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CNN: Jason Johnson on Black Voter Turnout

On CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello, Morgan State University professor Jason Johnson, Rebecca Berg of Real Clear Politics and Andy Smith of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center discuss black voter turnout in the 2016 election, as well as Republican efforts at voter suppression.

The Root: Last Man Standing: Meet Telly Lovelace, the New Head of African-American Outreach for the Republican Party

Telly Lovelace is not stepping into an easy job. Not that it’s ever been easy to work on African-American outreach for the Republican National Committee, but things haven’t been this bad for the Republican Party since Kanye West called out George W. Bush. Likely GOP nominee Donald Trump is an anathema to African-American voters, the entire black outreach staff quit over the last six months, and the Republican National Committee has cut its outreach offices from 12 to seven since 2015. Taking over black outreach in 2016 for the Republican Party is like being tapped as the interim coach on a losing team: You’re set up to fail. However, none of this deters Telly Lovelace as the new head of African-American outreach for the RNC. He’s got a plan, goals and passion for the GOP. The question is does he have enough time to make it all work?

Telly Lovelace is the epitome of the Generation X black Republican. His first campaign was 1990, when, at the age of 14, he was knocking on doors and handing out campaign literature for Maurice Turner’s mayoral campaign. One of the few African Americans to ever be chief of police in Washington, D.C., Turner ran as a law-and-order Republican in the wake of Marion Barry’s drug conviction.

“Even when I was in high school, black people didn’t really understand being a Republican,” Lovelace says. “My teacher told me, ‘Really, Telly, baby, are you sure?,’ when I handed my voter registration form to my teacher and I had marked Republican.”

Lovelace went on to the University of Maryland, and after he graduated, worked for corporations like eBay and on various Republican campaigns. He was most recently at IR+Media when he got the call from RNC Chair Reince Priebus.

“This is a crisis,” Lovelace admits.

Kristal Quarker Hartsfield, former head of African-American outreach, had just left the job in mid-March, leaving the Republican Party with zero black people to manage outreach in an election year. She’d been preceded by the three other members of GOP African-American outreach and the party was facing a PR nightmare in addition to a structural one. That made Lovelace a top choice. While he certainly has his critics, Lovelace is known around Washington, D.C., as a “fixer.” GOP insiders believe that desperate party Chair Priebus knew that Lovelace could get in, hold down the fort and get out after the November elections.

“My goal here in coming into this position is to build off of the work that they [previous RNC African-American staff] accomplished. I thrive off of campaigns,” Lovelace says when asked if taking over the work of four staffers was a no-win situation. “If we can get more African Americans to listen to the Republican Party on platform and issues; Maybe [black voters will realize] the Republican Party isn’t as bad as the media and other folks say they are.”

In recent years, the majority of African-American voters haven’t simply rejected Republican presidential candidates out of party loyalty to Democrats, there are a few hot-button issues driving them away that as new head of Republican African-American outreach, Lovelace would be responsible for addressing. One such issue is the spread of voter-ID laws, especially since the Supreme Court stripped Section 5 from the Voting Rights Act. Lovelace is refreshingly honest about these laws and how to address them.

He cites Shamed Dogan, a black Republican in the Missouri state Legislature, who has proposed free state IDs, as an example of how African-American concerns about voter ID can be addressed, while still pushing the issue.

Lovelace’s goals are pretty extensive. He wants to increase the African-American vote for the Republican presidential nominee to George W. Bush level numbers (9-11 percent) instead of the recent John McCain and Mitt Romney numbers (4-5 percent). He plans to work with local African-American candidates, and he wants to expand the Republican Leadership Initiative to move more African Americans up within the national party to positions like communications director and polling. He wants to create a comprehensive list of all African-American Republican elected officials across the United States, something that, shockingly, has never been done before. All of this sounds pretty ambitious for a guy who admits that he’s only working for the Republican Party for 214 days, and has every intention of leaving right after the November election to continue his work at the IR+Media PR firm.

“I feel like I’ve got the weight of my people on my back. I can’t do all this by myself,” says Lovelace. “I want them [the GOP] to be more competitive because that will make the Democrats get on their A-game—which helps African Americans. Democrats take African Americans for granted and the GOP has ignored us.”

