NB Politicus

Four Ways to Fight Racism in Your Town

Posted in city government, civil rights, Diversity, Racism, Uncategorized by nbpoliticus on June 24, 2020

Commentary courtesy of Otherwords.org

Spontaneous, peaceful protests have been occurring in New Britain over the murder of George Floyd and systemic police violence.  A rare 15 to 0 Common Council vote declared “racism is a public health crisis.” The movement is ramping up the pressure for a Civilian Review Board and changes in city government that would emphasize more community policing and de-escalation tactics in law enforcement and more funding to education and neighborhood services. 

This commentary by Gloria Oladipo, a Cornell University student, discusses activities to keep the momentum going.

By Gloria Oladipo June 24, 2020

For weeks since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, protests have erupted across the globe. While demonstrations in larger cities have drawn the most attention in the U.S., smaller communities can be — and are — involved in the fight for racial justice.

From Medford, Oregon to Meridian, Mississippi, and many places beyond, peaceful protests have attracted hundreds. Even those in conservative, majority-white towns — some with active KKK chapters — have gathered to reject racism and violence.

It’s an encouraging sign. But not all communities have been able to hold gatherings, especially at the height of COVID-19. Thankfully, there are other ways to contribute to the fight for racial justice, even if protests have not reached your area.

1. Educate yourself.

The first step to being an effective ally is to educate yourself on racism, both structurally and in your community. A number of books are a great starting point. I recommend Freedom Is a Constant Struggle by Angela Davis and So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo.

If you prefer watching to reading, Netflix has a number of documentaries to help understand racism and its role in the United States, including 13th and When They See Us.

Don’t forget to learn about racism and police brutality in your own community. Despite the media’s depiction of police brutality as an issue impacting mainly cities, many rural communities and suburbs also suffer from disturbing examples of police brutality.

Keep track of events in the local news. Meet with your local sheriff and ask about police accountability measures. You have a right to live in a town where the police aren’t a threat to you and others. 

2. Talk about racism at home.

One of the most impactful things that allies can do in the face of anti-Blackness is to discuss these topics at home, especially with racist people in your inner circles. Challenging racism inter-personally can help change the ideology of family and friends — or at least introduce a different perspective.

Educating your family and friends is the first step to creating new allies and fostering a more tolerant culture in your community.

3. Support racial justice organizations.

Organizations need resources to support activists on the ground, bail out protestors, and pay their bills. Funding is especially important for local organizations who may not have the same bandwidth as national organizations to raise money. For these small local groups, every dollar counts.

A simple Google search can produce thousands of results for local, smaller organizations in your area. If the internet is not accessible in your area, check local community boards. Often, groups will post flyers about events, opportunities for you to learn more about the work they do, and ways to donate to their efforts. 

4. Support struggling people.

Many Black people are exhausted and vulnerable. Many need financial help. Whether suffering from COVID-19, job loss, the death of family members, or marginalization on account of their race or gender identity, direct donations can change their lives.

Finding people in need isn’t difficult. GoFundMe has hundreds of thousands of people asking for help with basic needs. Twitter houses similar campaigns, including threads with women looking for donations to escape abusive situations or in need of general financial help.

Or, go through your local church. Ask your pastor or church board members if they are currently looking for donations to help marginalized people. Your dollars can and will change lives.

Don’t let Black Lives Matter be a passing, catchy slogan. Wherever you live, be an active ally who challenges racism at every opportunity. Everyone is responsible to fight against racism, now and always.

Stuck in the 18th Century: State Constitution Impedes Voting By Mail, Early Voting

Posted in 2020 Election, polling, state government, state politics, Voting, Voting Rights by nbpoliticus on June 11, 2020

By John McNamara

Pandemic Prompts Legislation To Allow Absentee Voting Option For All In November But Ballot Reforms Shouldn’t Stop There

Our license plates proudly proclaim Connecticut the “Constitution State” because the state constitution was one of the colonial documents that guided the Founders of the nation when they wrote the U.S. Constitution in 1787.

While a score of other states have ballot access via vote by mail and periods of early voting before Election Day, Connecticut is stuck in another century because of its storied Constitution and a restrictive absentee voting statute.

Amid the public health threat of pandemic the absentee voting statute is expected to change at a special session of the General Assembly in July. Governor Lamont, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill and Democratic legislative leaders are on board to extend absentee voting to every voter this year. As Merrill said to Meriden’s “Drinking Liberally” Zoom political forum on June 9th: “The last thing we want is to have people make a choice between their health and their vote.”

Opposition can be expected from Republican Party leaders intent on restricting voter access as much as possible. CT Republican Chair J.R. Romano is hard at work parroting the discredited assertions of voter fraud.

The need to add a public health emergency option to the absentee voting law would have been moot had a 2014 constitutional amendment referendum been approved in that year’s gubernatorial election. To the question “Shall the Constitution of the State be amended to remove restrictions concerning absentee ballots and to permit a person to vote without appearing at a polling place on the day of an election?” a majority (52%) voted no. Proponents blamed an underfunded “Yes” campaign and the wording of the question for its defeat. A contributing factor was the fact that almost 150,000 more voters chose a Governor but never made it to the question at the bottom of the ballot. The amendment lost by 38,000. Approval would have empowered the legislature to enact “no excuse” absentee voting and paved the way for early voting that accounts for an increasing percentage of turnout in other states.

Connecticut law limits use of absentee balloting to those who will be out of town on election day, members of the armed forces, for an illness or physical disability, religious beliefs and for serving as an election official other than at a place than where you vote. It’s likely this summer’s legislation will extend the right to vote by mail when an illness-causing public health emergency exists to stay within the bounds of the constitution.

Secretary of the State Merrill says she is working with local registrars to open all polling places on November 3rd with any required social distancing that’s needed. A statewide secure mailing operation will be used to support voting by mail for any voter who wants to do so as long as the Legislature revises the absentee voting law. Her office has a $5 million COVID 19 federal grant to meet election costs but could probably use more. According to Merrill, election officials at the local and state level face a daunting task to ensure full voter access but that steps are being taken now “to make this a smooth election.”

One of the unintended consequences of COVID-19 may be to accelerate the movement to adopt post-pandemic statutory and constitutional changes allowing no excuse absentee voting and early voting in Connecticut.

In April the New Britain Democratic Town Committee (DTC) adopted a resolution to extend absentee voting to all this year and called for a new campaign to change the constitution. The DTC also endorsed the federal Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act of 2020 now before Congress that would extend voter access and provide states with new funding for election security.

The nonpartisan CT-SAM Task Force, led by former Metro Hartford Alliance CEO and gubernatorial candidate Oz Griebel, is primarily pushing ranked-choice voting, term limits and open primaries but its platform also includes “removing obstacles to legal voter registration and….early voting, vote-at-home options, and/or by making election day a national holiday.”

Beyond this pandemic a broad-based and well supported coalition will be needed to make the permanent changes in the Constitution in a 2022 referendum. “It’s very difficult to change a constitution,” notes Secretary Merrill. “This situation has laid bare the limitations in Connecticut.” The hope is we can keep our venerable Constitution but tweak it enough to allow full voting access in the 21st century.