Rev. Al Sharpton's Weekly Blog

Don’t Let Them Purge You

May 31, 2012

In 2000, all eyes turned towards Florida as voting ballots and accuracy were called into question during the highly contested presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. After weeks of wrangling and court hearings, in the end, just over 500 votes handed Bush the victory. But while much of the attention focused on recounts, the notion of voter purging received far less media coverage. In effect, some 173,000 names were removed from voting, when in reality, thousands were later discovered to be added to the list improperly and therefore unjustifiably prevented from partaking in the election. It's no coincidence that African Americans (who predominantly vote Democratic) were strategically targeted in this process, and it's no coincidence that the notion of voter purging is once again leading us to the great state of Florida. This time, it appears the aim is Latinos -- another largely Democratic constituency that Republicans only wish they could court.

Florida, under the tutelage of Republican Gov. Rick Scott, is set to exclude as many as 182,000 voters claimed to be 'non-citizens' this close to the 2012 election. Nearly 60% of these voters are Latino. In the last few weeks alone, the state has already purged tens of thousands of voters who are alleged felons, or supposedly dead. Not surprisingly, election supervisors have discovered a slew of inaccuracies, like the inclusion of a 91-year-old World War II vet onto this list. These sorts of maneuvers are reprehensible at best. If military vets, grandparents, legally naturalized citizens and others can be disenfranchised from this election, what does it say about our democracy?

While Florida's voter purging moves are primarily targeting Latinos, voter suppression around the country is principally impacting Blacks and the poor. Implementing new ID requirements in several states, Republican lawmakers are trying every dirty trick in the book to diminish the number of eligible voters. These harsh voter ID laws will clearly target the Black community, other racial minorities, the poor, the elderly and the young -- all part of the staunch Democratic voting block. This is precisely why we at National Action Network (NAN) reenacted the historic Selma to Montgomery march a few months ago, and why we will once again take to the streets and visit the very constituencies that will suffer from these outrageous policies.

Beginning at the end of June and lasting throughout the summer, NAN will embark on a multi-state tour designed to educate the voting public and raise increased awareness to the very real and very detrimental notion of voter suppression. As institutions like the Brennan Center have highlighted, millions of qualified voters may be systematically excluded from the process this November. And with schemes like this latest move in Florida, the constitutional right of all citizens to elect their next leader is under threat. We cannot allow this to continue.

History will look upon the 2008 election as a year when record numbers of Blacks, Latinos and young folks came out and participated in the process of choosing their next leader. Standing in line for hours in many cases, they proved that their sheer numbers could and would yield results. Everyone took notice -- including Republicans.

As the nation continues to diversify, and the GOP continues to fail to appeal to racial minorities and young people, they have resorted to their next best option: calculated efforts to block the vote. It's our job to ensure that they don't succeed.

Whether it's sudden new voter ID requirements, or the purging of thousands of eligible voters, we will fight back. Join us.