If Telly Lovelace’s goal is to make the Republican Party a viable competitive option for African-American voters this fall, he certainly has the skills, experience and passion to make that happen. One can only hope, for the sake of black voters and a healthy democracy in general, that after several months of losing staff and cutting costs, the RNC will actually give him the kind of structural and financial backing necessary to make his goals a reality.

This article originally appeared online at The Root.

CNN: Jason Johnson and Larry Sabato Discuss Hillary Clinton and Voter Registration

On CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello, Hiram College professor Jason Johnson and University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato discuss Hillary Clinton’s comments on universal voter registration, voter ID and voter disenfranchisement.

Ebony: Yes, Voter ID Laws are Racially Motivated

The presidential election of 2008 was a pretty emotional experience for a lot of African Americans. Folks who never been compelled to vote in their lives registered and turned out to cast a ballot for the first Black president of the United States.  One of my closest friends went to the voting booth carrying a framed picture of her father who had passed away in 1990. She wanted him to “see” the day finally come when America would shatter such a significant glass ceiling. The local paper snapped a picture of her smiling, about the pull the lever. Unfortunately that same image, of Black people voting, is exactly what’s driving suppressive voter ID programs across the nation, according to recent research out of the University of Delaware.

The study was conducted by two professors and a high-school student and asked respondents if they favored laws that required showing some form of government ID in order to vote. Along with this question some respondents saw a picture of a Black voter, some respondents saw a picture of a White voter and some respondents didn’t see a picture at all. Amongst African American and Latino voters, support for voter ID laws remained roughly the same regardless of the color of the person in the photo or no photo at all. But with white respondents there was a significant difference. When shown a photo of white people voting 67% of whites supported voter ID laws, when shown a picture of Black people voting that number jumped up to 73%. What’s even more telling is, the number of whites supporting voter ID after seeing black folks voting went up, regardless of their party identification or racial feelings towards African Americans. The authors concluded and announced to the world that this research shows racial bias in support for voter ID laws. That’s nothing new, the courts,research, strategists and yes even Republicans have all admitted that there is a racial motivation behind the new crop of voter ID laws that magically appeared after President Obama got into office. But these results are actually worse than just an indicator of racial bias in policy.

First, the questioning of the survey itself betrays just how problematic the idea of voter ID is for the average voter and researcher. Most Americans, (even Black folks) have no problem with having to show some form of government issued identification in order to vote. But what type and how many forms of idea is where the racial and political cleavages start to appear. For example, in North Carolina, your student ID – even from a public high-school or college doesn’t count as government identification for the purposes of voting, nor does a driver’s license if it’s from out of state. Yet strangely a North Carolina gun license does count as proper identification. In other words while voter ID laws may be worded in a neutral fashion in application they are clearly geared towards ID’s that African Americans, young people and young professionals, (Democrats) are least likely to have. If white respondents were asked if they agreed with the specifics of North Carolina’s voter ID program I suspect that the gap between support with or without a picture of a black person voting, would be even more pronounced.

However, all of the specific details of voter ID laws, and the racial motivations behind them leave use with a much more sobering question: If voter ID laws are racially driven and supported, how can African Americans hope to overturn or prevent them in areas where the majority voters are White? At first blush, the answer appears to be – nothing. Republican-dominated state legislatures have passed voter ID laws everywhere from Florida to North Carolina, Ohio and Texas. Even states with sizable active African American populations cannot counter gerrymandered districts that keep vote-suppressing Republicans in power. However, in states like Georgia for example, Black voting power on the local level, has been a counter force . County commissioners and district attorneys have started Sunday voting, and led to expansion of voting rights through loopholes despite attempts from the state house to take America back to the 1950’s. If black folks vote locally, and consistently, some voter ID laws can be countered or eliminated long before the Supreme Court decides to actually do anything.

It’s disturbing to know that the mere sight of seeing a Black person exercise their right to vote causes some Whites to support voter ID. Whether exercising that right is a young person, an elderly woman, or a Gen Xer sharing a special moment with a father who passed away too soon to see history in the making their color shouldn’t make a difference. But as long as those attitudes exist and can be measured it’s incumbent upon those of us who still have the right to vote to exercise that right, and make our voices heard. Not just for midterm congressional elections but for every other down ballot race that may influence our full citizenship in America.

This article originally appeared online at Ebony.com.