Politics

Civil Rights Lawyer Barbara Arnwine Urges Voter Awareness of New Restrictive Laws

Tue., Aug. 21, 2012 10:39 AM EDT
by Yvette Caslin

Attorney Barbara Arnwine is ardently committed to protecting voters. The president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is educating voters on how to navigate the restrictive voter ID laws that have been passed throughout the U.S. in the wake of the upcoming presidential election, and to maintain control of future elections. Arnwine is an outspoken leader in opposition of new Voter ID Laws.

“We are literally in the fight of our lives. The vote is the foundation of a constitutional democracy. When people decide to strip that vote you are in trouble. Twenty-five million people who voted in 2008 didn’t vote in 2010. As a consequence, the majority of state legislative battles were decided by fewer than 600 votes and congressional contested elections were decided by less than 2,000 votes. When [elected officials] got into office, their number one priority was making sure that they would stay in power,” shares Arnwine, who was recently featured as a panelist during the National Urban League Conference in New Orleans.

“The way to stay in power was to block voters who they thought would vote against them if they returned to the electorate to vote during the next presidential cycle. On January 2 and 3, 2011, they dropped throughout the United States in over 35 plus legislatures voter suppression laws, voter ID laws, laws to cut back on early voting, laws to restrict student voting, [and] laws to make it harder to vote if you move from county to county. People missed it because they knew we were so distracted. They counted on us being hung up on unemployment, foreclosure, and organizations like the Urban League being overextended and that no one would pay attention. They were passing law after law within the first two months of taking over. So, we created the Map of Shame,” she says.

The Map of Shame highlights the states that “rushed to pass government-issued photo ID laws without considering the consequences,” according to the website www.lawyerscommittee.org.

“In states where there is an option, go vote early. If you get to the polls and find out there’s a problem, leave the line. Don’t vote provisionally, [it] may not count. Call the Election Protection Hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE (687-8683). We will answer every question [like if] an ex-felon can vote in the state where you are, updating your ID when you move and how to find your polling place. We are not taking any okey-doke. This hotline is your backup,” adds Arnwine.

A decorated attorney, Arnwine is no stranger to extreme steps that people make to exude power. Last November, her Prince George’s County home was raided by a SWAT team who had no warrant. She and her family, including an 80-year-old, were held at gunpoint for three hours. During an interview with Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. on Sharpton’s radio show “Keepin’ It Real,” she shared, “There is no justification for them operating like this. It’s totally unprofessional and unjustified.”

yvette caslin

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