5 Hour Wait to Vote in Urban Centers: 2016's most cynical election strategy coming to Wisconsin, North Carolina, & Ohio

This video shot on election day 2012 by Eric Byler, Bobby Wangerman, Annabel Park, and Michael Levin is the best documentation so far of the unfairness of long lines at the polls in urban centers.  Recently, swing states like Ohio, North Carolina, and Wisconsin have implemented policies designed to engineer long lines at the polls in urban centers.

Defenders of this strategy say election administration should be 'equal' regardless of population density, even if this means unequal access to the polls due to waiting times. Conservative lawmakers, who have accepted and implemented election law changes suggested by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Heritage foundation have also accepted the argument that the constitutional right to equal justice under law does not protect things like early voting and weekend voting simply because they help to ease long lines in populated areas. Instead, they argue, the notion of equal protection can be used to justify cutting back on early voting and weekend voting because they are essential to avoid long lines where the population is dense, but less so where the population is sparse.

Critics of the "long lines" electoral strategy compare it to Jim Crow practices such as poll taxes, saying that wage earners who miss time at work or have to hire child care in order to wait five or more hours to vote are facing the equivalent of a poll tax.

By contrast, we shot the video below on the same day, in a more rural area of Virginia 2 hours southwest, not far from James Madison University:

Story of America is working on a more in-depth video on this subject.  DONATE so that the story can continue.

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Prayers answered: Belhaven Hospital Will Go On

Republicans joined by NAACP & US Justice Dept to prevent closure of rural hospital, settlement could have national ramifications

As if in answer to a prayer vigil filmed in Belhaven, NC on March 25, an announcement came on March 26, 2014 in a joint statement from the North Carolina NAACP and Vidant Health. The Vidant Pungo Hospital will not be closed on April 1 as planned. Under the settlement reached through mediation performed by the US Department of Justice, Vidant Heatlh will operate the hospital and its emergency facilities up until a July 1st handover to a new, community-based entity to run the hospital indefinitely. On Thursday April 3, the parties will hold a joint press conference to announce a strategic plan that could become a model for addressing the "medical desert" crisis impacting America's rural communities.

CLICK HERE for a written statement that gives more details.

Andrew Ruiz of WNCT reports:

Cries for help to save the Vidant-Pungo hospital were answered. 

On Wednesday the NAACP and Vidant Health reached an agreement and Thursday afternoon, in a joint statement, they announced the terms.

"I definitely think that the prayers that have been coming from everywhere have helped us,” said Adam O'Neal, Belhaven mayor. “People have stayed focus on our issue but we still have a lot of hoops to jump through.”

Over the next three months, Vidant Health will work with the community to help them establish a representative community-based board. The board is expected to take full operating control of the hospital by the end of the extension, July 1st. 

Those who live in the community are reacting to the news. They say the hospitals presence means better access to healthcare and faster response times.

"We had to go to Beaufort and the wait times is almost double or triple what you would have here," one resident said.

At a March 26 prayer vigil in front of the hospital (see video below), Jessica Rogers announced that she will be organizing a prayer vigil every night leading up to and including the scheduled closing of Vidant Pungo Hospital on April 1.  Now that a resolution has been reached, the prayer vigils will take place weekly each Thursday.  

CLICK for 1st Belhaven hospital vlogNo-Flag-Hospital-sm.jpg

As the sun came up on day 2 of the Justice Department's mediation between Vidant Health and the North Carolina NAACP, there were no flags flying above Vidant Pungo Hospital. The hospital had been built in 1948, and run by the Belhaven, NC community until it was purchased by Vidant Health two years ago and scheduled for closing on April 1, 2014.

A few days earlier, US Department of Justice had responded to a federal complaint filed by the North Carolina NAACP under Title 6 of the Civil Rights Act, offering mediation as a first step toward resolving the dispute. Both Vidant Health and the NC NAACP had accepted. And then the flags came down.

To this point, our cameras have never entered the hospital. But we have heard reports from employees that equipment is being removed and all are being told by Vidant Health that the hospital will close on April 1. I had first noticed that the American flag, and the North Carolina flag had been removed on the eve of the Office of Civil Rights mediation, day 1.

