Town hall meeting addresses voter suppression

Posted at 10:09 PM, Feb 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-24 12:36:22-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - Making sure more Americans are heading to the polls; that was the topic of a town hall meeting in Tallahassee Monday night.

The event was hosted by the local chapter of the National Action Network.

"Black voter suppression is as old as the founding of this country," said Florida A&M University History Professor Larry Rivers, Ph.D. 

African American men finally won the right to vote in 1870 and black women in 1920. Yet still, census data shows both minority voter turnout was down in last November's elections. Part of the issue is rooted in history.

"[Like] the Poll tax, the literacy clause and the grandfather clause," said Rivers.

Now, local leaders say it's gerrymandering and voter ID laws keeping minority Americans from the polls.

"That requires you to produce certain things that they think poor people or black people might not have easy access to," said Former Tallahassee Mayor Dorothy Inman-Johnson.

That's why Tuesday night's town hall meeting stressed the importance of voting, no matter how difficult it may seem.

"If we're going to talk about real meaningful gun reform, we may have to change the legislature. The voters can make that happen," said Pastor RB Holmes, the National Action Network Tallahassee Chapter President.

When Floridians head to the polls in November, the ballot will also include an amendment  to restore voting rights for former felons.

"[These are] men and woman who have served their time, paid their restitution and [they] ought to have their rights restored," said Pastor Holmes.

These are issues the community says they'll continue to push for and they're looking for politicians that will help.

"Go out and meet your local candidates, engage them," said local lawyer Jamie Coleman, local lawyer. "Ask them those difficult questions and find out what their answers are. Make sure that it's not canned."

"I think it's our responsibility to hold people accountable. Not just when they're running for office but when they're not running for office," said local lawyer Mutaquee Akbar.

Another big message at the town hall meeting: voting in all elections, especially the upcoming midterms.