Central Valley Progressive PAC – January 2019

Voter Suppression in Fresno

By Mike Rhodes

At a recent Central Valley Partnership meeting, D’Aungillique Jackson, a member of the NAACP at Fresno State, told the group that 25,000 students on campus do not have a polling place at the university. This is a huge problem that is making it more difficult for young people, who are likely to be more socially and politically liberal/ progressive, to vote.

Older White people in north Fresno always turn out in large numbers to vote. Making the voting process more accessible to our youth, by having polling places on campus, would give young people a voice and a vote in our democratic system. This problem was brought to the attention of Fresno County Registrar of Voters Brandi Orth and, according to Jackson, she did nothing.

If thousands of voters are being disenfranchised at Fresno State, what else is going on?

You probably heard about the elimination of the polling place at the Unitarian Universalist church in November because of a sign they have out front saying “Black Lives Matter.” Orth, a Republican, said she moved the polling place after receiving complaints.

Brandi Orth, the Republican Fresno County Clerk/Registrar of Voters, shut down the polling spot at the Unitarian Universalist church because she did not like this sign.

Where was the new polling place located? It was moved to the Cross City evangelical Christian mega church a couple of blocks away. Apparently, it is all right to force Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, agnostics and atheists to walk by three huge crosses, but it is not OK to have voters go by a sign affirming the worth and dignity of African Americans.

Jeni-Ann Kren, who lives in the area, is the president of the Clovis Democratic Club and a member of the CVPPAC. She says that “a few years ago, 2008, the polling place was at the Cross City church, which was called Northside at the time.

The polling location was moved to the Cross City evangelical Christian mega church so voters would not have to go by a sign affirming the worth and dignity of African Americans.

“To get to the polling place, there was a line that snaked past display tables of their programs and religious merchandise for sale. The pastor walked up
and down the line, shaking hands and welcoming voters to his church.

“My first act of activism (since the 1970s) was to call the county clerk’s office and register a strong complaint. The polling place was moved to the gym two years later, and away from the church after that. I am sorry to hear that it is back at that church.”

On any given election day there are about 3,000 inmates at the Fresno
County Jail that can’t get out to vote. Two-thirds of them are awaiting trial and have not been convicted of a crime. Orth seems to be following the direction of other Republican strategists who believe their only path to victory is by suppressing the vote.

You don’t have to live in Georgia or North Dakota to see what the Republicans are willing to do to win an election. We have plenty of evidence of that right here in Fresno.

If you have had enough of the dirty tricks of the Republicans, we urge you to join the CVPPAC— it is time to stand up and start fighting back. You can join by going to our Web site at www.cvppac. org


Mike Rhodes is a journalist, was editor of the Community Alliance from 1998 to 2014 and is the author of Dispatches from the War Zone (which is a
book about the homeless in Fresno). Contact him at mikerhodes@comcast.net.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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