Voting Rights Category

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The Great Adventures of The Charlotte Team..

Monday, June 13th, 2011

This week in Charlotte…

It’s been another eventful week! Monday started off with scrupulous amounts of planning for meetings that were to be held in the upcoming days. In the evening, we also met with Mary Klenz from Legal Women Voters along with Advocate Tom Bowers, in order to discuss the details of our scheduled meeting with Governor Bev Purdue’s Assistant Budd Berro the next morning. Roles were assigned and we all parted ways to rehearse our parts for the next day. It was interesting to see how different types of advocacy organization could come together to strengthen their platform and get their voices heard. The meeting was supposed to be about the budget, yet because we were there show our support, we were invited to speak about our issues as well. The group was mainly speaking about how education and environmental factors were several affected by the budget. A man named Mr. Greene made a remarkable observation that really stuck out to us; “It’s scary to me how many things are being affected by one budget. It’s like their using the budget to get away with all these things.”

The next morning, we found ourselves downtown at the government building yawning and entering a welcoming room in the government building at 8:15am. We met with about 6 others who were to accompany us in the meeting and discuss other issues that they felt needed to be addressed. Our first meeting was with Governor’s Assistant Budd Berro. We listened as he explained that he was in charge of the piedmont regional office under Governor Perdu and then introduced ourselves. The meeting began with our group mentioning its strong concern for the environment. About 15 minutes later, we went into education and then ended off with voting rights. Joyce was unable to speak at the engagement because she had laryngitis thus the weight fell on Maiysa and Robert. We think that the meeting went well because we spent a good amount of time expressing how we felt about the current issues that are being overlooked. Next we headed down the hall to a meeting on redistricting. We were attentive yet we were victims to boredom. There were two men on the end that really irked our nerves because we felt that they were either being very obnoxious and not understanding or we felt that they were being too vague to understand. We learned plenty on redistricting that day, and came to appreciate the intricate process involved in redistricting and the time the volunteer appointed committee puts into it.

Wednesday came with anticipation of our very first one-on-one. We had set up a meeting with Monica Embrey of Green Peace. We really enjoyed speaking with her because she was so understanding and alive.  We gave her several contacts and in exchange, she told us that she wanted to help support our efforts. We could really see how organization could jump to each other’s professional aid. Next, we found ourselves heading to the homeland security building to help the League of Women Voters with the voter registrations. It was amazing. We had the privilege of witnessing about 98 people, from 52 different nations, become US citizens and pledge into our country. During the ceremony, we prepared the documents of voter registry and after we made sure everyone had them. Not many were interested in hearing about extra information that would help them to vote so we just stood at the door, ready and available to inform. We expected people to be itching to know all the details about their new right but they didn’t seem as excited. Though we weren’t bombarded with questions as we had predicted, it was still an exquisite experience seeing the lives of so many change, before our eyes, within minutes.

On Thursday, we had our 1st media appearance. We were really excited when we walked in the studio and yet a little nervous. Upon our wait, a woman named Joyce Waddell entered the room and graced us with her loving, warm presence. She smiled very vividly and asked us some questions about ourselves. At the time, Joyce’s voice was not yet 100% so against Dr. Waddell’s it sounded quite rough. Her aura reminded us of someone very calmly sitting on the couch of a welcoming home and her voice matched her graciously. When the camera finally got rolling we began to relax as we spoke with her. We still remember the beautiful light blue sequence dress that lit up the set while we fed her the answers that she anticipated hearing. She gently glanced from the camera to us in increments of 30-40 seconds while we asked each other with our eyes who was ready to answer the next question. About an hour and a half of this, we left the room swiftly and mentally satisfied with our accomplishment. For the most part we felt prepared but then again we hadn’t had all the answers to all the questions. We couldn’t help but to feel responsible even though we knew it wasn’t our fault. Some of the questions she asked us, on and off the camera were ones that just hadn’t crossed our minds. Briefly after, Robert went to fidget in Dr. Waddell’s hot seat while we talked about our performance and waited in a different room. Overall, it was a learning experience and we decided that we did not like having to answer unexpected questions on the spot but we could do it fairly well. The episode will air on the 28th of this month on channel 21, “Public Access” at 9:30pm. Be watching.

Friday was our most hectic day yet. Unfortunately because of all the excitement from our television appearance from the day before, we had been unable to check our email to realize that the Team Conference call was scheduled for the following day. In frenzy, we received calls from Robert Friday morning informing us of the mishap and we quickly got on our phones and dialed away. It was nice to hear about the different things the Greenville and Winston-Salem teams had already accomplished this summer and comforting to learn that we were all encountering as well as overcoming similar struggles. After this, we arrived at the office to arrange last minute details for our event that night. We were asked to contact several news stations to ensure that they had received our press release and guarantee that they would be in attendance. At first it seemed that not one of the news stations would be coming. To make matters worse our office printer seemed to not cooperate and would not print any of the needed materials. 4 o’clock was approaching fast. Alas, in the last half hour, everything seemed to fall into place. One of the organizers, Hector, for Action NC (with whom we share the office) helped us by allowing us to print our materials from his printer. He also gave us contacts to different Hispanic news papers that would want to be informed of the Racial Justice Event. With everything finally accounted for, we packed up our cars and headed to the event – but little did we know the worst was yet to come….

