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Thursday, 28 December 2017 16:30

Democrats Just Won a Major Victory in Virginia

Written by Sam Levine | Huffington Post

On a night of Democratic victories, one of the most significant wins came in Virginia, where the party held onto the governor’s mansion. Democratic governor-elect Ralph Northam’s victory will enable him to expand voting rights to disenfranchised people and exert some control over the redistricting process.

The election had high stakes for voting rights. Virginia strips people of their right to vote if they are convicted of a felony, and those rights can only be restored by the governor. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) moved aggressively to restore rights to more than 168,000 former felons ― a policy Northam has said he is proud of and will continue.

In 2016, the nonprofit Sentencing Project estimated there were 508,680 people in Virginia who remained disenfranchised because of a felony conviction, meaning hundreds of thousands more could benefit from Northam’s policies. More than 1 in 5 people disenfranchised in the commonwealth because of a felony conviction were African-American, according to the organization.

“We have been working on rights restoration for 10 years and we will continue the fight for a permanent end to this racist Jim Crow era relic,” Tram Nguyen, co-executive director of New Virginia Majority, a group that helps former felons get their voting rights back, said in a statement.

“This includes pushing legislation to stem the unjust system of mass incarceration and to change the Virginia constitution toward automatic restoration of voting rights, and more. Based on our work on the ground, in the communities, enthusiasm around this issue has only increased,” she added.

Expanded voting rights restoration will benefit people like LaVaughn Williams and Brianna Ross, who are in their 50s and lost their right to vote decades ago, when they were convicted of felonies. Both women had their rights restored in the last year and voted for the first time in their lives on Tuesday, something they said made them feel like equal citizens.

“If you had asked me maybe a year and a half, almost two years ago, I would’ve said ‘No,’ I didn’t never think I would vote,” Williams said on Tuesday after voting.

“Government and governors have come to the conclusion that even though we have not done a lot of good things in our lifetime, as far as I’m concerned, they have decided that they will put those past mistakes in the past and give us that second chance,” she said. “That’s all any person that’s an ex-felon can hope for, that second chance. Me getting my rights back is that second chance.”

Northam’s victory will also benefit Democrats long after his term ends, because he’ll have the authority to veto future electoral maps that the legislature draws after the 2020 Census that will be in effect for the next decade. Republicans had complete control over the redistricting process and drew maps to their advantage after the 2010 Census. Had they won the governor’s mansion this week, they could have done that again.

The races in 2019 will determine which party has control over the redistricting process, but now, Democrats are guaranteed veto power over the maps for the first time since 1991. Before Tuesday, Republicans controlled the commonwealth’s House of Delegates, but Democrats made considerable gains. It remains unclear which party will have control as votes are still being tallied. “Last night made clear just how badly Republicans gerrymandered Virginia in 2011. Despite a massive Democratic wave, the majority in the House of Delegates remains up in the air,” stated former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who is now chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee.

“Ralph Northam’s victory ensures that, for the first time since 1991, Virginia will have a Democratic governor with veto power over redistricting,” Holder added. “But more than that, Virginians will have a governor who is committed to drawing fair maps that reflect the diversity and compassion of its citizens and I look forward to working with him in that effort.”

Voting rights became an important issue in the race after Northam’s Republican opponent, Ed Gillespie, used highly misleading television advertisements to criticize the policy of restoring voting rights to former felons. Gillespie also personally oversaw the Republican effort to win state legislators and draw electoral boundaries to the party’s advantage in 2010. The high stakes attracted attention from voting groups like Let America Vote and Holder’s National Democratic Redistricting Committee.

“Ralph Northam’s win tonight is a victory for every Virginian, a victory for the Democratic movement resisting President Trump’s disastrous administration and a victory for the protection of voting rights everywhere,” Jason Kander, the former Missouri secretary of state and president of Let America Vote, said in a statement.

