By: Jacob Fisher
Voting rights is a huge issue facing our country. In 2016, only 60% of eligible voters were able to vote, not because they didn’t try, but because discriminating practices prevented them from doing so. The National Voter Corps is a volunteer organization dedicated to making sure everyone can vote. I interviewed Nervana L Nurse, an organizer responsible for coordinating efforts among all 50 states, to find out what is keeping people from the polls and what we can do to help.. This interview was excerpted for clarity.
Q: How was the National Voter Corps started?
A: Lisa Ferino [formerly with the American Civil Liberties Union] was our fearless leader. She said the day after the [Trump] election she was so jazzed she did not know what to do, so she formed the National Voter Corps.
Q: Why did you volunteer for the National Voter Corps, and what does the organization do?
I wanted to do something to active, all [voting rights groups] ask for money. So most people who are, including myself, were like that is not all we want to do. We want to do more… I came in when Lisa was just starting the 50 state solution. It was actually a way of helping people across the country to get volunteers to mobilize people to vote. Volunteers research each state and get an idea of the voting laws, picture ID [requirements], etc. Then each volunteer is given a state, and they contact the [state’s e local] voting rights organizations to ask if they will be on the 50 state map. It sounds easy, but some in places, it is not.
Q: What do you think are the biggest obstacles to voting rights? What is barring people from voting?
When I joined, my thing was to figure out a way to speak to people in states that had the worst, most egregious [voting] act [violations]. I wanted to be able to talk to [voting rights] organizations in those states and say “What can I do to help you?” I took on the [states] that had the worst records.
The biggest obstacle is photo ID laws. Many people cannot afford photo IDs or can’t go to the DMV to get the ID. Another big obstacle is that they keep moving [polling] voting locations, often moving further away from where people live.
[The Trump administration] has created a “voter integrity” commission, [Kris Kobach] is the head of this commission, and [as governor of Kansas] he worked to roll back voting rights. The commission is trying to enforce laws that prevent people from voting. Kobach is asking states to send voter information to him. He promised that he was not going to give out the information, and would make sure it’s secure. Forty-four states immediately said “no” to that. Koback is asking for personal information, social security numbers, how they vote, where they live. People do not want to share all this data.
Another issue is gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is when you manipulate the boundaries of voting districts to favor one party or class over another. A case is before the Supreme Court called Gill versus Whitford, and the argument is to determine where the practice of partisan gerrymandering is constitutional or not. [In 2011 a redistricting plan for the State of Wisconsin was created by Republican legislators, a plan to maximize the likelihood that the Republicans would win additional seats in the state’s Congress.]
Q: What is the benefit from stopping minorities from voting?
[The Republicans] would probably lose. They believe that if minorities were allowed to vote fairly, Trump probably would not be in office right now. When Obama ran for president, people, especially minorities, came out in droves. So now they are scared of that.
Q: How can someone help? Someone who is reading this article?
Find an organization where you can help. Everyone needs to get involved. This is huge this time. [Voting rights are] the one thing that we have left, that they are trying to take away. Everybody needs to get involved, get people to the polls, get people to vote. Nobody can sit down anymore.
Nurse stressed that voting rights is a huge issue. In 2016, only 60% of eligible voters were able to vote. To combat this, join a voting rights organization, contact your local representatives, and help people get to the polls.