When we arrived to the event, it was a pleasure to find that the Hispanic news papers had in fact shown up. But the projector and the film that was to be shown later that night had not. The press conference started within minutes entailing that we had a mere half hour before the crowd made its way down stairs for the film showing. When the film finally did arrive, we found ourselves in another set of turmoil. As it turned out, the laptop we had planned to use was not adaptable to the DVD we were using. As the crowd filled the room, we found a DVD player that could play the film, but of course the wiring for the video player was missing. The only thing left to do was too look for another laptop. As luck would have it, one of the speakers had a laptop in his car that he allowed us to borrow. We held our breaths as we inserted the DVD and waited for Windows Media Player to start up. Alas, the film was finally playing. We now turned our attention to the projector, which had been working fine all this time. To our dismay, the projector shut off and would not turn back on. While we were having our technical difficulties, the coordinators of the event had been running a Q&A session with the audience but they were running out of topics to discuss. Thus, they turned to us to speak to the group. We informed them of our views on the voting rights bill and why we were so passionate about it while passing out 60 or so flyers. We also spoke to the crowd about the Cut the Strings campaign and asked them to sign our petition. We were at a loss of what to do about the film. As we stood there flabbergasted, a man in a black suit entered the room dragging a trolley bag behind him. He approached us and asked if we needed a projector. We stared at him. It was music to our ears. We helped him set his equipment and smiled joyfully as the film, At Death House Door, finally began playing. We sat down to enjoy the film. Everything had finally worked out. The event lasted roughly three hours and in the end we were exhausted! As we said our farewells to everyone there, we looked at each other with looks of relief and finally went off for the weekend…

Coming up this week… a tour of Ashville…and a much anticipated trip to Raleigh with the rest of the Democracy Summer teams!

Maiysa Mesbah and Joyce Lutu


You can GOOGLE us

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

This week one of our main goals was to get on the local radio station WOOW am 1340.  Broadcasting starts at 8 am and we of course had to be there early.  Initially we were supposed to go on the air on Thursday but, like we were warned of, we ran into some pot holes.  The head broadcaster wasn’t there and his replacement was his daughter who had no idea she was coming in to work, and no idea we were coming in to speak. To top it all off the studio mics were not working.  However, we remained optimistic and like always, things worked themselves out. We were able to go on the air Friday morning.

On the air we focused on the redistricting that is taking place in Greenville. The host was very interactive and asked us great questions including what we thought of the redistricting that was going on in Greenville.  We urged Greenville residents to go the upcoming city council meeting where a public hearing on the district maps to be presented to the council would take place. We also talked about the Voter ID bill and the effects that it would potentially have on voters and briefly on Voter Owned Elections.  We were asked to answer many questions on the spot that required us to think on our feet, kind of like the public speaking challenges that we did during our training sessions.  For example the radio host asked, “Tell us, where someone would go to contact you or to get involved?” and I (Jasmine) so gracefully answered “You can Google us” because I forgot the web address.  Luckily it came to mind before the end of broadcasting and I was able to make a smooth recovery and made the web address one of the last points that we gave the listeners.  After all, Adam did remind us to make sure the last thing we said made a lasting impression.

Earlier in the week we also wrote a letter to the editor, which also gave us some problems.  We submitted the letter using the office address and phone number.  We were questioned as to why Durham residents were concerned about redistricting in Greenville.  After explaining that we were both residents of Greenville, we were then notified that the paper did not typically publish co-written letters or letters “orchestrated” by organizations.  As put by the editor there were “a couple of problems” with our letter. Nevertheless, like our radio interview, things worked themselves out, and we ended up getting our letter published.

See our Letter to the Editor

We have had a very eventful first week to say the least and we are definitely looking forward to the upcoming weeks.

Jasmine and Shaniqua


LOD: Special Interests’ Idea Factory

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Where do the conservatives and right-wingers in the General Assembly get their worst ideas for legislation? Some of the nutty ideas come from their own heads and a fair number from right-wing outfits inside North Carolina, like Art Pope’s Civitas Institute and John Locke Foundation. But many of them come from the American Legislative Exchange Council, especially those designed to harm the environment, slam workers, and protect businesses from accountability. ALEC is a national broker for collaboration between corporate special interests, rightwing think tanks and conservative state legislators – e.g., Koch Industries, Glaxo, AT&T, and Rep. Harold Brubaker, a former ALEC national chair. People for the American Way has a new report analyzing ALEC’s operations, agenda and impact. Says one business member: “The organization is supported by money from the corporate sector, and, by paying to be members, corporations are allowed the opportunity to sit down at the table and discuss the issues that they have an interest in.” An ideas gets turned into model legislation, gains traction in one state and spreads across the nation. The report says ALEC has moved it’s pay-to-play ideology into efforts to turn education and voting into commodities where access is governed by your wealth; basic human rights are non-cent.


