Blog of Rights

Michael O.

African Days and Nights

By Michael O. Allen, ACLU at 2:39pm
voting rights

As a child in Africa, the idea of voting--not the concept of voting as a valued, cherished right--the very idea of voting was alien to me. I was born in Ghana and I grew up in Nigeria and I just was not brought up with the idea that you could pick your leaders by voting for them.

My African days and nights were ruled by the certainty that the government you went to bed with could be gone by dawn, often violently. Ghana had its first military coup in 1966, when I was four years old. Nigeria, too, had its first one that year. By the time I arrived in there, it was in the throes of the Biafran civil war. Nigeria, especially, became a nation of often violent government changes.

I bring up this history now because I just completed--with colleagues here at the American Civil Liberties Union--work on Voter Empowerment Cards for 40 states to educate people on voting in the November 4 election.

In fact, in my adult pursuits and endeavors, I have always been engaged in monitoring people exercising (or choosing not to exercise) their voting rights, most of that time as a journalist.

I first became aware of how important the franchise was in the early 1980s when Harold Washington was elected Chicago's first black mayor. I had arrived in Chicago in 1979 and it was to be my home for many years. The city's black population knew to expect very little in the way of city services. Many of the stresses of urban life, especially violent crime and extreme poverty took root in black neighborhoods and would not let go.

South Carolina's "Loser" Voting Law

By Michael O. Allen, ACLU at 5:25pm

Electoral fusion allows smaller parties to pool their votes. For the minor parties, endorsing a major candidate ensures its survival and allows it to influence a candidate’s platform. For candidates, it allows them to sometimes get crucial…

A Tsunami of Voting Problems on November 4?

By Michael O. Allen, ACLU at 5:27pm

The headlines were enough to make a person shudder.

"Influx of Voters Expected to Test New Technology" said The New York Times.

USA Today weighed in with a double-barreled output, "Study: Poor ballot designs still affect…

Revolution: From Prisoner to the World's Moral Authority

By Michael O. Allen, ACLU at 10:42am

Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s world-famous political prisoner who became his nation’s first democratically elected president, turns 90 years old this summer.

Fourteen years ago, under a full Autumn moon, about two poignant minutes…

Freedom's Charter

By Michael O. Allen, ACLU at 3:14pm
Some call the Magna Carta democracy's birth certificate. On June 15, 1215, at Runnymede, English barons forced King John to agree to terms that came to make up the Magna Carta. The Magna Carta sounded a clarion call for a new age: There will be legal…

Safe From Unlawful Searches and Seizures?

By Michael O. Allen, ACLU at 3:56pm
Today the U.S. Supreme Court heard Virginia v. Moore, a Fourth Amendment case that's been wending through the judicial system for nearly five years. The petitioner, David Lee Moore, happened to be driving by police officers Anthony and McAndrew…

Media Momentum

By Michael O. Allen, ACLU at 12:29pm
Until recently, there were surprisingly few news stories written to explain how the flawed provisions of the Patriot Act affect our lives. What's unsurprising - and heartening -- is that once people understand these provisions, they generally oppose them…
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