The Right to Vote

African American Ministers Leadership Council Launches Nationwide 2012 Get Out the Vote Program

On Sunday, November 6, People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council, a nationwide network of African American clergy, will launch a yearlong program to turn out the vote in the 2012 elections. The VESSELS program will work with at least 400 clergy from across the country to respond to widespread attacks on voting rights by educating, training and turning out voters.

The effort will focus on twelve key states with large African American populations that have been hit by right-wing attacks on voting rights, including suppressive voter ID laws.

Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, Director of the African American Ministers Leadership Council , said:

“African American voters are under assault from right-wing legislators who think they can win elections by keeping us from voting. We must respond by knowing our rights, educating our fellow voters and turning out even more people to the polls than we did in 2008. This is not a partisan issue: it’s about ensuring that our democracy lives up to its highest ideals.

“Throughout American history, the Black Church has been a powerful force behind efforts to ensure that all Americans have access to our Constitutional rights. The current battles over voting rights are no exception. As dozens of states pass laws making it harder to vote, we must work harder to ensure that everybody who can participates in the democratic process. We believe that God gave us a voice, and we must use it to speak with our vote.”

Rev. Dr. Roland Womack, Jr., Chair of AAMLC and retired pastor of Milwaukee’s Progressive Baptist Church , said:

“The Vessels program is extremely important to the 2012 election, at a time when the rights of all people are not recognized and a permanent ruling class determines the decisions and direction of this country. I am participating because I am old enough to remember how it used to be and I promised my father and my God that I would not stand by and let this happen to us again.”

Rev. Dr. Kenneth L. Samuel, Vice-Chair of AAMLC and Founder and Pastor of Victory for the World Church in Stone Mountain, Georgia , added:

“The current Occupy Wall Street movement along with ancillary movements in cities around the world is further testimony to the importance of citizens’ involvement in our political process. The VESSELS program is an important step toward voter empowerment. Our democracy depends on it.”

More information about the African American Ministers Leadership Council and the VESSELS program can be found here.

People For the American Way Foundation’s report,

The Right to Vote Under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box

is available here.


VESSELS Checklist




Elections happen all the time. Please check the following to indicate your readiness to be a VESSEL and to VOTE!

  • I am 18 years old, or will be on/before Election Day.

  • I am the holder of a valid, legally recognized form of photo identification with my current home (place of resident) address.

  • I am aware of the expiration date on my photo identification.

  • I am aware of my polling (voting) location.

  • I am aware of the dates for upcoming special and general elections so I will not be confused by calls, flyers, and lies.

  • I am aware of the offices, websites and telephone numbers to call if I have a questions or problem.

  • I am aware of my right to be a registered voter.

  • I am aware of my right to vote.

  • I am aware of my right to have my vote counted.

  • I am aware of my need to stay informed of voter laws by educating myself and others in my family, neighborhood, place of worship.

  • I am a US citizen.

  • I am aware of 5 others who are of voting age I need to speak with and ask:




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VESSELS Top Ten Things Voters Should Know


Top 10 Things Voters Should Know as They Go to the Polls

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power maybe of God and not of us…

10. Who and what is on the ballot … Be an informed voter! Know about all the candidates as well as any ballot initiatives.

9. Where local polling places are located … Has it changed since the last time you voted? Have you moved? Polls are generally located in public buildings, with voters assigned to locations based on where they reside. Contact your local election office to find your polling place.

8. When the polls are open … Polling hours vary by state. Confirm the time with your local election office. Always plan ahead and arrive early with 2 or more voting age persons prepared to vote. Also, if you are in line to vote when the polls close you have the right to cast your vote.

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed

7. How to cast your ballot … Before Election Day, ask your local election office which machine you will be using on Election Day. Familiarize yourself and always ask for assistance if you are unsure how to cast your vote. Poll workers are required to provide you with assistance.

6. How to cast an absentee ballot … In a timely fashion, properly complete and send in your absentee ballot application and then submit your absentee ballot before the deadline. Be aware of and meet all deadlines for the absentee application and the absentee ballot itself. Contact your local election office if you need assistance.

