever popularly elected – you will continue to support our efforts to educate and engage this rising American electorate, and stand up for the interests of our 80,000+ friends in New Jersey.

    Again, we offer our congratulations and look forward to working with you as the newest Senator of New Jersey. We wish you the best of luck!


    Heather Smith

    President of Rock the Vote

    Heather Smith
    Bio: Heather is President of Rock the Vote.
    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com

    National Voter Registration Day

    Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

    National Voter Registration Day

    From coast to coast, Rock the Vote is blowing out the first ever National Voter Registration Day with concerts, events, videos, and new technologies, all with the goal of registering more voters than have ever been registered to vote in a single day. In Philadelphia, Rock the Vote is having a huge concert at the Community College of Philadelphia with Talib Kweli, a guest DJ set by Jeffery Tonnesen, and an appearance with Miss USA Olivia Culpo. It is also the first stop of the second leg of the Road Trip, which will be coming to a city near you soon. Make sure to keep tabs on them #RTVRoadtrip.

    In New York City, Rock the Vote has teamed up with NYC Votes to put on the Youth Voter Registration Jam, which will bring DJ’s from radio station Hot97 together with stars like Rosario Dawson all together for a great time to get young people registered.

    In LA Rock the Vote is doing 2 amazing events with Amoeba music. In the store there will be a live show with Murs and Fashawn celebrating both National Voter Registration Day. They have a new album coming out today called This Generation. If you can’t make the show tonight at 6pm at Amoeba Records in Hollywood, be sure to check out the live cast of the concert. Across the street at Space15twenty Band of Horses are playing an intimate show for National Voter Registration Day and to mark the release of their new album Mirage Rock.

    We are also having events in places as far and wide as Austin, Boston, Detroit, and many many more. See which ones are happening near you and go out and register!

    Not only that, but we have teamed up with Funny or Die for two awesome, and very funny videos with today’s biggest stars. Don’t miss them!

    All of this is to bring people together, both in person and online, to register to vote and be heard. Join us, and share the the link to rockthevote.com today as much as you can to make sure everyone you know is registered to vote today! It’s easier now than ever, and you can even do it right on Facebook!


    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com

    Election Guide Weekly Post – Taxes

    Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

    Rock the Vote is pleased to announce that we will be releasing a 2012 Election Issue guide for young voters to use a reference to cast a well-informed vote. Each week we will post one of the issues from the guide until its release. This week’s feature is the tax debate.

    One of the most divisive areas of American politics is raising taxes or offering tax breaks. At the center of this debate is raising the income tax by tax bracket to raise revenue to pay for the massive debt that has already been built. Some believe that raising taxes for the wealthiest Americans may be a solution; while others contend that raising taxes is the last course of action an already too-expanded government should take. A further examination of the fundamental problem of a poor economy has led some to believe that lowering the high corporate tax rate would support business creation in the U.S. and allow for greater competition abroad. One aspect of this debate is in non-partisan agreement; the tax code is convoluted, and requires some degree of reform. However, the method and direction this reform should take is a point of contention between parties seeking to advance the wishes and philosophies of their constituents.

    This debate effects young voters in much the same way as the other age demographics in the U.S. yet with, if possible, even more significance. For one, young voters leaving college with debt and preparing to construct a stable career are often under mild to serious financial strain, meaning that each tax increase could cause immense difficulties. Furthermore, young voters have the most to lose from a poorly constructed policy that does not strike a balance between raising money for the government to reduce the budget deficit and supporting growth in our floundering economy, as young voters will be inheriting the 15.5 trillion dollar national debt. As bickering creates deadlock in Congress and prevents meaningful progress, it is vital that young voters provide a push for their representatives to cast aside the bickering that has been dominating policy discusion and make the right decisions for our future.

    Alex Meyer
    Bio: Alex Meyer is a sophomore at Colorado College planning to major in Political Science and History. He believes strongly in the importance of maximizing voter participation in order to provide the check on concentrated power that the founding fathers envisioned when they wrote the constitution.

    Email the author at: blog(at)rockthevote.com