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Fostering An Inclusive Democracy Report

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Barbara Arnwine

In honor of the 51st Anniversary Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Transformative Justice Coalition, in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, is pleased to present a groundbreaking new study entitled “Fostering An Inclusive Democracy: A Strategic Vision to Protect and Expand Voting Rights.” In this document, Barbara R. Arnwine, renowned civil rights attorney and President of the Transformative Justice Coalition, presents a vision of an inclusive democracy without discriminatory barriers to voting and robust civic engagement by all segments of the American populous. Most critical for the readers, she presents an ambitious, broad-ranging, seven-year but practical plan composed of 25 strategies that can promote and achieve this vision.

The report presents a contrast of two centuries, one in which there were steady and highly resisted movements for expansion of the right to vote to women, racial minorities, Native Americans, language minorities, students and people with disabilities. These sacrificial efforts culminated in three constitutional amendments, 19th, 24th and 26th, and the seminal Voting Rights Act of 1965 which spawned a revolution in new voters and a more inclusionary electorate. Regrettably, the 21st Century has seen a movement to restrict the right to vote for many of those enfranchised in the 20th Century. Voter suppression laws have proliferated and compounded by the devastating 2013 decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in Shelby v. Holder, millions of voters have suddenly found their ability to vote and have their ballot counted placed at risk.

Despite these major challenges, the report is optimistic and looks at the Rays of Hope embodied in the many community activists, voting rights lawyers, civil rights advocates, civic engagement and good government organizations committed to a long range fight to protect, restore and expand the right to vote. Besides the law reform successes in many states providing for automatic voter registration and on-line voter registration, court victories curtailing or invalidating voter suppression laws in several states this year, and especially in the last two weeks, confirm our optimism that we can and will win this fight.

Fortunately, the report presents strategies to build on our collective strengths as Americans and to overcome the setbacks of restrictive voting laws through achievable programmatic action. On the other hand, recognizing that many voters feel excluded, alienated, confused and uninformed about the political process and voting, the report offers bold and ambitious strategies to encourage and advance civic engagement.

In addition, the report contains 4 geographic specific reports on the state of voting rights and civic engagement in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans.

We hope you will find this Report highly informative, inspirational and valuable in joining the new 21st Century Movement for An Inclusive Democracy!