Red, Purple, & Blue: 52 Years Later: Still Fighting for Our Rights

Red, Purple, & Blue: 52 Years Later: Still Fighting for Our Rights

Last Sunday, August 6th, marked the 52nd anniversary of one of the United States’ most important pieces of legislation in history, the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965. When it comes to civil rights, there are few bills that measure up alongside the VRA either in terms of the advancement of equality or importance to the sanctity of American democracy.  In the primarily Southern jurisdictions covered by the Voting Rights Act, less than one-third (29.3%) of the African-American population was registered to vote in 1965. In the next two years following the bill’s passage, the rate of registration increased to over half (52.1%). That monumental increase meant that in nine of the thirteen Southern states, the majority of African-Americans were registered to vote. As a result, between 1965 and 1985, the number of African-Americans elected as state legislators in former confederate states increased from 3 to 176. Later amendments to the VRA which mandated multilingual election requirements fostered similar increases in voter registration for Hispanics and Asian-Americans.  These numbers reinforce the simple fact that the VRA is the single most important piece of policy in guaranteeing minority voting rights. Given the legislation’s effectiveness, it should come as no surprise that, in the increasingly politically and racially polarized society of modern America, there are those who would see this landmark achievement diminished and undermined.  Perhaps the most significant blow to the Act came in 2013, when the Supreme Court struck down the preclearance formulawhich had been used to ensure states with a history of discrimination at the ballot box could not implement electoral changes without the approval of the U.S. Attorney General or the U.S. District Court of D.C. In just the next 48 hours following the 5-4 decision, six of...
Red, Purple and Blue: Racing to Lead Atlanta

Red, Purple and Blue: Racing to Lead Atlanta

In less than four short months, Atlanta will vote to elect itself a new mayor. Mayor Kasim Reed will leave behind large shoes to fill, as his bold leadership and forward-thinking vision for the city pulled it out of the recession and solidified Atlanta’s reputation as one of the best cities in the country to not only do business, but to live and raise a family as well.  Who will inherit that legacy in January? There is certainly no shortage of candidates for the job. The main contenders right now include Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood, Atlanta City Council President Caesar Mitchell, businessman and former Atlanta COO Peter Aman, former Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard, Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms, Councilman Kwanza Hall, Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves, and State Senator Vincent Fort. There are a few candidates who have pulled ahead already in terms of fundraising and name recognition. Though scientific polling has been light in this race so far, Norwood, who lost to Reed by just 714 votes in 2009, has polled ahead of all other candidates by double digits in almost all public and private polls. Her fundraising remains strong, having raised about $336,000 over the last three months, bringing her total amount raised to just over $1 million and leaving her with $653,000 in her campaign coffers. Her name recognition is among the best in the race as well, given her nail-biter run for mayor two cycles ago.  Mitchell enjoys similar advantages, having been on the citywide ballot four times in the last sixteen years. He is also the strongest fundraiser in the race by far – he raised $305,000 last quarter, which brings his total fundraising to $1.7 million with $529,000 in his war chest. Voters know who he...
Red, Purple and Blue – Losses and Lessons Learned

Red, Purple and Blue – Losses and Lessons Learned

By Tharon Johnson – For many, the election results last Tuesday were a disappointment, if not a surprise. Taking a gerrymandered, ruby-red congressional district and turning it blue was always going to be an uphill battle. Democrats were able to accomplish a great deal in a short amount of time, but it simply was not enough to overcome the demographic and electoral realities in the 6th district. Even without a victory, the race between Jon Ossoff and now-Congresswoman Karen Handel provided some valuable lessons for both Democrats and Republicans. For Democrats, the main take-away should be that every seat is competitive. Georgia’s 6th is a seat that former Congressman Tom Price routinely won by double digits – Handel won by less than four points. The fact that Ossoff, his campaign team, and the legion of passionate volunteers that worked on their behalf could close such a wide margin in so little time is nothing short of incredible. It should be clear now that with a good candidate, a strong message, and an engaged voter base, any one of the 435 Congressional seats can be made competitive in the 2018 midterms. Of course, not every race will involve a record-breaking sum of $60 million, but most voters will be able to make up their mind without 50 flyers in their mailbox or 500 ads on their television. However, the result of the election did not provide concrete guidelines for future races in every aspect of a Democratic campaign. Perhaps most importantly, it is still not clear if Democratic candidates would be better suited to running as moderates or as outspoken...