African American Mayors Association Hosts Voting Rights Summit at Howard University

Published on October 5, 2023

(Washington, DC) October 5, 2023 – The African American Mayors Association (AAMA), in partnership with Civic Nation and When We All Vote, hosted a voting rights summit on the campus of Howard University Monday to discuss voter suppression, the threat to voting rights nationally, and prepare the next generation to take advantage of its right to vote. The summit was part of National Voter Education Week, Oct 2-6 and AAMA’s goal to make sure voters understand the importance of going to the ballot box.

AAMA’s youngest member mayor, 19-year-old Mayor Jaylen Smith of Earle, AR, moderated the first panel with Murphy Jones, vice president of Howard University’s Student Government Association (SGA), in a discussion about the importance of young people voting in upcoming elections, but also their frustrations.

“I think we are tired of being the generation of broken promises,” said Jones. “We are constantly putting people in office, we are constantly electing people who say they are going to do this, this and this and then those things never get done.”

Jones said those frustrations have led to a new generation of young politicians who need to be recognized and acknowledged by the establishment.

“We are starting to see a group of lawmakers who are literally just getting older and not giving up any power,” said Jones. “It has to go back to scouting out younger talent and being ok with a lot of these older congressional lawmakers having to now step aside because it’s about to be time for an entire new generation of youngers who in my opinion are trying to be ready and get ready more to vote.”

AAMA CEO Phyllis Dickerson moderated the second panel with AAMA President and Mt. Vernon, NY Mayor Shawyn Patterson Howard and Former Missouri State Rep. Don Calloway. The panelists discussed threats to democracy, from the Jan 6 insurrection to recent Supreme Court rulings, and ways to increase access to voting for residents.

“There is a voter suppression agenda, and we know what that looks like, but as much as they are engaged in voter suppression, we should be engaged in voter protection, “said Calloway. “Any local mayor, any local elected official, should have a ballot box expansion agenda. What does it look like to make it easier for people to vote? We talk about registration and recruitment, but what do the levels of election procedure look like to make sure that people have easier access to the ballot box?”

Mayor Patterson- Howard told students that voter suppression and broad disinformation campaigns are rampant and asked them to be on heightened alert, even in the North.

“I am in New York and our voting rights are being attacked. We cannot be rocked asleep in the North. Above the Mason-Dixon line I think that we are very comfortable feeling as if votersuppression doesn’t happen, “said Patterson-Howard. “But a lot of what we see on television and that we hear, is also voter suppression, gerrymandering and voter ID laws and all of the different things that states have put out since 2000 are not the only types of voter suppression. Just the negative disinformation and misinformation eventually wears on your soul and your mind.”

As part of the summit, Civic Nation and When We All Vote hosted an all-day voter registration event on Howard’s campus to expand the number of student registered voters. More than 30 students were able to verify their voter registrations, 11 of which completed their voter registration.

View the full voting rights summit here.