During a recent forum on the 2016 presidential election on Capitol Hill, voting rights advocates and civil rights leaders expressed concerns about the role that restrictive voting laws might have played in the outcome. The forum also tackled the problems faced by African Americans and Latinos on Election Day.
“I did not get a call from any of the White voting districts,” said civil rights attorney Barbara Arnwine, the president of the Transformative Justice Coalition.
Some panelists even speculated that the election was stolen due to the weakened Voting Rights Act inability to fully protect the right to vote.
“I think what happened in this election is that voter suppression and manipulation and the voting rolls and every other kind of ID law — I think we saw, basically, a stolen election,” said Ben Ptashnik, the executive director of the National Election Defense Coalition.
Ptashnik told the packed room on Capitol Hill that Donald Trump was right when he said that the election was rigged, but not in the way the Republican candidate, now President-elect had perceived it. Ptashnik also spoke on the issue of voting machines being proprietary in such a way that only allow the vendors to fix them, if necessary.
Rev. Dr. William Barber, who led the “Moral Mondays” effort in North Carolina as the president of the NAACP’s branch in that state, had a lot to say about how the strategy against voter suppression has to change.
Though Donald Trump won the state over Hillary Clinton, voters in North Carolina tossed their Republican governor from office on November 8.
“We have to have a grown up conversation about race and class in America,” Barber started. “We need to have a moral revival — people are hungry for it.”
Barber continued: “We have to do some deep dive work in the South. Never forget it: 13 former confederate states, you control 181 electoral votes right off the top. You have 13 governors who control 13 boards of elections. You control 31 percent of the House of Representatives and you control 26 members of the Senate with just 13 states.”
Though Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, Trump won the election based on the Electoral College.
An emotional Ptashnik urged audience members to “take Donald Trump seriously and resist” what is about to happen.
Author and senior contributing writer for “The Nation” Ari Berman, who wrote the book “Give Us the Ballot,” also participated in the panel.
CNN contributor and former communications director for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (D-Vt.) presidential campaign Symone Sanders moderated the panel. Members of Congress who attended included Reps. Marc Veasey (D-Texas), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas).
Lauren Victoria Burke is a political analyst who speaks on politics and African American leadership. She can be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on Twitter at @LVBurke.