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)
Millions 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 fines, damages owed to victims, or court costs. In the Old Dominion, the racial disparities are...

That Sinking Feeling: The Politics of Sea Level Rise and Miami's Building Boom

Why is Miami—America’s most vulnerable metropolis to sea-level rise—having yet another beachfront development boom?

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky/file
Last year, American Prospect writing fellow Nathalie Baptiste investigated Miami’s meteoric development, questionable federal flood insurance decision-making, and, above all, the epic climate-change denial that set the stage for the impending catastrophe that Hurricane Irma will likely soon unleash on the Magic City. As Harold Wanless, a University of Miami geological sciences professor, warned back then, “Don’t let anybody tell you it’ll be OK.” This article originally appeared in the Winter 2016 issue of The American Prospect magazine . Subscribe here . Even from thousands of feet in the air, it’s obvious that Miami is disturbingly low-lying. Luxury sky-high buildings, bridges, and cranes tower over swampy marshlands and the slowly rising sea. The latest development has resulted in a sprawling metropolis on sinking land. Rising seas combine with porous limestone—which is like Swiss cheese—to allow saltwater to infiltrate under the land...

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
After 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’s stature can prove decisive. It is a political truism that given the choice between a Democrat or a Republican candidate for president, black voters invariably vote blue. African Americans have been reliable Democrats since the early 20th...

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)
On 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 unintended. A 2015 Guttmacher Institute brief found that the rate of unintended pregnancies is linked to economic status: Nearly 14 percent of poor and low-income women aged 15 to 44 (137 out...

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