Among the crew was the legislative director of the National Iranian American Council, a film producer and entrepreneur, a George Mason student who just returned to school after working her butt off for Obama and Mike Signer, candidate for Lt. Gov of Virginia.
I wasn't there to vet Mike as a candidate, just to enjoy a few caipirinhas. However, over the course of a few hours, I got a very positive impression from him and vowed to follow up. For an aspiring politician, he was much more earnest and genuine than I expected. I think my gut was right.
Mike has been doing a series of short "coffee break" YouTube videos to reach out to voters and propose solutions to some of Virginia's problems. The one below on voter disenfranchisement struck a nerve.
If you told me there was man seeking statewide office in Virginia who proactively raised the systemic disenfranchisement of African-Americans as an issue worth addressing, I would have called you crazy or a liar, but that's just what Mike Signer did. I have no idea what his chances are, but I'm doing what I can to increase awareness of this candidate because someone who does something like this is worth a second, third and fourth look. Please tell your VA friends and relatives about him.
Here's more background on that Constitutional Convention from the ACLU of VA
Quotes from the Convention concerning the disenfranchisement of African-Americans are as shocking to 21 st century sensibilities as they are abundant. One, from Carter Glass, the Convention’s de facto leader, sums up the general purpose of the Convention. Reacting to concerns that some of the proposed provisions might be struck down by federal courts as racially discriminatory, Glass said:
Discrimination! Why that is exactly what we propose; that exactly, is why this Convention was elected -- to discriminate to the very extremity of permissible action under the limitations of the Federal Constitution with the view to the elimination of every [N]egro who can be gotten rid of, legally, without materially impairing the strength of the white electorate.
According to this paper in the excerpt from the Georgetown Law Journal VA led the way in racially-motiviated felon disenfranchisement and inspired other states like Alabama:
In Hunter v. Underwood, Justice Rehnquist, writing for a unanimous Court, invalidated Alabama's felon disenfranchisement provision because it was aimed at African-Americans: "[T]he Alabama Constitutional Convention of 1901 was part of a movement that swept the post- Reconstruction South to disenfranchise blacks." As part of this movement, "Virginia's law adding petty larceny to the list of disqualifications was imitated because of its effect on the Negro vote." An analysis of the factors inducing states to impose or eliminate felon disenfranchisement provisions concluded that "[s]tates with greater nonwhite prison populations have been more likely to ban convicted felons from voting than states with proportionally fewer non-whites in the criminal justice system." As of 2003, Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, and Virginia were the only states disenfranchising all felons for life.