CBC Will Kick Off Voter Protection Tour in March

WASHINGTON -  The Congressional Black Caucus will launch a multi-city “voter protection” tour that will kick-off the weekend of March 3 near the 47th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday.”

“We intend to launch our voter protection tour, which will consist of field hearings and community gatherings, during the same weekend as the annual pilgrimage to Selma, Alabama,” said Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO).

Each year, the Faith and Politics Institute holds a Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage to Alabama. The weekend includes a tour of historic civil rights sites and ends with a walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. It has been attended over the years by 150 members of Congress including several Republicans. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) is the Pilgrimage’s Chairman. This year the twelve year-old event begins on March 2.

“We think that what John Lewis and others did at the Edmund Pettus [Bridge] is still very relevant in light of what we are dealing with now in terms of the seemingly organized effort to reduce minority participation in the upcoming election,” Cleaver added.

Cleaver confirmed the tour will kickoff that weekend of the annual pilgrimage.

On March 7, 1965, John Lewis led 700 protest marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. When the marchers stopped to pray after police ordered them to disperse, they were tear-gassed and beaten by Alabama State Troopers in an incident now known as “Bloody Sunday.” Lewis’ skull was fractured in the clash.

The CBC voter protection tour will consist of about 10 cities. The cities most likely to be stops on the tour are Atlanta, Cleveland and Dallas. By filing time, Cleaver did not wish to confirm locations just yet. CBC Member Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) did confirm that one of the stops will be in Florida, a key battleground state during the 2012 Presidential race.

Interestingly enough, Wilson’s Republican colleague in the CBC, Rep. Allen West (R-FL), told Politic365 that he did not attend the meeting where this was discussed and was not aware of the plans.

The CBC will team up with the NAACP for the tour and one major sponsor that will be named in the near future.

“Every black elected official around the country and in the area is where we are going to stop. We are not able to announce it today but we will have at least one major partner,” Cleaver told Politic365.

Republican legislatures around the country have altered state voter laws over the last year. Many say the changes have more to do with suppressing the turnout of minority voters and low income Americans than with preventing fraud. Republican controlled legislatures in Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio and West Virginia have cut the number of days citizens can vote early. Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott reduced early voting from 14 days to 8 and Republican Governor of Ohio John Kasich reduced the early voting days from 35 to 16.
Last October the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University released a study on the new voter ID laws that stated that “as many as many as 10% of eligible voters do not have, and will not get, the documents required by strict voter ID laws.” The study also indicated that 5 million voters could be impacted by the new laws.

Because of past discrimination, new voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina are required to undergo what’s called “pre-clearance” review by the Department of Justice. The Justice Department blocked a new voter ID law in South Carolina on December 21st saying it discriminated against minority voters.

The CBC has met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus regarding partnering in some way on the voter protection/voter suppression tour. As of this time no formal plans with the CHC have been set.

The CBC had a five city “Jobs for the People” tour in August of 2011 that gained national attention and reportedly secured nearly 3,000 jobs for attendees.