PHILADELPHIA —During an angry and vocal rally held outside of the Municipal Services Building last week, members of the NAACP, several union representatives, clergy, state and city legislators took turns commenting on the Pennsylvania Voter ID law.
The rally, which was hosted by the NAACP, took place before the state Supreme Court heard testimony regarding the controversial law that has been the target of opposition since Republican Governor Tom Corbett signed off on it. Opponents of the law have said it was not designed to prevent voter fraud but to disenfranchise voters who most likely will cast their ballot for Pres. Barack Obama in the upcoming election.
“This law is nothing less than a criminal offense against democracy,” said Philadelphia NAACP President J. Whyatt Mondesire. “We’re out here to let the government know that this voter identification law is wrong and based on a lie. We have not stopped fighting to turn this thing around. Despite attempts to use voter ID as a way to block the vote, we will make sure that people vote. Today, we use the voice that the NAACP has been fighting to protect for over a century.”
Referencing deceased civil rights leaders Medgar Evers and Harry T. Moore, who were murdered while working to register African Americans to vote, NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous said the law amounts to a modern poll tax.
“This year, in this country, we have seen more states pass laws to push voters off the polls than in the past 100 years,” Jealous said. “Turning the tide, we have won in Texas and we have even won in the Republican states of Michigan and Virginia, but we find ourselves here challenging the law again. We won in Wisconsin and Minnesota and yet here we are, in the cradle of our democracy, fighting to keep the right to vote. This is not a Republican thing or a Democratic thing. It is an extremist thing. All of us should have the right to vote.”
According to a legal brief filed by the city , City Commissioners Stephanie Singer and Anthony Clark, and the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, the Voter ID law would place unconstitutional burdens on more than 100,000 voters in the city. At least 186,000 registered voters in Philadelphia have no form of PennDOT identification. At least 175,000 registered voters have expired PennDOT identification. The brief goes on to state that approximately 361,000 of the city’s 1,100,000 registered voters may not have sufficient identification to cast their votes on Election Day.
Opponents of the law say that despite virtually no evidence of voter fraud — the problem that the law was supposed to prevent — voter ID is necessary to protect the integrity of the ballot. During hearings in March, before Corbett signed the law, attorneys for the Commonwealth could provide no instances of voter impersonation fraud. Following the passage of the measure into law, the U.S. Department of Justice requested information to determine Pennsylvania’s compliance with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. That section prohibits voting procedures or practices that discriminate on the basis of race, color or membership or membership in a language minority. That information request was subsequently refused by James Schultz, general counsel for the Corbett administration. In a letter responding to the DOJ request, Schultz said the federal government had no authority to either request or compel the Commonwealth for that information.
“The question is why you really had to change the law?” asked the Rev. Dr. Kevin, R. Johnson, pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church, during the rally. “Did you change the law because you knew that people lack photo ID in poor black and brown communities?
— Larry Miller
Special to the NNPA from
The Philadelphia Tribune
National Black Nurses Association names L.A. leader as first vice president
LOS ANGELES —Eric J. Williams, Ph.D., past president of the Council of Black Nurses, Los Angeles, was sworn in as first vice president of the National Black Nurses Association (NBNA) in Orlando, Fla. The installation was held during the closing session of the NBNA 40th Annual Conference and Institute on July 29.
“Being elected as first vice president of an organization that represents over 150,000 African American nurses allows me an opportunity to strengthen the infrastructure and build the capacities to increase the number of minority nurses in the pipeline locally and nationally,” Williams said. “I am excited to represent nurses by advocating for patients who are often uninsured, underinsured and underrepresented.”
Williams has been actively involved with the Council of Black Nurses, Los Angeles, since 2001 and is a professor of nursing at Santa Monica College in Santa Monica. He first became a member of the national association as a student nurse. Now he mentors nursing students from diverse backgrounds regarding professional identity and being a member of the nursing profession.
“I will utilize this new opportunity to support the mission and purpose of the National Black Nurses Association,” Williams said.
“Dr. Williams is dedicated to the elimination of healthcare disparities and has made a significant difference in underserved communities over the years through countless hours of volunteerism and health promotion teaching,” said Joyce Spalding, president of the Council of Black Nurses, Los Angeles.