Flags are, of course, symbols, and I wondered what the intended message could be in removing them hours before the Justice Department-hosted mediation was to begin. Would Vidant be entering mediation in good faith?  

Jessica-Rogers-Better-Still-sm.jpgPerhaps with similar questions in mind, a concerned citizen named Jessica Rogers has called for a prayer vigil in front of the hospital even as mediation continues. She posted this to Facebook on the evening of March 24:

Please share all over BEAUFORT county: There will be a candlelight prayer vigil in front of Pungo District Hospital aka Vidant Pungo Hospital tomorrow night, 3/25/2014 at 7pm on the pier. Asking for all to come out and support the hospital in the midnight hour. We know that prayer changes things, we have come too far to turn back now. 

Just as Pharaoh's heart was changed so shall the people of Vidant hear our pleas to save the hospital. Its needed and necessary. Think of your loved ones and the future of the community as a whole. The economy here has already suffered through natural disasters and having to bounce back slowly. How much more will it be affected if the hospital is gone. How much more damage can a man made disaster cause for the town. 

Its not about the dollars its about lives. Join me tomorrow night to show Vidant there is power in numbers and in prayer. God bless you all. 

Thank you.

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Chief Murphy Recognized by President Obama for Act of Racial Reconciliation

One of the great honors on our 18-month (thus far) Story of America journey was meeting Police Chief Kevin Murphy of Montgomery, AL. Recently at the White House, President Obama recognized and thanked Chief Murphy for an act of reconciliation that we documented in the video above.

The exchange too place at the St. Patrick’s Day reception (Murphy is Irish American), when President Obama gave Murphy a personal “thank you” for his continued efforts to improve the relationship between law officers and communities of color.

Rebecca Burylo of The Montgomery Advertiser reports:

“The president had heard of my gesture and told me that I was a good man, that I did a good thing,” Murphy said. “I was very humbled by that. I never thought that the president of the United States would have known about the gesture and that really touched me.”

The relationship between Lewis and Murphy is a testament to the chief’s mission of reconciliation.

“Congressman Lewis is a great man. He is just so humble and a genuine gentleman, but a tough guy,” Murphy said. “Who would have known 50 years ago that this young man then would become a United States congressman?

“He’s one of the biggest heroes we have today,” Murphy added.

Since becoming police chief three years ago, Murphy has made it his mission to change the country’s negative perception of Montgomery and the South because of its history of slavery and segregation.

It is a history that should be taught and remembered, but never repeated, Murphy said. [MORE]

Augustine Carter, 85, fights to protect her right to vote

Augustine Carter, an 85-year-old voter in Richmond, tells her story of the trouble she went through to vote in 2012. Born in 1928, she never had a birth certificate and she never got a driver's license because she decided years ago that driving wasn't for her. Her baptism certificate was sufficient for all identification purposes until the 2012 election. She had to go through a Kafkaesque bureaucracy including being told by someone at the Motor Vehicle Administration that she couldn't prove that she was not a terrorist.

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I feel politically stranded

IMG_20140223_062616.jpgI grew up in rural southeastern Indiana. All in all, it was a good place to grow up. I got to spend my time camping, hunting, fishing, and playing in the woods. I did grow up with parents who never made a ton of money, but I was happy enough when left alone. 

Both my parents passed away when I was young. Mostly due to self-inflicted alcohol and drug abuses. I subsequently moved in with my aunt (my mom's sister) early in high school. She looked after me and made sure I completed high school and continues to look after me to this day. She didn't have a lot of money either, but made sure to encourage me to go to college.

I studied at Northern Kentucky University double-majoring in political science and international studies. I met my now wife my last year and have been with her for nearly seven years.

From there, I went on to law school at Northern Kentucky University Chase College of Law. I opted to work full-time during the days at a law firm while spending my evenings in class to cut down on student loans.

I now spend my time looking after my pregnant wife (due any week) and working as a personal injury attorney to pay the bills including student loans. All in all, it is a pretty decent life for someone who came out of some pretty difficult personal situations when younger. 

In the current state of politics, I find myself without a party or real representation. I feel stranded. I find myself being very fiscally conservative, while being socially very liberal. I am at odds with both major parties. 

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