5. How to vote early … Does your state have early voting or is it known as “absentee ballots” that can be requested by phone, in person or by mail? Contact your local election office to find out and take advantage.

… we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I believed and therefore I spoke,’” 2 Corinthians 4:7-9; 13a (NKJV)

4. How to vote if you are disabled … Despite HAVA (Help America Vote Act of 2002) reforms, many polling places still aren’t easily accessible to disabled voters or persons with special needs including reading. Contact your local election office for information about accessibility at your polling place and how you will be able to cast your vote.

3. How to vote if English is not your first language ... If you require assistance reading an English ballot and casting your ballot on Election Day, in some districts you have the right to receive voting materials in your own language. Contact your local elections office to find out.

2. How to vote if you are a formerly incarcerated person (ex-offender) … No federal laws exist on felon voting and therefore the legal ability of people with felony convictions to vote varies from state to state. Check with your local elections office to know your rights – especially if you were convicted of a felony and have fully served and completed your sentence and are no longer on probation or parole. In 13 states and the District of Columbia, your voting rights are automatically restored upon release from prison and you can register to vote and exercise that vote.

Believe and speak with your vote!

1. What forms of identification are accepted at the polls … In 2008, we saw problems having to do with voters receiving the incorrect type of ballot, improper information from poll judges about what forms of voter ID are required in their state, and much more. Because of new or unfamiliar voter ID laws in some states, new technology that’s not remotely consistent in many jurisdictions from year to year, and the sheer number of voters turning out, we expect more confusion each and every time an election is held. ID requirements vary by state, so check TODAY with your local election office for information on what you’ll need to provide.

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PFAW Foundation Report: The Right to Vote Under Attack

“I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

-- Paul Weyrich, “founding father of the modern conservative movement,”1980

A new Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by People For the American Way Foundation reveals how the Right Wing distorts and exaggerates the impact of improper voting in order to implement policies that keep millions of eligible Americans from casting votes. The report, “The Right to Vote Under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box,” is available here.

“Laws proposed to address the mythical problem of ‘voter fraud’ undermine the very foundation of our democracy,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way Foundation. “The Right Wing, with no evidence, has propagated the myth of widespread voter fraud as an excuse to create laws that are all about making it harder for people vote. Their clear target is driving down Democratic turnout and installing in office people who will do the bidding of the Right Wing and their Republican allies. Stealing elections by systematically disenfranchising millions of voters is as unpatriotic as it gets.”

The report uncovers:

  • The extreme rarity of fraudulent voting and its negligible impact on even the closest elections
  • The partisan agenda behind anti-voter fraud laws
  • The vote-suppressing strategies employed by states, including photo-ID requirements and restricting DMV hours in Democratic-leaning jurisdictions
  • The secretive forces that fund and draft vote-suppressing legislation

“This report reveals just how the far the Right Wing is willing to go to win elections,” continued Keegan. “Eroding the achievements of the Civil Rights movement by disenfranchising voters is abhorrent. All Americans have a fundamental right to vote, and we need to be vigilant to make sure that ever eligible voter is ready and able to vote on Election Day.”

The report is available here.

The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box

A new Right Wing Watch: In Focus report from People For the American Way Foundation examines the myriad ways Americans' right to vote is under attack by politicians and interests whose electoral success often depends on denying ballot access to certain communities.

PFAW Foundation Stands with Americans to Expose ALEC

Today, a group of concerned Americans held a press conference outside of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)’s summer meeting in New Orleans.

ALEC: The Voice of Corporate Special Interests In State Legislatures

Our Right Wing Watch In Focus looks at the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-wing policy group that funnels pro-corporate legislation to the states at the expense of citizens whose rights and interests are sold off to the highest bidder.

Supreme Court Strikes Another Blow to Clean Elections

The Supreme Court today, in a 5-4 decision, struck down the long-standing Arizona law providing matching funds for publicly financed candidates running against well-financed opponents.

