Winning a Dead Heat: Black Elected Officials Mobilize, Mobilize and Mobilizeby Peter Grear August 20, 2014 0 comments
By most polls the North Carolina race for the United States Senate is a dead heat. That being the case, victory in November will go to the political party that executes the best voter mobilization plan. Since August 2013, I’ve been monitoring and writing about the NC political landscape. I’ve also evaluated the response of the Black community to the Voter Suppression Act of 2013 (VSA). On August 8, a federal judge rejected pre-election legal challenges to the VSA and thereby created a November showdown between the Republican Tom Tillis’ advocates for voter suppression and the Democrat Kay Hagan’s opponents of voter suppression.
Throughout the past year, while writing about voter suppression I’ve paid special attention to community education, organization and mobilization. Come November, North Carolina will hold its first General Election with its voter suppression laws in effect.
Because Republican, Senate candidate Tom Tillis was the chief architect of the VSA and Democrat Senator Kay Hagan represents the party opposed to the VSA, the results of their campaigns will be viewed as the victory or defeat of voter suppression. I believe that the success or failure of the Hagan’s campaign will hinge on the success or failure of Black voters to mobilize and successfully navigate the voter suppression waters.
I think that the role of Black Elected Officials (BEO) between now and November will determine which candidate wins. BEOs have inherent attributes that have to be capitalized on to create the massive Black turnout needed in November. Because they’ve run campaigns before, they have constituents that they are able to mobilize and turnout voters, they have community relationship that they can use to mobilize and they have inherent credibility with people that have voted them into office. The greatest danger that I see is that no mobilization plan that I know of has been has been identified and universally embraced by our community leadership.
As I’ve been monitoring the voter suppression developments in North Carolina, I’ve been trying to envision what I thought a mobilization plan to Defeat Voter Suppression would look like. I’ve also tried to detail elements that I thought would be important to a successful plan. I don’t have a lot of confidence in the scatter shot suggestions I’ve made to date and until August 13, had not found any better suggestions that I could refer our readers to.
However, on August 13, the Wilmington Star News published an editorial that details the kind of suggested action plan that I couldn’t. I think it’s a suggested plan that should be embraced by elected officials and community leaders across North Carolina. (See Link No. 1 below).
Their suggestions include:
• Use voter registration drives to educate new and current voters about the law. Publicize the requirement in the communities most likely to be affected – low-income neighborhoods, senior citizen communities, and colleges and universities – and help voters register and obtain the appropriate photo identification, even if it means creating long lines in government offices.
• Raise money to help voters born out of state obtain documents, such as a birth certificate, needed to get a photo ID in time for the 2016 election in North Carolina. While the law provides for a free certified copy for voters born in North Carolina, the same does not apply to residents born elsewhere.
• Provide transportation for early voting and on Election Day, and enlist churches and other civic organizations to do the same. Help make sure voters get to their correct precincts. The law no longer counts the votes of people who go to the wrong precinct by mistake – a considerable possibility when election boards change precinct lines or move polling places.
• On Election Day and during the condensed early-voting period already in effect, document how long it takes for people to vote. When Florida cut early-voting hours, it created long lines at the polls and a huge public backlash. Likewise, some election boards in North Carolina have made changes that result in reduced parking or longer drives to the precincts, measures that can discourage voters.
• Encourage some people to vote by absentee ballot, where they will not have to supply a photo ID. All that is required to request one is a document, such as a utility bill or bank statement, showing the voter’s name and address. When the ballot is returned, the person will also need the signature of two witnesses.
• Work with political parties to have observers at all precincts. Document incidences of eligible voters being turned away, or intimidation by poll observers, who will be allowed to wander freely and challenge any voter.
Because I believe that the turnout of Black voters will determine the victory or defeat of voter suppression, I think it is imperative that BEOs embrace the suggestions of the Star News editorial and use them as a mobilization strategy from now until November. I think it is important for other community leaders to do likewise, but Black Elected Officials are uniquely suited to mobilize Black voters.
We need a voter participation rally.
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