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AFL-CIO and Partners Announce Far-Reaching Voter Rights Campaign

Veteran Gil Paar can't vote because his military ID doesn't count under Wisconsin law.

The AFL-CIO today announced a far-reaching, multi-partner campaign to register voters, ensure they can cast their ballots without intimidation and follow through to make sure those votes are counted. Speaking at a press conference here in Washington, D.C., AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker said this campaign represents the union movement’s most aggressive push ever because:

the attacks we are seeing on the right to vote are unprecedented.

“Over the past several months, the AFL-CIO has been working with our affiliates to ensure that registered voters are able to cast their votes without intimidation and to ensure that their votes are counted,” Holt Baker said, with a focus on Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nevada. Some of those partners joined Holt Baker today, including NAACP President Ben Jealous, National Council of La Raza’s Clarissa Martinez-De-Castro and Generational Alliance’s Carmen Berkley.

AFL-CIO outreach will address such challenges registered voters face as inadequate election administration, lack of access to required photo ID and intimidation and dirty tricks on Election Day. The AFL-CIO website MyVoteMyRight.org offers a resource hub for voters, which includes state-by-state fact sheets on voting laws and voter registrations rules. The site offers a story feature that allows voters to submit their stories online to be gathered as a resource.

Voters such as Gil Paar. Parr served in the U.S. Air Force from 1962-1966, but his military ID isn’t good enough to let him vote in Wisconsin. New rules pushed through by the Republican-controlled legislature and championed by Gov. Scott Walker (R) limit the type of government identification acceptable to let him cast a ballot. Speaking at today’s press conference,  Paar said:

I've always used my military ID to vote and for a lot of other things, but now it’s not good enough for identification to vote? There are disabled vets who no longer have a license and won't be able to use their military IDs. What will happen to them? I didn’t serve my country for four years so I, or any other folks, could be denied the right to vote. Voting ID bills in Wisconsin and other states need to be stopped. 

Wisconsin is one of 34 states where legislators introduced reasonable-sounding voter ID laws in the first few months of 2011 that would effectively disenfranchise more than 21 million eligible voters who don’t possess the kind of ID these laws mandate.

Saying the number of laws passed to restrict voting in the past 12 months exceeds any similar effort since the days of Reconstruction after the Civil War, Jealous summed up the situation bluntly: 

What we’re facing is a coordinated effort to block the vote.

If the right to vote wasn’t so important, said Martinez-De-Castro,

There wouldn’t be such a dogged effort to take it away.

By registering new voters, she said La Raza and other groups are “upholding the integrity of our electoral system.” 

But, more importantly, we’re upholding the core of our democracy.

With 16.8 million people turning 18 this year, Berkley said the Generational Alliance plans to register as many of them as possible, while combating laws that turn young people away from the polls because they are students with out-of-state ID or because they face other restrictions.

Holt Baker also said there are some 2.3 million active union members who are registered, and the AFL-CIO seeks to raise the overall union registration rate from 70 percent to 75 percent, which would add about 400,000 new union voters. As in years past, the AFL-CIO will continue to offer a voter hotline, 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

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