Oil Guzzlers, Early Voting

Friday, May 13th, 2011

5/13/2011 – The Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Triangle has gained a new distinction: Biggest gas guzzling metro area in the nation, according to Forbes. The Triad and Charlotte metro areas are also in the top 10. As Big Oil profits soar and gas prices approach $4 at the pump, more people and politicians are wondering how the industry can justify receiving a $4.4 billion annual tax subsidy from the rest of us. The industry says the money is needed to help domestic exploration and energy independence, but business experts say the industry would explore as much without the subsidy because of other favorable business conditions in the U.S. The subsidy is better understood as a return on investing in political protection: To protect its loopholes and other special favors, the oil and gas industry spent $30 million on campaign contributions and $145 million on lobbying federal policymakers in 2010. To put that in simpler math, imagine if you could invest $175 and get back $4,400 in one year! The investment also diverts Congress from adopting sensible regulations to prevent the next BP explosion and helps elect more legislators willing to be puppets. The more Big Oil and Big Bizness can control elections, the better off they are, which is one reason their puppets also champion measures to make voting more difficult. The Big Biz/Art Pope puppets in the NC House took a swipe at working-class voters yesterday by deciding to cut a week off the Early Voting period. NC Policy Watch has a short summary and video clip of the debate.


Take action to protect voting rights:

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

We are writing to alert you to a new attack against basic voting rights in North Carolina. A new bill in the NC Senate would eliminate Same-Day Registration and youth pre-registration, slice a week off Early Voting, end Sunday voting, and require other changes that will make it much harder for millions of NC citizens to vote. We will fight this bill (S-657) and keep you updated about what you can do to help.

Right now, we are asking you to:

  • Sign up for our special action alerts on voting rights issues if you are interested in getting more involved. Visit to sign up.
  • Learn more about this bill and similar bills at our on-line Take Action Center: You’ll find information on the bills, flyers, action ideas and resources for both individuals and groups.

Also, please be aware that NC’s nationally-acclaimed public campaign programs for statewide judicial and Council of State candidates are under attack. Last week, Republican legislators attempted to eliminate them during the budget debate. Fortunately, Reps. Rick Glazier, Joe Hackney, Grier Martin and Deborah Ross courageously defended the programs and the attempt was withdrawn — for now. View video coverage of the debate at

We urge you to forward this email to others and to encourage them to visit our on-line Voting Rights Action Center at

We remain committed to “of, by and for the people,”
Your Democracy NC Team

P.S.: As we’ve documented often in our Link-of-the-Day reports, these bills are being pushed by NC House and Senate members who were elected thanks to millions in campaign contributions from ultra-conservative groups funded by NC retail millionaire, Art Pope. Learn more about his influence over NC politics at


Examining Citizens United Fall-Out

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Here are two insightful columns related to the fallout from the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision in January 2010. One by Nick Nyhart and Tova Wang points out that the decision became a green light for a beefed-up assault on democratic values, particularly the right to self-organize, the right to vote, and the right to elections free from corruption. The second column, by Norm Ornstein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, traces the remarkable turnaround in support among conservatives for a fourth right they once held dear – the right to know. The turnaround came immediately after the Supremes in Citizens United said that robust disclosure is the best way to hold corporations, unions, politicians, and others accountable for how they use political money. Sadly, some (not all) conservatives now think being held responsible for your actions is no longer a good conservative value when it comes to private money in public elections.


Basing Redistricting on Race?

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

In a moment of unthinking transparency, US Rep. Patrick McHenry told a Politico reporter that the Republican redistricting plan for North Carolina will use racial data to pack African Americans into three Congressional districts and thereby make several surrounding districts more heavily white and more Republican friendly. This strategy to isolate (or ghettoize) black voters essentially twists the Voting Rights Act into a tool for empowering conservative white politicians. It is certainly not new but it’s rarely stated so openly. The state Republican legislators who are drawing the maps quickly distanced themselves from McHenry’s frank talk because they know such a statement of intent can be the grounds for the US Justice Department to reject the maps as improperly “packing” black voters. You can express your views to the state legislators drawing the maps in the final series of hearings across the state, which end in Raleigh on Monday. Attend, sign up ahead of time to comment, or just show up and decide on the spot (so far, there’s been time for extra speakers at the end in each location with a hearing).


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