Traditionally, voter drives include door knocking and phone calls employed by civic organizations to engage or register American citizens in hopes they turn up on election day.
This midterm election year, Black Futures Lab is employing an innovative approach with a nationwide census project designed to get out the Black vote and build the Black agenda. Alicia Garza, founder and principal of Black Futures Lab, told BET News that the purpose of the organization’s Black Census Project is to arm Black Americans with the tools needed to advocate their concerns to elected officials long after the results come in and leaders assume office.
“We know that as we're talking to people about voting, we also need to be talking to people about policy change,” said Garza.
Black Futures Lab has partnered with 50 grassroots Black led organizations that are doing outreach in Black communities to raise awareness about the census project. They have also partnered with BET’s #ReclaimYourVote22 midterm election campaign.
First launched in 2018, Black Futures Lab’s Black Census Project was created to address what Garza says was a gap between what politicians believed mattered to Black voters and issues Black voters really cared about. The civic engagement organization is working to narrow that gap through this year’s Black Census Project, with an aim to talk to more than 200,000 people nationwide - which according to Garza, would make it the largest independent survey of Black people ever conducted in the United States.
“What I hear in the Black Census all the time is that nobody ever asked me what I think or what I want for our future,” said Garza. And while data from the census project can better inform politicians, Garza reports, Black Futures Lab also conducts training so that citizens will have the tools to hold them accountable.
“Every time there's an election people come into our communities. They hold events and cookouts and do the Dougie on stage,” said Garza “but when it comes to changing the rules, all of a sudden nobody's around.”
The Black Census Project gauges participants' opinions about political leaders, American institutions, and problems impacting the Black community as well as their level of civic engagement.
“We are doing the work that our elected officials should be doing. We are doing the work that our government should be doing. Going out and talking directly to constituencies that have everything at stake when it comes to the rules that are being made about our lives,” said Garza.
Garza says that while Black people do desire to participate in democracy, she often hears feedback from the community that elected leaders could do a better job of recognizing that common issues impacting all Americans is felt more systematically in the Black community.
“Folks are tired of being asked to show up and not have their governments show up for them - and not have their elected officials show up for them.”
With the Black Census Project, Garza says the ultimate win would be to not just increase participation on election day, but to build a tool that could potentially help reshape democracy.
“What is really going to change the way that people think about the power of their vote is the decisions that get made as a result of it,” said Garza who added, “so that's really what we're focused on.”
Black Futures Lab is encouraging your participation in the #ReclaimYourVote2022 campaign by taking the Black Census which can be found on their website.
You can also check your voter status, register to vote, and learn about your local candidates via their Electoral Action Center.
Visit Reclaim Your Vote: Your Voice, Your Power, Our Democracy for more information.
Visit vote.gov to register to vote, check your registration status, and find voter registration deadlines.