Nathalie Baptiste

Nathalie Baptiste is a writing fellow at The American Prospect

Recent Articles

A Survey of Felon Voting Rights on Super Tuesday

Laws preventing ex-offenders from voting vary across the country, and disenfranchise millions.

(Photo: AP/Tamir Kalifa)
(Photo: AP/Tamir Kalifa) Voters wait in line on March 1, 2016, at the University of Texas at Austin. M illions of Americans will cast ballots on Super Tuesday and in November, but many people will have no choice but to stay away from the polls. State felony disenfranchisement laws in 48 states prevent nearly six million citizens from exercising their voting rights, according to a 2015 Sentencing Project policy brief. More than two million, or nearly 40 percent, of these disenfranchised people are African American. Felon voting laws vary widely, from allowing convicts to vote while in prison to permanent disenfranchisement. Several Super Tuesday states allow some ex-offenders to vote if they meet certain conditions. Although Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe relaxed some of the rules regarding restoring voting rights to ex-felons, people who served time for violent offenses must wait three years before applying to have their rights restored. They also must not have any outstanding...

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton Battle for Black Voters

The Vermont senator moves to close Clinton's substantial lead among African Americans. 

AP Photo/Richard Drew
AP Photo/Richard Drew The Reverend Al Sharpton walks with Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders and his wife Jane as they arrive for a breakfast meeting at Sylvia's Restaurant, Wednesday, February 10, 2016, in the Harlem neighborhood of New York. A fter his big win in New Hampshire, Bernie Sanders headed south to his native New York and Sylvia’s, the legendary Harlem soul food restaurant that often serves as the backdrop for presidential candidates looking for the photo-op that will resonate with African American voters. Sanders had breakfast with the Reverend Al Sharpton, the prominent, and, sometimes controversial, black civil-rights leader. Hillary Clinton has checked in with Sharpton, too. But the Sanders-Sharpton meet-up signals the Vermont senator’s awareness of one big obstacle on the road to the Democratic presidential nomination: African Americans do not know him well—and in Democratic primary contests that hinges on this vital block of voters, a candidate’...

House Speaker Shows Interest in Congressional Black Caucus Initiative to Fight Rural Poverty

After losing the White House in 2012, the Republican Party set out to do some “soul searching” to figure out how to make inroads with African-American voters who traditionally support Democrats. The following year, the Republican National Committee released a comprehensive “Growth and Opportunity Project” report, which included a detailed plan on how to reach blacks and other minority voters.

House Republicans are now taking a page out of that playbook to try to broaden the appeal of the GOP—and one of their most recent efforts involves black Democratic lawmakers.

House Speaker Paul Ryan signaled his interest in studying the “10-20-30” plan, an anti-poverty initiative that Democratic Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina and the Congressional Black Caucus have championed for years.

The 10-20-30 initiative is a now expired provision of the 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, which Clyburn originally proposed. The provision allocated 10 percent of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s $2.5 billion rural development budget in “persistent poverty counties”—where at least 20 percent of the population has been living below the poverty line for 30 years or more.

The ARRA initiative funded more than 4,000 projects in persistent poverty counties, including 108 water and environmental projects. Clyburn and the CBC want to restore the program and expand it to all federal agencies. According to Clyburn, the 10-20-30 plan does not add to the federal deficit—which appeals to Republican lawmakers—because it “allocates resources from funds already authorized or appropriated.”

Reviving this program could attract support from voters in both major parties.

The plan might also help repair the GOP’s tattered image in communities of color. According to a 2015 Pubic Policy Polling poll, support for Republicans among African Americans remains dismal.

Speaker Ryan’s interest in the anti-poverty initiative is a stark contrast to the racially coded comments he made in 2014, when he blamed poverty in urban minority communities on lazy men.

“We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work,” he said on a conservative radio show and “and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.”

Ryan’s evolving views on poverty may be linked to the fact that Republican congressional districts stand to gain from the 10-20-30 plan. According to Representative Clyburn, there are 492 counties in “persistent poverty” that would qualify for the funds under a new program: Republican lawmakers currently represent 372 of those counties or about 76 percent of them.

Oregon Over-the-Counter Birth Control Law a Win for All Women

Low-income women and women of color are more likely to face obstacles in getting birth control.

(Photo: AP/Charles Dharapak)
(Photo: AP/Charles Dharapak) Protesters in front of the Supreme Court rally on March 25, 2015, as the court heard oral arguments in the challenge to the ACA's requirement that employee health insurance include access to contraceptives. O n January 1, Oregon became the first state to allow women to obtain birth control without a prescription . Under the new law, women 18 years and older can go to their local pharmacies, fill out a questionnaire, and receive a year’s supply of oral contraceptives. It’s not a true “over the counter” transaction, but women no longer have to make a trip to a doctor’s office for a prescription. Reproductive-rights activists who have advocated over-the-counter birth control for decades say that the new Oregon law is a win for public health. “Birth control is critical to health-care services,” says Megan Donovan of the Washington, D.C.–based Center for Reproductive Rights, an international advocacy group. Over half of pregnancies in the United States are...