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4 dead as severe storms hit Houston, TX; Election Protection Program eases access to voting information; surge in solar installations eases energy costs for Missourians; IN makes a splash for Safe Boating Week.

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The Supreme Court rules funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is okay, election deniers hold key voting oversight positions in swing states, and North Carolina lawmakers vote to ban people from wearing masks in public.

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Southern groups mobilize to empower voters, protect democracy

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Monday, April 1, 2024   

Southern groups are mobilizing to protect democracy and empower voters to address the issues that impact their communities, including in North Carolina.

The groups Alabama Values and Southern Leadership for Voter Engagement hosted a roundtable discussion, called As Goes the South, to shed light on the legislative developments happening across the region - from voting rights and reproductive rights, to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Rhyane Wagner, senior policy manager with the Black Voters Matter Fund, said some lawmakers have worked to pass bills that negatively affect voter turnout.

"They're manifesting in changes to early voting locations and drop boxes - the removal of drop boxes, if you will," said Wagner. "The erosion of gubernatorial powers - like in North Carolina, they've eroded the powers of Roy Cooper, in terms of who he selects for the Board of Elections."

According to the Brennan Center, since the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v Holder, the gap in voter participation between white and nonwhite voters has been expanding.

Before that, states and localities with a history of racial discrimination in their voting practices had to get federal approval of any changes to election policies.

Jerome Dees, policy director with the Southern Poverty Law Center, said these trends signal an urgent need to reimagine advocacy and engage grassroots organizations in communities.

"This is a concerted effort that is being waged against these communities of color," said Dees, "with the hopes that we just throw up our hands and say, 'You know what? We give in. You win.' But it's important that we understand that tactic and brace ourselves, and rely upon community."

The speakers at the roundtable emphasized the importance of collaborating regionally, diversifying candidates, and mobilizing funds to support campaigns aimed at effecting change.

They agreed that local support plays a crucial role in driving long-term policy transformation to improve marginalized communities.




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