My name is Greg Moore. I have been a community activist since my late high school years when as a student leader I helped the City of Cleveland get through a very difficult transformation when busing was order to desegregate the Cleveland Public School system in 1977. Through building a multi-racial coalition of students, parents and teachers (no easy feat in that day and age) we were able to avoid much of the violence and controversy that occurred in Boston and other northern cities where court ordered busing was imposed by a federal judge. I have been a community activists ever since.
I am motivated by a strong desire to use my skills and talents to help empower people who are less fortunately and struggling whether economically, socially or politically. I am also motivated by my ability to use key positions I have obtained to advance social justice through political empowerment. I have a strong connection to people and communities that have been politically and economically disenfranchised. My work in many political and civil rights organizations has allowed me to use every job opportunity to speak to the issues and needs of the most vulnerable people.
In every job I have held I have found a way to incorporate empowering African Americans, young people, low income and other underserved communities—whether utilizing political organizations like a national party or Congressional office or a non-profit organization. And now, I am encouraged to write my story - Democracy’s Broken Promise, to further move the community empowerment agenda forward.
Democracy’s Broken Promise is a non-fiction book that movingly tells the story of a contemporary voting rights battle from the 1980s and early 90’s that places in context the modern day battles against voter suppression laws that are still underway across the county. Many of the key players who both advanced and fought the battle to reform the nation’s voter registration laws are still on the scene fighting today. Many have departed having left their indelible mark on the effort to expand our nation’s democracy.
Democracy Broken Promise tells a story of that struggle from the perspective of an everyday young unassuming African American man from Cleveland in the 1980’s, who became involved within this movement and inadvertently became an integral part of the success of the ultimate legislative victory. It is only one perspective from among the scores that might exist from other advocates who also contributed to this extensive legislative battle. This is just one story from one perspective. But more importantly it is a story that has been largely untold until now.
The book is divided into two sections; as a backgrounder to set the effort in context, it first briefly reviews and traces the history of the voting rights struggle from reconstruction through the 1960’s civil rights movement; highlighting stories about many of the courageous battles to expand the right to vote. It connects this nearly century long battle for the right to vote for African Americans from reconstruction through the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to the 26th Amendments granting 18 year old the right to vote in 1971.
It provides a context for the continuation of these voting rights battles that would unfold in the 1980’s through the Jesse Jackson for President Campaigns. Finally it connects the movement to the “electoral reform movement” of the early 90’s when the NVRA was finally passed into law after a 5 year legislative battle. This story helps sets the context for the battle against state sponsored voter suppression that continues through this very day. It also can serve as an important study for advocates working to help reauthorize the Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that was struck down in the landmark Shelby vs. Holder Supreme Court decision in June of 2013.
The second section of the book intersects these developments with this author’s own personal journey that traces my genesis as a student leader and later a voting rights activist. It is a personal account of how he helped lead the voter empowerment crusades during the Rainbow movement of the 1980’s that led into the voter registration and electoral reform movements of the 1990’s.
This little noted voting rights crusade unveiled a painful truth: that the nation’s archaic registration system seemed designed to limit rather than expand the right to vote for many segments of our society. The extensive legislative battle would also serve as the genesis of my now 3 decades long personal crusade to not only reform restrictive voting laws but to help develop ongoing civic engagement programs that would register and empower students, African Americans and other disadvantaged voters across the nation. It is a battle that goes on to this day.
Embedded within this personal narrative is a rare behind the scenes recounting of a 5 year legislative battle to pass the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, (NVRA), aka the “motor voter” bill, the legislation that set the country’s first national standards for voter registration. It would establish the nation’s first active federal role in utilizing government’s public agencies to registering of voters. It outlawed state and local purge laws that were removing millions of voters from the rolls for simply not voting. And it was the one piece of legislation whose provisions, registered more voters in its first 18 months than any legislation ever passed by the US Congress.
The NVRA expanded many of the protections and promises of the Voting Rights Act. In its first 10 years over 100 million voters were registered adding the largest number of new voters to the rolls in American History. In the first 20 years after its passage, between 1993 and 2013 NVRA would register over 141 million voters through all of its provisions.
Democracy’s Broken Promise is the story that bridges two legislative battles, while decades apart, into one ongoing struggle for the basic principle: one person, one vote and the fight to protect it. The book ends with a summary of the success of the NVRA in the first few years including an in-depth analysis of the impact in the first 20 years since its passage. The hard work to implement and carry out the new reforms and provisions of the NVRA after passage would become its own voter reform movement that continued well into the beginning of the 21st century. Its provisions would help swell voter registration rolls in key states that would lead to historic voter turnouts that led to the controversial 2000 and 2004 election debacles. It would also lay the groundwork for the historic mobilization in 2008 of African American and young voters that led to the election of Barack Obama as the nation’s first African American President.
Finally, Democracy’s Broken Promise is simply a personal narrative into the heart and soul of a fierce young student activist who expanded this advocacy into a broader crusade to expand the right to vote and lift up the voice of young people, African American and other disadvantaged Americans. It would be a movement that has become a lifelong journey and struggle to help fulfill our Democracy’s Broken Promise.