NAACP Civic Engagement

The U.S. Census:

Every 10 years, a national census is conducted, counting every person living in the United States. Census results are used by federal and local governments to distribute over $400 billion dollars every year in much needed aid to local educational, employment, housing, health care and veteran services. In addition, political representation in the House of Representatives and Congressional, state and local electoral district lines are also drawn using census data.

Today all of us face great challenges. For African Americans, the challenges are even steeper: Rising unemployment and targeted defunding of the public safety net, increasing hate crime and hate speech, deep and persistent divestment of urban areas where Black and Brown people are concentrated, and a foreclosure crisis that has literally changed the face of major cities throughout the US. Our communities are disproportionately impacted by a host of social and economic issues, and a correct census profile can help address these issues by ensuring that appropriate funding is being infused into underserved communities for government services, strong political representation and civil rights enforcement.

In the past, African-Americans, Hispanics and low income residents have been more likely to be undercounted than other people in the census. This means our communities are more likely to lose political representation and much needed funding in areas most in need.

Being counted helps our communities get more of the respect, resources, and representation we deserve. Thank you for all you hard work in making sure we counted every American. Your participation made a big difference.

Reapportionment and Redistricting

 Every ten years, following the U.S. Census, all local, state and federal election districts must be re-mapped to account for the shifts in the population. Some states will gain new seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, and some states will lose seats. State legislatures are largely responsible for conducting the redistricting of the U.S. House and state legislative districts as mandated by the U.S. Constitution.

During the past 40 years, federal and state laws governing the redistricting process have expanded dramatically. In many parts of the country, minority representatives were not elected until voting districts were drawn to fairly reflect the population.

We know the importance of equal representation in government. The men and women we send to the state house and the U.S. Capitol are our voice for crafting laws involving jobs, healthcare, taxes and education. It was our vote for members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate that made a difference recently when the U.S. Congress passed laws to address the financial crisis, the oil spill recovery, funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act and Equal Pay Act.

Remember– redistricting is largely in the hands of state representatives. Our power is our vote on who we will send to the state house to re-map the election districts and who we send to the U.S. Capitol to represent us in Congress. We worked hard to count every person this year during the 2010 Census. Now it’s time for the next step: vote in November.

Elections Protection

Election protection is one of the nation’s most comprehensive and effective non-partisan efforts that make sure that every vote cast is counted. In the 2010 midterm-elections, the NAACP will lead the way by partnering with law firms and coalition partners across the country to educate voters about their rights and to provide legal relief on Election Day. The NAACP Election Protection efforts will assist voters in 48 states and the District of Columbia. The NAACP and coalition partners will staff an election protection hotline (1-866-OUR-VOTE) which will receive phone calls in October and November. We plan to have over 2,000 lawyers, law students, and paralegals working to make the NAACP Election Day efforts a historical success. We will also develop information on voting rights and distribute in our communities. With this momentum, the NAACP will use its victories to guide our election reform agenda leading up to the 2012 presidential election and beyond.

Election Reform

Low voter registration rates, low voter turnout, and voter suppression have plagued our election system for longer than we’ve been a country. When George Washington ran for the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1758, he purchased and distributed many gallons of rum, wine, brandy, and beer to his neighbors to buy their votes. From New York’s Tammany Hall to the South’s Jim Crow laws to Chicago’s Daley machine, manipulating election results has been a time-honored tradition.

Today the manipulation continues, despite attempts to fix some of the more egregious problems identified in the past, voters contended with a myriad of problems caused by lack of funds and downright ineptitude. Other problems such as the unequal allocation of voting machinery, voter misinformation campaigns, and threats of challengers at the polls, and deliberate acts of voter suppression still exist.