Educate, Organize and Mobilize: Last week the North Carolina Alliance of Black Elected Officials (The Alliance) presented a panel discussion on the state of voter suppression in North Carolina. The Alliance and its supporters is an audience critical to the success of the Campaign to Defeat Voter Suppression. I was privileged to have had the opportunity to design the presentation, select the panelist and to serve as a panelist. Our presentation was well attended and probably the majority in attendance was Black Elected Officials. Judging by the evaluations and responses, I think that the presentation was a great success on at least two different fronts. Firstly, the panelist and audience were able to define our voter suppression problems and challenges in an open forum with people that are quite familiar with the issues. Secondly, we were able to offer and receive ideas on a way forward, again, with people that are community and political leaders and familiar with community dynamics and mobilization.
Although our panelist did not do a formal debrief, I’ve requested each participant to tell us what they liked and didn’t like about our presentation. I also asked them to tell us what they would do differently the next time. This week I’ll report on the assessments of two presenters and myself. As we’re addressing voter suppression on an ongoing basis, I’ll continue to update you with the reflections of other presenters and with audience responses.
According to presenter Renee Price, Commissioner of the Orange County Board of County Commissioners: “Elected officials know the importance of voting; voting is how we were elected to the offices we hold. For this reason, it is incumbent upon us, the elected officials, to take some responsibility in getting people to the polls. Having been on the campaign trail, we have experiences that we can share, and volunteers in the community have knowledge that they can share with us. We have so much to gain in this effort to defeat voter suppression and actively protect and promote our right to vote through a cross-pollination of ideas and insights.”
Bob Hall, Executive Director of Democracy North Carolina offered his reflections on our presentation. He said “I felt like we had a very good discussion and presentation. No doubt the interaction with the audience could have been longer, but… . He also said “I thought you did a great job of setting the tone and focus for the meeting with a frank description of the problem and what needs to get done. That was crucial, to be said and for you to be one who said it. One way we move to the next level in workshops/forums is to have people fill out a commitment form or otherwise agree to take certain actions in the next period of months. I don’t know how a group of elected leaders would appreciation that exercise, but somehow getting the participants in (the) audience to talk about actions they will take would be something to do if this is continued.”
My most enlightening realization came after I reflected on a question that I’ve been asking since August, 2013. My question has always been quite simple. Does your organization have an action plan to defeat voter suppression? If the answer is yes, I ask what it is and if I could have a copy? My revelation was that whatever individuals and organizations were doing in the political arena was their plan to defeat voter suppression. My suggestion is for organizations to add “campaign to defeat voter suppression” to the name of their political activity.
A casual look at the preparations being taken for the May Primaries and November General Elections reveals the standard operation procedure of traditional voter registration drives that will lead to Get Out The Vote (GOTV) campaigns in the fall. Very little about what is going on speaks to the urgency needed for a stronger and more aggressive response to voter suppression and the Voter Suppression Act of 2013.
The activity name should be provocative and speak to the motives, objectives or raison d’être of the many activities that are going on to address voter suppression. However, for all intent and purpose, current political activity appears to be business as usual in this political cycle.
Too the extent possible, the names we use to describe political initiatives going forward in this political season should signal that this is not business as usual and that a part of their activities are designed to address voter suppression. This will enable the individuals and organizations involved to better engage our communities in the education, organization and mobilization to defeat voter suppression. A provocative name will help create an environment that declares that voter ID is just a part of a much more dangerous, immoral scheme designed to prevent Blacks and other demographics from voting. The name will signal that voters need to really know what voter suppression is so that they will know it when they see it and need to join the fight against.
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Peter Grear, Esq. writes for Greater Diversity News with a primary focus on voter suppression. To join the campaign to defeat voter suppression please “Like” and follow us at www.facebook.com/votersuppression, “Share” our articles, and your ideas and comments on Facebook or at our website www.GreaterDiversity.com. Also, to promote the campaign to defeat voter suppression, please ask all of your Facebook “Friends” to follow the above-referenced recommendations. Additionally, please follow us on Twitter at @yourrighttovote: (https://twitter.com/yourrighttovote)