Alabama's American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Poverty Law Center chapters held a joint forum to discuss voting rights with a specific emphasis on college students.
The ACLU is a non-profit organization that works to defend individual rights and liberties of the people in the United States. In addition to the national branch, each state, plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico also have their own branches.
At the beginning of the program, the Public Advocacy Director of ACLU Alabama Lucia Hermo presented a power point on the basics of the ACLU. Topics that were covered included the ACLU's opinions on certain issues, how to get involved with the organization and some of the basic voting rights of every citizen.
After the presentation, Hermo went into further detail about the organization and what they advocate for in communities.
“We defend the Constitution and Constitutional Rights,” Hermo said. “This is a part of our effort to advance civil liberties in the community. What we really want to do is make voting rights as simple as possible and make it as easy as possible for people to vote, so that they feel empowered, and they feel they have all their information in order to vote on the ballot."
Hermo said that she has done many presentations similar to this one with the purpose of students learning their rights and being able to advocate for them.
“I love going to college campuses because there’s so much energy, and there’re so many students who are involved and engaged and working on different things, so being able to bring them all together is really great,” Hermo said.
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Auburn’s chapter of SPLC was the other organization involved in this event. Beth McDaniel, graduate student in human development and family studies, explained that the ACLU actually contacted them about organizing the presentation.
“SPLC on campus has a huge voter registration initiative this year,” McDaniel said. “We’re focused on getting as many students registered and engaged in the political process as possible, so we partner a lot with organizations that are working on similar things, and that’s how this came about.”
McDaniel emphasized that the Auburn SPLC chapter is open to undergraduate and graduate students alike. The group normally focuses on all social justice in general, but specifically racial justice, immigrant justice, gender and sexual rights and economic justice.
“We try to give students the tools to engage in social life and political life," McDaniels said. College is an opportunity to reach a lot of young adults who are going to be in a position of power and just educating them on the issues around them."
Several students in attendance were interested in learning more about the voter right issues faced on college campuses. Caroline Orr, senior in social work, described her experience and how the meeting actually helped her in a class.
“This semester, I’m in social work practice methods three, and my professor asked us to do a voter-registration project,” Orr said. “We each selected a different group of the population, and my group selected college students. For this paper, it’s more focused on Auburn, and the efforts that have been made and efforts that have not been made,”.
The slideshow at the beginning included a list of voting rights. The ACLU emphasized that if a citizen felt their rights had ever been violated, to call their hotline. They also encouraged attendees to visit their website at .
Some of their tips included:
· Vote with privacy or confidentiality.
· Ask for and/or receive help when going to vote, as long as that person is not an employer or union representative.
· Be free from intimidation from campaigners. They must be at least 30 feet from the polling place.
· Have a fully ADA compliant and accessible polling place. If you do not, you may be eligible to vote by absentee ballot.
· Cast a ballot even if your voting status is “inactive.” You will simply be asked to update your voter registration information.
· Complete a provisional ballot if they cannot find your name on the voter rolls.
The Alabama Statewide General Election will be held on Nov. 6, 2018.
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