Union, faith leaders, voting rights activists mobilize to defeat Amendment 6
By TIM ROWDEN
AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre was in St. Louis Saturday, Oct. 15, to talk about race, politics and the photo voter ID amendment on Missouri’s November ballot.
This was Gebre’s fifth visit to St. Louis in the past year.
Gebre helped kickoff the Missouri Right to Vote’s No On 6 Campaign door-to-door neighborhood canvass. The statewide coalition is working to educate voters about the dangers of Amendment 6, which would cost $17 million in taxpayer dollars to implement and make it harder, if not impossible, for nearly 220,000 previously eligible Missouri voters to vote.
“America is about expanding democracy, not about shrinking it,” Gebre told a standing-room-only meeting of union members, faith leaders and community activists at SEIU Local 200’s hall in St. Louis.
If approved in November, Amendment 6 would allow HB 1631 to become law, and require a current government-issued photo ID to vote.
A Republican majority in both houses of the state legislature voted to place the question on the Nov. 8 ballot.
The Missouri AFL-CIO, which is part of the coalition, also held its door-to-door neighborhood canvass highlighting the multitude of ways that Senate candidate Jason Kander and gubernatorial candidate Chris Koster will have the backs of working people.
Using himself as an example, Gebre, an Ethiopian immigrant, said “I’m what Donald Trump and his supporters consider to be a quadruple threat. I happen to be an immigrant. I’m a refugee. I’m a black man. And I happen to be a labor leader. I hope in this room I represent the beauty of our country, but in other parts of the country you hear all the rhetoric that people like me are supposed to be the problem.”
Talking about Missouri’s gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races, Gebre said. “Chris Koster understands what it means to work for a living that is why he has always had our backs, so we must have his. And Jason Kander is already taking Washington by storm; he has caught the attention of the nation and shown he will fight for Missouri’s families.”
Later in the afternoon, Gebre joined Jahvaris Fulton, the brother of Trayvon Martin, who has travelled the country organizing and mobilizing African Americans to more effectively exert their political power, to participate in a training and strategy session with Black and Engaged activists.
DAVID AND GOLIATH
Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis compared the effort to stop Amendment 6 and defeat the millionaires, billionaires and anti-union CEOs who are trying to rig Missouri’s elections to the Biblical story of David and Goliath.
“We can pick up a black marker and a ballot, and we can wrap it, we can sling it,” Louis said. “We can hit Goliath right in the eye and knock him down. We can keep our right to vote. We can stop them from taking this away, and everything else they want to take away if we all become a David and we all stick together.”
PROTECT HARD-EARNED RIGHTS
Rev. Dr. Cassandara Gould, Pastor of the Quinn A.M.E. Church, an historically black church in Jefferson City, MO, and executive director of Missouri Faith Voices, a faith-based grass roots social justice organization that does work all across the state, traveled to St. Louis Saturday to help with the campaign
Gould works with the Voter Protection Coalition and is the spokesperson of its campaign to defeat Amendment 6.
“Amendment 6 is poorly written, confusing and threatens the right to vote for 220,000 registered Missourians – mainly women, seniors, people of color and our veterans. We must vote #NoOn6 to protect the rights that so many risked their lives to give to us.”
MISSOURI ALREADY REQUIRES ID TO VOTE
Denise Lieberman, a senior attorney in the Advancement Project’s Voter Protection Program, said Missouri law already requires voter ID. Amendment 6 goes beyond that, she said.
“It cuts people out,” Lieberman said “Hundreds of thousands of valid Missouri voters would lose their voice if Amendment 6 passes – people of color, our seniors, young people, people with disabilities, veterans, people who do not drive, people who do not have a non-expired current state issued photo ID. Think about it. These are people who have ID. Don’t believe the hype. We already have voter ID. This is about making it harder for people to cast a ballot.”
Lieberman used her own mother, Joy, as an example. Despite voting in every electing since 1952, despite serving on the University City Board of Education for 24 years and having a school named after her, she would have trouble securing an appropriate ID because the first name on her birth certificate is different than the name on her driver’s license and the name she has always used.
“This is about putting hurdles and barriers in front of people’s right to vote, and that is the whole idea, because they don’t want your voices to be heard,” Lieberman said.
“The right to vote is something that each of us has. It belongs to all of us. And we will not allow them to take it away from us.”
‘THEY WANT US TO CHECK OUT’
Sara Nelson, Association of Flight Attendants international president said, “Voting no on amendment 6 is about making sure everyone counts. Those who want to control our country want us to check out. This election is about refusing to be controlled. We must vote against hate and exclusion on Nov. 8 if we are going to fight for economic justice November 9 and every day after.”