In Pennsylvania, a state which shocked the nation in the 2016 Presidential elections, all roads lead to the ballot box on November 6. For Pennsylvanians across the state, this will be an election of the conscience. Many will reckon with the ballots they cast two years ago, while others, spurred by the current state of our union, will cast a vote for the first time in at least two years. To NAACP, success in the state means that both of these kinds of voters will head into polling stations unobstructed and highly informed about the issues they are voting on.
As part of our long-term civic engagement plan, NAACP recently launched a campaign to energize and turnout low to medium propensity African American voters. Focusing on six high priority states for the 2018 midterms, Pennsylvania is one such state where a mobilized and engaged Black population will make a voting bloc to be reckoned with. The road to November 6 in Pennsylvania is a three-part journey, with each step reinforcing the message that African Americans in the state must vote because their lives depend on it.
Step 1: A hard-hitting campaign to register infrequent African American voters
Step 2: Voter Outreach and Education
Step 3: Voter Protection and Anti-Suppression
Phase one of our campaign was an aggressive and targeted outreach to register voters. We succeeded in registering an astounding number of 10,000 Pennsylvania voters before the deadline, and with just weeks before the elections, we’re on to phase two, ramping up our outreach to a specified set of voters – millennials.
While our outreach efforts span all eligible voter age demographics, millennials earn a special distinction in Pennsylvania. In the dawn of the Trump administration, this generation has shown anger like no other group, and this tension is palpable across the Keystone State. In Philadelphia for example, empathy towards hometown star, Meek Mill’s, decade-long battle with a broken criminal justice system was followed by outrage over the arrest of two African American men who were simply waiting at a Philadelphia Starbucks. The latter incident catapulted that anger to the national spotlight, causing Starbucks to implement a companywide implicit bias training. With just three weeks until election day, NAACP is working day in and day out to convert those hypersensitive emotions into votes.
We know that this conversion from sentiments to votes will take physical field work, so we’re building on our longstanding activist roots and coalescing with other social justice organizations to galvanize the Black vote. In conjunction with our national partners, The National Urban League and UnidosUS, our Pennsylvania Civic Engagement team will be hosting The Philadelphia Voter Suppression Hearing and GOTV Canvass on this coming Saturday, October 20th at 3301 Tasker St. Philadelphia, PA 19145. This canvass program will look to increase our community’s engagement across the state.
Such voter mobilization efforts will continue up to November 6 when, in phase 3 of the campaign, NAACP will run a command center on election day. The center will serve as a hub for people to report voting irregularities. By the end of the campaign, success will be defined by a multi-pronged gauge: a significant increase in African American voters, a more informed base, and a motivated and engaged voting bloc that will become regular voters.
To learn more about our campaign and resources for voting, visit naacp.org/vote.
By William Dunbar
Pennsylvania State Director for Civic Engagement, NAACP