Sisterhood Is Powerful, Say Panelists at CBC Foundation Conference

Black women are key to helping African-American voters turn out in record numbers.

Posted: 09/20/2012 09:14 AM EDT

Black women are never more powerful than they are when they head to the ballot box. And as one of the nation's most reliable voting blocs, they made a huge difference in the outcome of the 2008 presidential election. They can be a force to be reckoned with again in 2012 and beyond, said the panelists who participated in the "Power of the Sister in 2012” forum at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference on Wednesday.

“We named it that because women have the power to make sure our vote turns out in record numbers even beyond 2008’s if we want it to,” said Melanie Campbell, who heads the National Coalition of Black Civic Participation. “We’ve got to fight like heck to make sure that our vote gets counted, that our folks aren’t disenfranchised in this election. We do have a clear choice in this election, and it’s about us moving forward with an agenda that’s inclusive.”

State deadlines to register to vote and participate in the November elections are fast approaching. Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, strongly advised that everyone check on his or her registration status to ensure there won’t be a problem when it’s time to vote. Too often, when asked if their registration is current, people respond, “I’m good,” she said, but the reality is they frequently are not. They can get help checking their registration status by calling the Election Protection hotline (866-Our-Vote) or online at www.866ourvote.org.

“The saddest call we get is when people say they tried to vote but were told they’re unregistered,” Arnwine said.

Unfortunately, there also are instances when individuals may be wrongly told that there’s a problem with their registration by groups that seek to disenfranchise or intimidate certain voters. The coalition of organizations that make up Election Protection and other civil rights organizations are looking for tens of thousands of volunteers to help man the voter hotline between now and Nov. 6 and serve as poll watchers on Election Day.

“We need you to recruit everyone you know to help us. We need non-lawyers at polls so when True the Vote and others show up we can send out our teams to do whatever’s legally necessary to make sure they’re not intimidating our voters,” Arnwine said.

Campbell told BET.com that women have a critical role to play because they lead by example when it comes to voting.

“When we turn out, good things happen. When we don’t turn out, not so good things happen,” she said. "We need to be engaged with what’s happening on the ground, what’s happening with the war on our vote and the war on women and Black folks.”


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(Photo: Courtesy of NewsTalk 1450)

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