African American Ministers In Action Supports A Voice for the District of Columbia

Speaking out against several policy riders that have been passed or threatened by conservatives in Congress, Delegate Norton, DC Mayor Vincent Gray, DC Vote, and members of the civil rights community voiced their support for autonomy and the right to self-government for the people of the District of Columbia.

Condemning Extreme Social Policy Riders, PFAW Calls For DC Voting Rights

Speaking out against several policy riders that have been passed or threatened by conservatives in Congress, Delegate Norton, DC Mayor Vincent Gray, DC Vote, and members of the civil rights community voiced their support for autonomy and the right to self-government for the people of the District of Columbia.

Appeals Court Strikes Down Arizona Proof of Citizenship Law

In a victory for voting rights advocates yesterday, a federal appeals court in Phoenix struck down a key part of an Arizona law requiring voters to produce proof of citizenship before registering to vote

Promoting the Right to Vote: Enfranchising Our Nation’s Capital

Nearly 600,000 Americans live in Washington, DC, and they deserve the right to representation in Congress like everyone else. We must take steps to fully enfranchise Americans living in our nation’s capital.

PFAW: Where We've Been and Where We're Going

The recent and unparalleled resurgence of right-wing extremism in todays politics concerns us deeply. But thanks to three decades of PFAW activists, we can meet any challenge.

Restore My Vote Campaign

Information about Clemency

In April of 2007, Florida took a significant step toward full democracy for ex-offenders seeking to have their right to vote restored. Governor Charlie Crist persuaded the state's Clemency Board to adopt new regulations. The new rules "automatically" restore the rights of ex-offenders who have committed non-violent crimes, have completed their sentences and probation, and paid victim restitution.

Indiana Court Declares State's Voter ID Law Unconstitutional

Following the Indiana Court of Appeals unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel that the state’s voter ID law is unconstitutional, People For the American Way Director of Public Policy Tanya Clay House said, "It’s been a long time coming, but this is exciting news for Indiana voters and all of us concerned with protecting the right to vote of all Americans. Indiana's voter identification law was the most stringent in the country, and the Indiana Court of Appeals' decision to strike it down is correct. The court rightfully recognized the need to ensure voter security for all Indiana voters by reexamining the voter identification law, which would disproportionately harm minorities, the poor and the elderly."

Supreme Court Upholds Section 5 of Voting Rights Act

The Supreme Court today rejected a challenge to Section Five of the Voting Rights Act in the case Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder (NAMUDNO). People For the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker issued the following statement:

"We are very pleased with the outcome of this case. The Court today preserved all aspects of the Voting Rights Act and its ability to ensure the full and equal right to vote which is at the core of our democracy.

PFAW Urges Florida Legislature to Reject Restrictive Registration and Voter ID Rules

Bill would ban ID frequently used by seniors, force voters who have recently moved to vote on ballots that often go uncounted, and make it harder for groups registering voters

Tallahassee, FL—With two weeks left in the legislative session, members of the Florida Legislature are working hard to pass a bill that could suppress the vote of hundreds of thousands of Florida voters, and criminalize well-meaning activists who want to bring more people to the polls.

DC Voting Rights Act Passes in the Senate

Statement of Tanya Clay House, PFAW Public Policy Director, on the news of Senate passage of the D.C. Voting Rights Act: "This is an historic victory for DC voting rights activists, the 600,000 District residents, and all who care about democracy. I'm proud that People For could play a substantial part in helping to enfranchise the 600,000 residents of the District of Columbia. We hope District residents will not have to wait much longer for voting representation on important issues of the day."

Senators Clear Path Toward Granting Full Representation For District Residents

Following today’s 62-34 cloture vote on the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act (S. 160), a bill that would give DC a representative with full voting rights in the House, PFAW President Kathryn Kolbert released the following statement: "I'm thrilled that the Senate finally seems to be ready to pass this legislation. It's disgraceful that citizens of our nation's capital have been denied a vote on critical issues of the day from equal pay for equal work to the important economic recovery act. Today's cloture vote is an important step forward."
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