“Ralph made his defense of voting rights a campaign priority,” Kander said. “Virginians took notice, which is why they came from all over the commonwealth to join Let America Vote and many other groups to get out the vote.”

The 2018 elections will be critical for the Democratic Party, however. “As we look toward elections next year, we must remain focused on key races, up and down the ballot, that will ensure Democrats have a seat at the table during the next redistricting process,” Holder said.

Link to original article from The Huffington Post

Read 7708 times Last modified on Thursday, 28 December 2017 16:44

Meet the Hosts

Rev. Rodney Sadler

Dr. Sadler's work in the community includes terms as a board member of the N.C. Council of Churches, Siegel Avenue Partners, and Mecklenburg Ministries, and currently he serves on the boards of Union Presbyterian Seminary, Loaves and Fishes, the Hispanic Summer Program, and the Charlotte Chapter of the NAACP. His activism includes work with the Community for Creative Non-Violence in D.C., Durham C.A.N., H.E.L.P. Charlotte, and he has worked organizing clergy with and developing theological resources for the Forward Together/Moral Monday Movement in North Carolina. Rev. Sadler is the managing editor of the African American Devotional Bible, associate editor of the Africana Bible, and the author of Can a Cushite Change His Skin? An Examination of Race, Ethnicity, and Othering in the Hebrew Bible. He has published articles in Interpretation, Ex Audito, Christian Century, the Criswell Theological Review, and the Journal of the Society of Biblical Literature and has essays and entries in True to Our Native Land, the New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, the Westminster Dictionary of Church History, Light against Darkness, and several other publications. Among his research interests are the intersection of race and Scripture, the impact of our images of Jesus for the perpetuation of racial thought in America, the development of African American biblical interpretation in slave narratives, the enactment of justice in society based on biblical imperatives, and the intersection of religion and politics.

Rev. Rodney Sadler

Co - Chair - People Demanding Action
North Carolina Forward Together/Moral Monday Movem
Radio Host: Politics of Faith - Wednesday @ 11 am

People Power with Ernie Powell

Ernie Powell has been involved in public policy, progressive campaigns and grassroots efforts since the mid 1960's. He worked as a boycott organizer with the United Farm Workers from 1968 until 1973. He then became a community organizer in Santa Monica, California involved in affordable housing advocacy while working with others in laying the foundation for one of the most progressive local rent control measures in the country. He organized on behalf of environmental and coastal access and preservation issues in California as well. Beginning in 1993 he served as Advocacy Representative and later as Manager of Advocacy for AARP in California working on national and state issues. He left AARP in 2012 to work as Field Director for the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare in Washington D.C. In late 2013 he returned to California and started a consulting business. He is a consultant with Social Security Works and is organizing groups nationally to fight for the protection and expansion of Social Security. He also consults with the California Long Term Care Ombudsman Association on issue impacting nursing home reform. He is a frequent author for Zocalo Public Square having just authored a piece on Social Security's 80th Birthday about the early impact of the Townsend Plan in building toward the passage of Social Security. Ernie has hosted two radio shows - the "Grassroots Corner" on "We Act Radio" in Washington D.C.and "the Campaign with Ernie Powell" at Radio Titans in Los Angeles. His focus for over 25 years has been on public policy issues impacting older Americans. He is a nationally recognized expert on grassroots organizing and campaigns. He is 66 years old and resides in Los Angeles, Ca.

Ernie Powell

Radio Host
Social Security Works
Los Angeles

Radio Host - Agitator Radio

Robert Dawkins is the founder of SAFE Coalition, North Carolina located in Charlotte, North Carolina. SAFE Coalition NC is a grassroots community coalition working to build public trust and accountability in NC law enforcement. We believe that critical dialogue, citizen oversight and legislative action are required to design a safe, accountable, fair and equitable system of criminal justice in our state.

Robert Dawkins

Founder
Safe Coalition, North Carolina
Charlotte, North Carolina

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