Commentary: Voter Intimidation and Our Obligation to Fight Back

The executive director of ColorofChange on the importance of capturing voter suppression — and making sure voters still exercise their rights.

Posted: 11/01/2012 01:40 PM EDT
Commentary: Voter Intimidation and Our Obligation to Fight Back

With the election less than a week away, Black Americans are being hit with near daily attempts to scare, intimidate or simply prevent us from voting.

The latest assault was delivered by the Einhorn Family Foundation, the previously anonymous funders who erected more than 100 fear-mongering billboards in low-income, Black and Latino neighborhoods in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Milwaukee. The fact that Clear Channel is owned by Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital indicates that it’s no mistake that they focused these billboards in the swing states of Ohio and Wisconsin. These billboards, which threatened astronomical fines and possible jail time for “voter fraud” (a largely nonexistent phenomenon used by conservatives as justification for discriminatory voter ID laws), were meant to scare minority voters away from the polls.

The outcry against these advertisements was quick and loud – civil rights organizations, including ColorofChange, demanded that Clear Channel reveal the anonymous funders behind the harmful billboards. Rather than make public the names of the people dedicated to keeping Black folks away from the polls, Clear Channel took the billboards down. Through investigative work by The Grio, a Black news organization owned by NBC Universal, and One Wisconsin Now, a political organizing nonprofit, it was discovered that the Einhorn Family Foundation – headed by an investment banker that has donated nearly $50,000 to support Wisconsin’s ultra-conservative governor, Scott Walker – was behind the ads.

The removal of these disingenuous ads is a victory, but it doesn’t change the fact that around the clock and around the country, conservative politicians and right-wing billionaires are doing everything in their power to take the right to vote away from our community.

In Florida, Virginia and Indiana, an unknown organization called voters and wrongly informed them there was no need to vote at their precinct on Election Day because they could vote by phone. Billionaires are using their influence to tell millions of employees of their companies how to vote.

Meanwhile, 32 of the 50 states introduced legislation this year that makes it more difficult for low-income and minority citizens to vote by requiring identification that can be difficult to obtain or restricting voting access by limiting the days and hours that polls are open.

With just a few days until an election that could define our country’s vision for the future, it is more important than ever that we stand up for our rights and call out those people attempting to trample them.

That means going to the polls and making our voices heard, and it means helping our neighbors get the information and resources they need to be able to vote on Election Day. But it also means staying vigilant and recording instances of race-baiting and discrimination from now until the polls close on Nov. 6. Watch the Race is a campaign by ColorofChange designed to help citizens capture voter suppression in action and spotlight and spread the word about these injustices. Recording and reporting instances of voter suppression is the only way to hold the system accountable for restricting the rights of Black Americans.

It’s critical that our community come together to call out injustice, fight misinformation and make our voices heard. Ours could be the deciding votes that determine the outcome of this critical election – we can’t give that up.

Rashad Robinson is the executive director of ColorOfChange.org, the nations largest black online civil rights organization. Visit www.ColorOfChange.org for more information.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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