Fighting Voter Suppression with Melanie Campbell, Civil Rights Leader #RUVoteReady
The cohosts speak with activist extraordinaire Melanie Campbell about her work with the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, how voting, equal, and reproductive rights are intertwined, the unique state of the world today, and strategies for getting out the vote and making sure you’re represented at the polls!
All episodes begin and end with the 2017 single “Rise” by rock group Betty (www.hellobetty.com)
Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty– Gloria Feldt, quoting John Adams (04:28)
In this episode:
Gloria Feldt introduces Melanie Campbell (04:30)
The mission and purpose National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and the Black Women’s Roundtable (07:49)
Perspectives on the history of justice in this country (14:05)
2013’s Shelby v. Holder (17:50)
How to ensure your vote gets counted (26:47)
The Hosts Start by Sharing What They’re Pissed About
All of the hosts are pissed about voting restrictions that are coming down from state legislatures in 2022 alone after the Big Lie that Donald Trump should be the president of the United States.
Melanie Campbell is pissed off as she watches the January 6th hearings to see just how much American democracy was — and still is — in peril.
I’m pissed about a lot of things, but I’m pissed and ready to act at the same time.– Melanie Campbell (07:02)
The Black Women’s Roundtable (BWR)
This group focuses on Black women’s leadership, as well as advocating around four critical strategic platforms:
- Global empowerment
- Health and wellness
- Economic security and prosperity
The BWR goes to Capitol Hill and also has affiliates that work in state and local governments. They focus on getting out the vote and also help people in the communities with basic daily needs, but all of their work is centered on civic engagement.
Making Up for the Absence of Women in the Constitution
Carol asks Melanie to speak about the Equal Rights Amendment and how activists today are dealing with the ramifications of that. Melanie talks about how the Equal Rights Amendment and reproductive rights are connected, saying that women can’t fulfill their potential until they’re equal under the Constitution and equal under the law. Multiple groups have to put the pressure on since all of these issues are connected at this critical point in time.
The ERA Coalition and the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation can, should, and do work together.
Historical Relevance and the Uniqueness of this Time Period
We’ve never had a president like the prior one that would actually use his power to destroy the democracy…But we also have it where we have so many elected officials who are complicit in it.– Melanie Campbell (15:12)
It’s up to voters and citizens to understand that if we keep allowing the same people to stay in power, then they’ll be willing to allow the whole structure to be wiped out. It’s happening before Americans’ very eyes. There are people who are elected or going to be elected by insisting that the 2020 election was not legitimate, and those officials continue to attack voting rights and access to the ballot in order to stay in power.
The Supreme Court’s Ruling in 2013, Shelby v. Holder
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 protected against racial discrimination in voting, but in 2013, it was gutted by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby v. Holder, which removed a requirement for states to go through the Department of Justice. This led to a rise of voter suppression laws that were unchecked.
In 2021, there was another landslide of these voter suppression laws that came down in direct response to the outcome of the 2020 election. These laws make it difficult not only for individuals to vote but also for organizations to help individuals. Melanie talks about one in particular in Georgia, where organizations are no longer allowed to provide water or food to voters waiting in line. It has since been challenged in court and is awaiting ruling. Congress has not passed bills to rectify problems around voting access because there hasn’t been the 10 required Republicans required to codify and protect the right to vote.
These laws have led to a lot of unknown variables for organizers and voters in this election season.
Voting Rights Isn’t High on the List of Voter Concerns
Melanie says that people are dealing with so much right now, and they’re not able to pay attention. There isn’t the level of motivation because people are struggling with day-to-day issues. Carol also asks Melanie’s thoughts about the Black vote being disengaged. According to their research with Essence, Melanie is much more concerned about the younger vote. She believes those over age 45 will likely show up, but it’s critical for millennials and Gen Zers to show up, as well.
Make Sure Your Vote Gets Counted
Know where to go.– Melanie Campbell (26:55)
- Check voter registration now
- Know where you’re going
- Know your rights
What You Can Do
President/CEO, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation & convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable. Campbell is recognized as one of the hardest working servant leaders in today’s Civil Rights, Women’s Rights and Social Justice Movement. Campbell recently celebrated 25 years of service with The National Coalition and has served as an advisor to U. S. presidents, congressional members, corporate, labor, non-profit executives, philanthropists, faith leaders and others—on critical issues impacting Black America.