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Voter Suppression: How The Black Church Is Working To Thwart Voter Suppression Efforts In The Black Community (VIDEO)

The Black Church has — has historically been the strength of the African-American community. At the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, they continued to provide spiritual and social leadership. Today, our voting rights are under attack again. The African-American Ministers Leadership Council has launched a nationwide 2012 get-out-the-vote program designed to get around Republican attacks on our right to vote.

Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, Director of African-American Religious Affairs with People for the American Way; Rev. Dr. Gregory King, pastor of Williams Temple CME Church in Philadelphia; and Rev. Dr. Gerald Thomas, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in Plainfield, New Jersey joined Roland Martin on Washington Watch to discuss their plans to thwart efforts to suppress the African-American vote in 2012.

MR. MARTIN:  Last week, we had Congresswoman Wilson – Frederica Wilson – from Florida, and she said one of the things that she is doing is moving churches there to start getting their folks to vote absentee, she said, to get around the efforts by requiring a photo I.D.  So, she said where before, it was about driving folks, early voting, she said now we’ve got to simply move around all the different barriers they’re putting in place.  Your thoughts on that, and what are you seeing also take place across the country to deal with these voter suppression efforts?

REV. MALACHI:  My – my theme really is – our theme is taking public policy to the pulpit, to the pew.  The pew takes it to the people.  We take it to the pole, and that demonstrates our power as a people.

REV. THOMAS:  We have to understand those laws that have been passed, Roland, in order that we can set up our strategy and our game plan to deal with the enemy at hand.  Political skill will give us political will.  That’s where we get our power from.

REV. KING:  One of the things I think that’s most important is that we help our community to recognize that we need to be an educated electorate, that it’s not just going in and pulling a ballot; it’s knowing the issues ahead of time and being involved far enough ahead of time to have impact before an issue hits the ballot.

REV. MALACHI:  Our program is called “I Am a Vessel, And I Vote,” and our strategy is it’s not an either/or; it’s a both/and.  It’s multifaceted.  It’s what’s worked for you.  But the bottom line is that we need to make sure that our folks can answer the question, “Are you ready to be a vessel?” “Are you ready to vote?” and the answer has to be “yes.”

MR. MARTIN:  Should pastors take the moment maybe right after the service, maybe right before the service, to say, “I want you to bring your voter I.D.,” “I want you to bring your voter registration card,” “We’re going to cross-reference it.  We’re going to check here”?  Because in Ohio, one of the rule- — one of the pieces of their bill, which actually has been put off –

REV. MALACHI:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — was that a poll worker did not have to tell somebody the actual place where they’re voting.

REV. MALACHI:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  And so are you t- — telling pastors, “Look, don’t just say, ‘Check your I.D.’”

REV. MALACHI:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  “No, no.  Bring it to us.  We’ll check here, and if it’s” – “if it is not right, we’ll get it fixed now.”

REV. KING:  One of the projects we’re trying to work through some of the high schools is getting high school students to get the proper registration for voting and the photo I.D. for those students who are in high school who are 18 years old.

MR. MARTIN:  And literally bringing them in, sitting –

REV. KING:  Yes.

MR. MARTIN:  — them down.

REV. KING:  Yes.

MR. MARTIN:  “Here’s the process.”  Fill the application out, mail it for you[?] – stuff like that.

REV. KING:  Yes.  We’re using the – the students in these high schools to do that.

MR. MARTIN:  And – and, again, to re- — for folks at home to understand, if you’re a pastor, if you are a deacon or whatever, as long as you are talking about voting, period, that’s not – that’s not ideological.

REV. THOMAS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  That’s not –

REV. MALACHI:  That’s right.

MR. MARTIN:  — partisan.

REV. MALACHI:  That’s right.

MR. MARTIN:  And so it’s not endorsing – it’s not telling them who –

REV. MALACHI:  That’s right.

MR. MARTIN:  — to vote for, and so they – they shouldn’t be afraid of their tax I.D. status –

OFF CAMERA:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — by actually doing this.  As long as they’re not saying, “Oh, we’re doing this to vote for Pres. Obama” –

OFF CAMERA:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — “to vote for Herman Cain,” “to vote for this candidate for state rep, local office” or whatever.

REV. MALACHI:  Absolutely.

MR. MARTIN:  And so I – so, I certainly appreciate, you know, all that you’re doing.  You know, we’ve made the effort, again, to drive this issue home, because people hear about it, and they wait until September of next year to go, “Oh, that’s right.  Let me go find my card.”  So, we certainly appreciate it.  And good luck at all that you’re doing.

REV. THOMAS:  Thank you so much.

REV. KING:  Thank you.

REV. MALACHI:  Thank you.

MR. MARTIN:  All right.  Thanks a bunch.

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