Exum, panelists to discuss voting

Annual Black History Month Town Hall to tackle Voting Rights Act

With the Colorado primary just weeks away and a major November election rapidly approaching, State Rep. Tony Exum has a message for his district.

“I can give them numbers in how … we are the lowest voting block of the 65 districts in the entire state,” the Colorado Springs Democrat said Monday. “Your vote does count. It does matter.”

And that’s part of the reason that Exum, who is expected to run for another term in his 17th district seat, will tackle voting and its historical significance Saturday during his fourth Black History Month Town Hall Meeting. The event is free and open to the public.

It is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. to noon at the Sand Creek Library, 1821 S. Academy Blvd., and is slated to include a diverse panel of thought leaders from throughout Colorado Springs. Panel members are:

  • George Houston, the global markets design delivery manager for the Center for Creative Leadership, former Colorado Springs School District 11 principal, published researcher and 25-plus year leader in community service. His work has included time with the Center for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, the Ronald McDonald House, Court Appointed Special Advocates and Atlas Preparatory School, among others.
  • Rochelle T. Dickey-Mason, senior associate dean of students at Colorado College. Dickey-Mason has been recognized for her enduring support of civil rights and social justice. She also received the CC Student Mentor Award for five years and received three awards from the NAACP, the Community Education Award, Freedom Fund Award and advising awards from Blue Key and Mortar Board National Honor Societies.
  • Philip Oke-Thomas, a senior at University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, is pursuing a degree in political science with a minor in women and ethic studies. He is vice president of the Student Government Association and a Legislative intern with Exum’s office.
  • La’Nye Vaughn, a senior at Sierra High School, student activist and first-time voter.

    Tony Exum

“[People] need to hear input on why it’s important to vote. I want them to look at the entire [process]; that you can make a difference on who gets elected and you can hold them accountable.”
State Rep. Tony Exum

The panelists have been asked, Exum said, to think about the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, which tore down legal barriers at the state and local level that prevented African-Americans from exercising their constitutional right to vote, and about Shelby County vs. Holder, a 2013 Supreme Court decision that essentially reversed two provisions of that mid-century law.

In that June 2013 ruling, the court split, 5-4, over whether two provisions in the Voting Rights Act that required a state or local government to get a federal blessing before changing their voting laws or practices, was antiquated and unconstitutional. That has led some critics to say the ruling made it easier for state officials to throw up barriers against full voter participation, particularly for minority citizens.

Exum said he is hopeful that the diverse voices of his panel, as well as the power of the topic, will inspire audience members to engage with and participate in the electoral system.

“People fought, they died, they demonstrated, they marched to give you the right to vote,” the representative said. “Now you don’t have to leave the comforts of your home. You can take your time and really look at the candidates and look at the issues.

“[People] need to hear input on why it’s important to vote,” Exum continued. “I want them to look at the entire [process]; that you can make a difference on who gets elected and you can hold them accountable.”

regan.foster@southeastexpress.org

Check it out
Who: State Rep Tony Exum and a group of distinguished panelists
What: Black History Month Town Hall on voting and the Voting Rights Act of 1965
When: 10:30 a.m. to noon
Where: Sand Creek Library, 1821 S. Academy Blvd.

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