In the News

LONG WAY HOME: According to a new report by the public policy organization Demos, African American workers are three times as likely as white workers not to have a car at home and they use transit four times more, which could be part of why some see transit as an issue of racial equity. The solution, Demos suggests, is to invest in infrastructure — improving transit and creating jobs for people who need them.

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Simply put, black families in the District overall have less wealth and income than white families — and therefore have less ability to give to political candidates. This helps explain why black D.C. residents are underrepresented year after year in political donations.

Studies have shown that policy most reflects the preferences of the most wealthy members of society and that those preferences do not reflect the greater public opinion on issues including the economy.

There are also the racial disparities among retail employees to contend with.

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The chief plaintiff in the case is the A. Philip Randolph Institute, an organization for black trade unionists. It has been joined by a host of other liberal groups, such as Demos and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The plaintiffs contend the Ohio policy violates the 1993 federal National Voter Registration Act, better known as the “motor voter law.” Ohio argues the policy is fully compliant with the law, which also requires states to have up-to-date voting lists.

But even though one vote has only a tiny chance of being the pivotal one in an election, that doesn't mean that voting isn't important. Collectively, votes matter a great deal. Certain groups in the population that have higher turnout rates — such as older voters, the wealthy, and white Americans — benefit from the clout that they achieve as a result, says Sean McElwee, an analyst for Demos, a public policy organization that works to reduce political and economic inequality in the U.S.

A federal judge in Miami is currently examining whether Brenda Snipes, Broward County’s supervisor of elections, is adequately maintaining the registration list in her county. A lawsuit filed by a conservative election integrity group, the American Civil Rights Union (ACRU), charges that Dr. Snipes has embraced a lenient approach to list maintenance that violates guidelines set in federal law. [...]

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This gap in voter participation matters to all Americans but has a special significance for African-Americans for three reasons.

“You’re going to have deductions and credits that primarily benefit the middle- and upper-class go away, but it’s not done in benefit to the working class,” said Mark Huelsman, a senior policy analyst at Demos, a left-leaning think tank. “It’s just done as a revenue raiser.”

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Democrats have all kinds of ways of addressing this problem. One would be to cultivate the class identity of white voters by embracing populist rhetoric that paints “the billionaire class” as an out-group they can define themselves against. Another would be to invest more resources into registering nonwhite voters. According to the Census Bureau, 74 percent of non-Hispanic whites are registered to vote in the United States.

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