First Voter Rights Forum: Insights

by November 12, 2015

Educate, Organize and Mobilize  –  Our first Voter Rights Forum was held on Saturday, November 7th in Fayetteville, NC. The forum was open and free to the public. I describe the forum as being very insightful and suggestive of a need for many more. The core issue of our forum was what were we going to do to win a statewide election in November 2016?   If we don’t win a key statewide election the priority issues of Black communities will be ignored in Raleigh.

For about 2½ hours we carried on a lively and informative discussion about voter apathy, education and voter suppression. The persons in attendance were community activist with different levels of involvement. Our aim was to inform community members and grassroots leaders about the changes in the voting rules and to discuss strategies for educating and mobilizing voters for the important 2016 elections.

Included in our audience were elected officials, concerned citizens as well as members of the NAACP and other community organizations. Represented on our panel of presenters were Bob Hall of Democracy NC, State Representative Rodney Moore, and Fayetteville NAACP President, Jimmy Buxton. I served as the moderator.

Several of our participants lamented the 14% voter turnout in Fayetteville’s November 3rd Election. The discussion touched on paltry turnouts on the campuses of Fayetteville State and North Carolina Central. It also touched on what appeared to be about a 20% turnout of school teachers. Some of these statistics haven’t been verified but the consensus was that if we as a community don’t address voter apathy, we’re going to suffer a monumental loss in the November 2016, General Election.

Several reports from November 3rd candidates pointed to voter suppression schemes and it was pointed out that county Boards of Election are being directed to purge inactive voters. This is also a voter suppression scheme. Our audience’s consensus was that Black voters should expect different and ongoing voter suppressions schemes to be carried out from now through the November 2016 General Elections.

The lack of adequate voter education was obvious from the fact that many of us in attendance didn’t fully understand basic political principles, practices and procedures necessary to protect our right to vote. One telling example of our need for effective voter education came from a candidate that was congratulated for winning an office when the candidate had only won the primary election. The voter didn’t vote in the General Election because the voter thought that the primary concluded the election.

There was also a general consensus that the NC NAACP was going to be the primary organization coordinating voter mobilization efforts and that committed support from individuals and other community organizations is mandatory if we’re going to have the massive mobilization needed to win in November 2016. The NAACP is doing outreach to the Black Press in an effort to indentify committed partners for our upcoming efforts.

The publications that are supporting our efforts are The Fayetteville Press, The County News, The Carolina Times, The Winston-Salem Chronicle, The Carolina Peacemaker and Greater Diversity News. Please look to these publications for ongoing coverage as this project continues to evolve and share your ideas on what we can do to improve the project and our coverage.

It would also be helpful if supporters of our efforts would subscribe to our publications. A subscription to participating publications would connect you to ongoing voter rights developments from now through our November 2016 General Elections.

On Sunday past, I was guest on the radio talk show of Democratic Leader, Representative Larry Hall. I was interviewed on our forum the day before. Since the interview I’ve received several requests to do other forums and to become a regular guest on his show. One thing that I mentioned during the interview was the fact that there were very few young people in attendance at our forum. Of course the fewer the young voter to participate in the election the more difficult it is for our community to win.

Prior to our forum I thought that our November success was only possible if our Black elected officials get aggressively involved in supporting a massive voter mobilization campaign. Our audience helped me to better understand the need for aggressive involvement of Black elected officials. Our discussion revolved around the fact that one voter suppression scheme packed Black voters into so-called “safe districts.” Safe districts are defined as districts where it is very, very difficult to unseat an incumbent legislator.

Because many Black elected officials are in safe districts, many don’t have to campaign for re-election and therefore are not aggressive in mobilizing their constituents to participate in the election at issue. These decreased mobilizations of constituents create a significant decrease in voter turnout and makes it much more difficult to elect candidates favored by Black voters.

Our first voter rights forum received very favorable reviews and calls for many, many more.

As we report, www.thethirdreconstruction.com is a blog. Our mission is to help build a non-racial, multi-ethnic network of organizations and individuals committed to political, economic, and social justice. Please register on our site and contribute to the development and teaching of the knowledge that is essential to empowering our communities.

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Peter Grear, Esq. writes for Greater Diversity News and www.thethirdreconstruction.com with a primary focus on political, social and economic justice.  To support our efforts, to unite our politics and economics, please “Like” and follow us at www.facebook.com/ThirdReconstruction. Please “Share” our articles and post your ideas and comments on Facebook or at our websites www.GreaterDiversity.com and www.thethirdreconstruction.com.  Finally, please ask all of your Facebook “Friends” to like and follow our pages. (November 12, 2015).

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