What is taking place in Georgia is nothing more than an attempt to silence the political power and the voice of Black voters. We haven’t seen calculated motives like this since the oppressive and racist tactics of the Jim Crow era.
With less than three weeks before an election which could produce the first African-American female governor in our nation’s history, we are seeing this type of racially motivated voter suppression scheme attempted by a state official whose candidacy for the governorship displays an irremediable conflict of interest.
Last week, civil rights groups, including the Georgia NAACP, filed a joint lawsuit against Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s ongoing failure to process tens of thousands of voter registration applications. It is in this role that Kemp oversees Georgia’s elections, and as reported by the Associated Press, more than 53,000 voter applications have been put on hold under the controversial “exact match” verification policy. Over two-thirds of those affected are African-American. This is no coincidence.
In August, the NAACP Georgia State Conference successfully fought against the closing of seven of nine polling places in the nearly all-Black area of Randolph County. That same month, the state branch also called for Kemp to step down from office due to possible ethical and conflict of interest issues exposed in a report that found he utilized taxpayer monies to pay for a mobile app to promote his gubernatorial campaign.
Our fight in Georgia, and other battleground states, shows that we will no longer allow anyone to talk down to us and disrespect our communities. This is not an election we can afford to sit out. The organizing being done this year is about more than a single election. It is about building long-term empowerment and enhancing the political voice and influence of our communities. It is about taking the next five years to make voters of color a potent political force that cannot be ignored or taken for granted.
Contrary to what has been said by political entities in the state, this is not a political stunt to get attention. This is an attempt to shed light on the underhanded tactics put in place to create barriers for Black voters to get to the polls. Suppressing people of color from voting and from accessing their right to vote is the real political stunt – one that creates yet another stain on our system of democracy.
The Black community can only improve its political and economic situation in America by becoming a potent political force with the power to shift the political landscape in critical states across the country. In order to do so, the NAACP unveiled a new civic engagement strategy, now underway for several months, to target low and moderate propensity voters, increase and maximize the Black vote, and effectively engage a population that will ultimately have the power to influence the midterms and elections to come.
The NAACP worked with GSSA, LLC, a Colorado data analytics group and partner in the initiative, to map out metrics regarding the power of the Black community to impact the elections and to identify parity in registration and turnout of Black voters in battleground states, including Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. By launching this campaign, the NAACP aims to shape a culture of voting and to reach people who don’t vote regularly, especially those who believe their vote doesn’t matter. When we become an organized, reliable voting bloc, we will be a force that cannot be ignored. With an election as important as this, we cannot just target those who we know will vote but also those who are difficult to reach as well.
As we continue to closely monitor the situation in Georgia, we will be steadfast in our nationwide fight to ensure that ALL Americans have the opportunity to vote next month. If we don’t vote, the issues that directly impact the Black community don’t matter. This election is about respecting our communities, respecting our leaders and organizations, and respecting the Black vote. To effectuate our political capital, we must vote! Our lives depend on it.
Derrick Johnson is the President and CEO of the NAACP. Follow him on Twitter at @DerrickNAACP or @NAACP. Pledge to vote by Texting NAACP to 40649.