Voter suppression in communities of color -- we have an opportunity to help make a difference.
By Royce Truex, Church & Society
16.6 million possible voters in the 2020 election are inactive or unregistered and from a community of color.
Learning how we might participate in changing that state of affairs, on February 8, our congregation hosted in Duncan Hall and cosponsored with SURJ, League of Women Voters, Indivisible Sausalito, Democracy Action, and Sister District Marin a fundraiser for Reclaim Our Vote, a program of Center For Common Ground, based in Virginia. Andrea Miller, founder of the organization gave an informative and rousing talk to the 125 guests that filled Duncan Hall. Through sale of tickets and bidding at an auction, over $20,000 was raised!
Reclaim Our Vote Campaign was officially launched in 2018 but since late 2017, the nonpartisan campaign has reached out to nearly a million voters of color in states like Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, Texas and Mississippi—states with a long history of voter suppression. In 2020 the target states are North Carolina, Texas, Arizona, Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. In each of these states, from over 20% to nearly 38% of eligible voters are from communities of color and from 23% to 38% of all eligible voters are unregistered, not all, but the majority from communities of color. Nationwide there are 16.6 million community of color voters that are inactive or unregistered for the 2020 elections.
The common tactics used to suppress voters are inconvenient location and/or changing location of polls without adequate notification, deregistration without notification for not voting, strict photo ID requirements, intimidation at the polls, and others. Not surprisingly, many more persons of color are purged or intimidated than white.
The tools used by Reclaim Our Vote to counteract these tactics include writing postcards to encourage and instruct voters, phone banks for more direct information and encouragement, GOTV billboards in key rural areas, social media messaging, personal canvassing, giving rides to the polls on election day and a process called geofencing in which a given area, usually a college campus or a mega church is saturated with social media messages that can be concentrated to that area.
Last year Reclaim Our Vote sent 347,000 postcards and 114,000 text messages as well as making 90,000 phone calls, plus giving rides and doing the other countermeasures. As a result, in a year of legislative elections, nearly 40% of voters cast ballots, up from 29% in the General Assembly elections of 2015. A much bigger campaign with many more focused messages being delivered is planned for 2020.
On February 9th, the day after this event, 18 people expressed interest in participating in this campaign. Some of our members have already been writing postcards, but Lisa Della Valle will be leading our efforts starting right after Easter. There will be plenty of announcements and information available for anyone who is interested in being a part of this very important work.