Vote: Our Lives Depend On It

There are only a few days before the 2018 midterm election — an election that has been described as one of the most important in recent history.

The NAACP has launched a database effort in six states to increase Black voter turnout in the 2018 midterm election. The states are Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and North Carolina. These states were chosen because they have substantial communities of color that could directly impact the midterms.

“This Demonstration Project is a precursor to a far deeper involvement to mobilize the African American community using modern technology and state of the art research in combination with our already established and unique rapport with the African American community,” NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson said in a statement.

With the theme: “Vote! Our Lives Depend On It!,” the NAACP is employing several tactics to reach voters. The association is specifically focusing on turning out infrequent Black voters said Jamal Watkins, NAACP national vice president of civic engagement.

Part of the organization's outreach has included incorporating some of the latest data analysis technology to reach targeted groups. For over a year, the NAACP has partnered with GSSA Inc., a Colorado law firm, to help analyze which minority voters had not been active in past midterm elections. The technology will test low propensity and moderate propensity Black voters in the six states.

“We’re utilizing new technology and applying it to old traditional ways of organizing,” said Malik Russell, NAACP director of communications.

The NAACP hopes to galvanize voters amidst the recent voter suppression attacks across the country including in Georgia where officials ordered senior citizens off a bus that was taking them to an early voting location to vote and 53,000 Georgia votes that are currently pending registration.

“We have seen that the hate-filled rhetoric of the administration has emboldened racists across the country,” the NAACP noted in a press release. “The policies implemented and proposed trample on our rights. And voter suppression tactics continue to intensify.”

North Carolina specifically holds a long history with voter suppression. In 2016, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the North Carolina legislature "enacted legislation that restricted voting and registration in five different ways, all of which disproportionately affected African Americans." Those restrictions, the panel noted, targeted “African Americans with almost surgical precision.”

“We the people of color remain the target of the second-most domestic terrorist attack in the history of this nation, the first being slavery,” said T. Anthony Spearman, NAACP North Carolina Conference president. “Make no mistake about it, voter suppression is terrorism.”

Census data shows Black voter turnout has declined in recent midterm elections. However, in North Carolina early voting turnout among African Americans for the midterm has increased this year, according to Democracy NC data.

The NAACP has partnered with more than 20 organizations representing the civil rights community, Black Greek letter organizations and faith institutions to close voter registration gaps and mobilize infrequent voters.

The Association’s get-out-the-vote efforts include door canvassing, public service announcements by trusted messengers such as Bishop T.D. Jakes and comedian Wanda Sykes and a robust media outreach via radio, digital, video and mobile.

Johnson said that everyone must work to get out the vote as if “their lives depended on it.”

“We did some polling and what was consistent across the country is that African Americans feel disrespected,” Johnson said. “Not only do they feel disrespected, but they see the reality of the political landscape. If you allow the outcome not to benefit our interest, our interest will devolve to something that’s reminiscent of 1940.”

For more information about voter registration, polling place inquiries and the upcoming election call 1-888-OUR-VOTE. Voters can also contact the National Voters Protection Coalition to report voter suppression tactics.

— Mariah Stewart

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