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Equal Justice Now and Los Angeles Urban League Young Professional town hall discuss voting rights
By Faith Petrie Contributing Writer
Published July 30, 2020

EJNTownHall: (From upper left to right) Mir Harris, Tony Smith, Tai Savet, Judge Greg Mathis, Trell Thomas and Andrew Lewis during the virtual town hall meeting on Saturday. (Screen Shot)

 

Equal Justice Now and Los Angeles Urban League Young Professionals hosted an online meeting via Zoom Saturday morning highlighting voter registration and social justice.  

Retired judge and reality court show star Judge Greg Mathis moderated the more than two-hour long town hall that included speakers Andrew Lewis, Tai Savet, Trell Thomas, Mir Harris and Equal Justice Now Co-founder Tony Smith.  

Equal Justice Now (EJN) is a non-profit organization that focuses on opposing judicial biases, such as wrongful convictions and false arrests. According to the Los Angeles Urban League Young Professionals’ website, the group is “committed to social and economic empowerment through volunteerism.” 

The two groups came together to stress the significance of voting in not only the presidential election, but also local elections.   

“This year is a very important election for us,” Smith said towards the opening of the town hall. “We must all look at who we are going to vote for and the importance of the vote.”  

Media expert and activist, Thomas, emphasized the Black vote and how voter turnout impacts voting results. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that during the 2016 election, non-Hispanic Black voter turnout dropped 7 percent compared to the 2012 election.  

“We have to keep in mind that people of color are becoming the new majority and if we vote, we have the power to win,” Thomas said.  

Thomas has worked towards passing the HEROES Act, a bill that would fund polling stations and other areas of the upcoming election. The HEROES Act is a $3.6 billion coronavirus stimulus bill that would also affect student loan, housing assistance and small businesses. 

“It’s really important, our lives are depending on our votes,” Thomas said. 

Trell Thomas discusses voter’s rights on Saturday via Zoom. (Screen Shot)

During her opening remarks, Harris, social justice group Time’s Up’s first official hire, spoke about how voting can be used as an avenue to uplift minority group’s voices.   

“The importance of voting is now probably more prevalent than it’s ever been in our country’s history because we’re seeing a reckoning,” Harris said. “So, it is important that we do tap into all of the resources that we have to educate ourselves, to not just vote on the national level, but the local level [too]. 

The group emphasized voters to use outside resources and guides in order to educate themselves on topics featured on the ballots.  

“I have a political science degree and voting is still overwhelming to me, and I want everybody out there to know that that’s not by accident, it’s on purpose,” Harris said.  

She later commended public figures and celebrities such as Georgia rapper Offset for publicly showcasing himself voting on his social media account. In June, Offset posted a series of videos on Instagram encouraging others to go and cast their votes in the down-ballot primary.   

During the audience question portion of the meeting, panelists noted to check the deadlines to register to vote which can differ by state on websites such as vote.org.    

Lewis, Urban League Young Professionals’ Civil Engagement Political chair member, noted in closing that the best way to make change is to take-charge and “make a plan to vote.” He suggested arranging for a ride to the polling booths, researching ballot propositions and calling representatives to create a relationship and dialogue with them.  

Similarly, real estate agent and “Love and Listings” producer, Savet said that the best way to make a change is to take-charge and initiative. 

“We have to be proactive; everything that we do we have to think about it clearly and make the right decisions. Right now, we all have decisions and we have to act upon them,” Savet said. 

A full recording of the town hall is available on Equal Justice Now’s Facebook page.  

Categories: Local | News | Political
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