As part of the YWCA’s third annual Stand Against Racism program in April, The Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Asheville & Buncombe County will host a public forum on “Race & the Ballot Box” to discuss progress and setbacks in minority access to the ballot box during the past half century—and the possibility that access will be compromised by new “Voter ID” laws and recent redistricting in North Carolina. The forum, which is nonpartisan, free, and open to the public, will take place from 7-9 p.m. on Monday, April 30 at Westwood Baptist Church at 150 Westwood Place in West Asheville.
The panel will be comprised of John Hayes, chairman of the NAACP, Asheville Branch, and a veteran of voter registration drives; Rev. Spencer Hardaway, pastor of Rock Hill Baptist Church and an active member of the U.S. Army Reserves; Nelda Holder, a board member of the League of Women Voters and former opinion editor of the Mountain Xpress newspaper; Urban News publisher Johnnie Grant, who in the 1990s was one of the first state-certified elections administrators in North Carolina; and Dr. George Peery, retired professor of political science from Mars Hill College. The panel will be moderated by Kyle Simmons, a longtime member of the MLK Association’s Prayer Breakfast planning committee.
The forum will review recent and upcoming moves in the NC Legislature that have changed the duration and locations of early voting options around the state; created new voting districts for a variety of offices that will cause some precincts in Buncombe County to have as many as two dozen different ballots; and could cause many older, low-income, and minority voters who lack state-issued voter identity cards and cannot afford to pay for them to find their ballot access more restricted or difficult to retain.
Cosponsors of the event, in addition to the YWCA Stand Against Racism, are the League of Women Voters of Asheville & Buncombe County; the Urban News; and Westwood Baptist Church.