NAACP Civic Engagement Campaign Announced in Atlanta

Following an unprecedented and coordinated attack on ballot access that could prevent as many as five million voters from casting their vote, the NAACP held a press conference on May 9 to launch a 50-state non partisan campaign to register, educate and turn out voters in 2012.  The comprehensive campaign is the organization’s largest and most comprehensive electoral effort to date and seeks to significantly boost participation among minorities, young and elderly voters.

“When voter suppression is the problem, voting is the answer. America hasn’t seen a coordinated attack on voting rights of this scale in over a hundred years. But we can turn this situation around if we vote,” stated NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous. “That is why we are launching this historic voter registration, education, and protection effort today – to ensure our voices are heard and our votes are counted on Election Day and for years to come.”

Jealous made the announcement in Atlanta, Georgia on the campus of Clark-Atlanta University at the national launch of the NAACP’s This Is My Vote! campaign.  The NAACP seeks to register hundreds of thousands of new voters, coordinating with state and college NAACP chapters, voter advocacy groups and other civil rights organizations to ensure voters are able to cast ballots.

This Is My Vote is the only non-partisan 50-state electoral program in the country. Through mobile technology, online and traditional recruiting methods, the campaign is expected to enlist thousands of volunteers for the registration, education and GOTV efforts. This comprehensive strategy includes a national voter empowerment hotline (1-866-MY-VOTE-1), registration mailings to over 1 million black youth turning 18 by Election Day, and partnerships with national faith organizations.

“In 2008, 1-866-MY-VOTE-1 was given a lot of credit for galvanizing black voters to register to vote,” stated media personality Tom Joyner.  “The result was record-breaking numbers of African Americas going to the polls.  With help of 1-866-MY-VOTE-1… we can get people fired up and to the polls in record numbers again this year.”

“From voter registration to voter education to voter protection, this partnership with the NAACP will allow the National Baptist Convention, USA to engage more than 10,000 of our congregations across the country in the electoral process,” stated Dr. Julius Scruggs, National Baptist Convention, USA President.  The National Baptist convention will work with the NAACP to register and educate congregants at their 10,000 churches across the country.

Further, the NAACP is targeting 12 states for an enhanced registration, education and GOTV campaign, which will include paid directors and staff for volunteer recruitment and training, direct mail and paid advertising.  Those states include Virginia, Ohio, New York, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, Missouri, California and Georgia.

“With nearly one million unregistered voters of color, Georgia is on the forefront of this historic registration effort,” stated NAACP Georgia State Conference President Edward Dubose. “Volunteers in our state will work nonstop to provide our community with unfettered access to the ballot box on Election Day.”

“We are excited to host the national office of the NAACP on such a critical initiative as voter registration,” stated Dr. Carl Jones, Vice President for Enrollment Services and Student Affairs at Clark-Atlanta University. “Throughout our history, Clark Atlanta University has played and continues to play an important role in advocating civil rights, where student-led demonstrations and activism have helped to shape America today, moving our country closer toward justice and equality for all.”

The NAACP’s response follows last year’s unprecedented enactment of new state voting laws and policies that may make it confusing for current and new voters. According to an analysis from New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice, the array of new laws is “making it harder to vote.”  The analysis estimated the new restrictive laws could block as many as five million voters, and are likely to disproportionately affect African American and Latino, low-income, elderly and young voters.

“After record voter participation in the 2008 election, the systematic attempt to deter minority voters is disturbing and must be met with a concerted national effort,” stated Marvin Randolph, NAACP Sr. Vice President for Campaigns noting that laws requiring voters to purchase photo IDs are reminiscent of the poll taxes of the Civil Rights Era used to disenfranchise voters. “While the threats of violence are no longer a part of voter suppression, the new laws have a similar effect – a severe sharp blow to the right of millions of minorities to cast their ballots.”

“Much of our ability to shape our community rests at the ballot box,” stated Kemba Smith Pradia, civil and voting rights advocate. “We cannot allow this cornerstone of our democracy to be chipped away at by regressive and repressive laws that play on our fears and do nothing to enhance the integrity of our elections.”

These restrictions include:

  • Laws passed in Florida and Texas restricting voter registration drives.
  • Limitations in Florida, Maine, Ohio and Wisconsin on when and where people can register to vote. 
  • Laws in Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia reduce the window for early voting.
  • Several states, including Florida and Mississippi, are improperly purging voters from the registration rolls. (In Florida, a flawed purge program incorrectly flagged and purged 12,000 voters.  More than 70 percent of those voters were African-American or Latino.)
  • New photo ID laws requiring government-issued voter identification have passed in Texas, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Kansas and Tennessee. (21 million Americans don’t have photo ID, including 25 percent of African-Americans of voting age)
  • Florida and Iowa have reversed earlier decisions that made it easier for people with felony convictions to restore their voting rights.  The decision affects hundreds of thousands of voters.
  • In 2011, at least 34 states introduced voter suppression legislation, with laws passing in 14 of those states, and laws pending in 8.

The NAACP report Defending Democracy: Confronting Modern Barriers to Voting Rights in America can be viewed here

For information about registration, visit www.thisismyvote.org.