Following a spate of voter suppression laws that could prevent up to 5 million voters from heading to the voting booth for the upcoming presidential election on Nov. 6, the NAACP has launched a state-by-state campaign to register, educate, and turn out voters.
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The effort is the organization’s largest and most-comprehensive electoral effort in recent memory and seeks to significantly boost participation among minority, young, and elderly voters.
“This year we are working smarter than past years because the hurdles are so high, including strict laws that require voters to show identification,” NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous told NewsOne. “America hasn’t seen a coordinated attack on voting rights of this scale in over 100 years, but we are seeking to overcome voter suppression and we are doing that by starting earlier voter registration drives and making greater use of technology, which allows us to target unregistered voters.”
Jealous announced the campaign last week at Clark-Atlanta University at the national launch of the NAACP’s “This Is My Vote!” campaign, with the goal being to register scores of new voters and coordinate with state and college NAACP chapters, voter advocacy groups, and other civil rights organizations to ensure voters are able to cast ballots.
The singular program is slated to use mobile, online, and traditional recruiting methods to enlist volunteers for the registration and education drives. The strategy includes a national voter empowerment hotline (1-866-MY-VOTE-1), registration mailings to more than 1 million Black youth turning 18 by Election Day, and partnerships with national faith-based organizations.
Georgia is at the forefront of the group’s historic registration effort, because it is home to nearly 1 million unregistered voters of color. It is one of 12 states targeted for enhanced registration, education, and voting drives, which will include paid directors and staff for volunteer recruitment and training, direct mail and paid advertising. Besides Georgia, other states include Virginia, Ohio, New York, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, Missouri and California.
Jealous chose to make the announcement at Clark-Atlanta University, an HBCU, because they are also under attack. “Georgia is ground zero for voter suppression,” he said. “They require you to have ID, not just for voting but for registration. Some state legislatures have HBCUs in their crosshairs simply because of their political participation in the election. That’s why these are important landmarks.”
To be sure, the voting laws have cropped up since historic voter turnout in 2008 helped propel Barack Obama into the Oval Office to become the nation’s first Black president. In 2008, people were fired up, in part, by 1-866-MY-VOTE-1 to go to the polls. The NAACP also has plans with Radio One and TV One that allow people to call and request voter registration forms.
“With help of 1-866-MY-VOTE-1, and Radio One and TV One, we can get people fired up and to the polls in record numbers again this year,” Jealous said.
The NAACP’s response follows last year’s unprecedented enactment of new state voting laws and policies that may make it confusing for current and new voters. An analysis from New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice, says that the array of new laws is “making it harder to vote.” The analysis estimated that the new restrictive laws could block as many as 5 million voters and are likely to disproportionately affect African-American, Latino, low-income, elderly, and young voters.
“After record voter participation in the 2008 election, the systematic attempt to deter minority voters is disturbing and must be met with a concerted national effort,” Marvin Randolph, NAACP Sr. Vice President for Campaigns, said in the news release, noting that laws requiring voters to purchase photo IDs are reminiscent of the poll taxes of the Civil Rights Era used to disenfranchise voters. “While the threats of violence are no longer a part of voter suppression, the new laws have a similar effect – a severe sharp blow to the right of millions of minorities to cast their ballots.”
According to the NAACP, these restrictions include:
- Laws passed in Florida and Texas restricting voter registration drives
- Limitations in Florida, Maine, Ohio, and Wisconsin on when and where people can register to vote
- Laws in Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia that shorten the window for early voting
- Several states, including Florida and Mississippi, improperly purging voters from the registration rolls. (In Florida, a flawed purge program incorrectly flagged and purged 12,000 voters. More than 70 percent of those voters were African American or Latino.)
- New photo ID laws requiring government-issued voter identification that have passed in Texas, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Kansas, and Tennessee (21-million Americans don’t have photo ID, including 25 percent of African-Americans of voting age)
- Florida and Iowa reversing earlier decisions that made it easier for people with felony convictions to restore their voting rights. The decision affects hundreds of thousands of voters.
- At least 34 states introduced voter suppression legislation in 2011, with laws passing in 14 of those states and laws pending in eight.
For information about registration, visit www.thisismyvote.org.