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Voter Suppression and Election Protection


Tuesday, October 9 NSEA had the privilege of speaking with Arlene Holt Baker, Vice President of AFL-CIO. The interview was broadcast as part of the public employee coalition radio program, "We Are Nevada" which airs Friday at 9 a.m. on KLAV 1230 AM radio and is archived on wearenevada.org.

Arlene Holt Baker became Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO in 2007. She is the first African American to be elected to one of the federation’s three highest offices. With more than 30 years of experience as a union and grassroots organizer, Holt Baker began her work in the union movement with AFSCME, and as an organizer and international union representative, she helped public sector workers in California form a union and win contracts that provided better wages and pay equity for women. Holt Baker visited Las Vegas to speak out against attacks on voting rights and announce a robust voter protection plan. The following is an excerpt from that interview.

NSEA: What brings you to Las Vegas?

Holt Baker: I am in Nevada because it is a battleground state and I’m encouraging people to make sure they get out and vote and not be dissuaded by anything.

NSEA: How important is this election to working families?

Holt Baker: We often say that “this is the most important election in our lifetime”, but quite frankly this is, because of what’s at stake. Do we move forward with an agenda that’s about shared prosperity for all or are we going to be a country that’s just concerned with the one percent.

NSEA: What can you tell us about voter suppression taking place in Nevada?

Holt Baker: What we’re seeing in many places in the country are attempts to suppress the vote of so many people. In Nevada, Republican-backed Strategic Allied Consulting is registering people, but if they don’t register as Republicans they’re encouraging people to tear up their registration card or leave it blank. That’s the kind of thing we’re seeing all over the country, so what we’re doing is keeping our eye on what's happening with any group that is trying to suppress votes and telling people don’t be dissuaded, don’t be confused, make sure you have the facts and make sure there’s nothing stopping you from voting.

NSEA: Is this a new tactic that we’re seeing?

Holt Baker: It’s an amazing thing that’s happening in America, before 2008 there was only one state that required any kind of voter photo I.D., but after 2008 in that historic election where we saw young people, people of color, and poor people turn out en masse and elect President Obama, you all of a sudden saw an influx of an introduction of voter suppression laws in the country. So, again, it’s about power. If you’re able to diminish a group of people from being able to vote, you’re able to maintain that power. I’m a firm believer of democracy and I think a democracy is something we have to encourage. We have to make it easy for all of our citizens to participate in this democracy and the only way we can do that is to ensure that people are able to exercise their right to vote, certainly not trying to suppress that right. We’ve seen some of these tactics in our history when African Americans, particularly in the south were subjected to the Jim Crow laws and the poll tax that prevented groups of people from being able to participate. We’re starting to see that rear its ugly head again and we cannot as Americans stand for it. We have to push back and fight.

NSEA: What resources are out there for voters if they witness or have experienced voter suppression?

Holt Baker: If you run into any obstacle during early voting or on election day, call 1-866-OUR-VOTE (687-8683) or visit www.866ourvote.org. There will be attorneys on hand and online to answer any questions you may have. Remember, it’s your right, it’s your vote, and it’s your democracy.

 


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