The “Every Vote Counts Forum,” moderated by Gary Flowers took place Saturday at Second Baptist Church.
Flowers is a Richmond native and a self-claimed voting expert. A University of Virginia graduate, he is currently the host of “The Gary Flowers Show” on radio station WREJ. He also serves as commissioner on the National Commission for Voter Justice and is a columnist for black newspapers across the country. His work dates back to the ‘90s when he served as vice president for Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition.
The intent behind this program was to enlighten people on the importance of voting and to educate people on the structure of the voting system in Virginia. Flowers started off by giving a history lesson dating back to 1870, when the 15th Amendment was passed and blacks received the right to vote. “Blacks had the privilege to vote, not the right to vote,” said Flowers. Many oppressive obstacles still prevent blacks from voting. Voting didn’t become completely fair and equal until the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965; which later became less effective after the Shelby County v. Holder case, which essentially made the Voting Rights Act ineffective and allows states to make changes to their systems without informing the voters.
Flowers not only gave the audience many historical facts such as those, but also uttered much rebellious rhetoric that was influenced by his mentor, Jesse Jackson. “America is a republic, not a democracy,” he said. “Who owns the voting machines?”. He challenged the governor on topics such as allowing felons to vote, automatic weapon control and restructuring the Electoral College. He believes felons should be able to vote and that the popular votes should elect the president, not the Electoral College.
“I’d suggest a civic voting class to inform the people on their local voting systems,” Flowers said. That was one of many suggestions on how to get the community more engaged. “Voting starts locally; we basically elect officials to represent us and our district.”
Flowers was rich in history and solutions, he offering answers to every issue in the voting system today. He vowed to do his role in always participating in this sort of events.