(Photo: Courtesy NAACP)
A new NAACP initiative to register, educate and prepare hundreds of thousands of African-American voters for the November elections blends 21st-century technology with old-school activism. “This Is My Vote!” will be implemented in all 50 states, with a more intensive effort in 12 states that have large numbers of unregistered African-American voters, are key battlegrounds or have already implemented restrictive new voting rules.
“This is the most aggressive, technologically infused voter registration drive we have ever run. We’ve been training people for nine months, making sure that all 1,200 of our active units across the country know how to target folks who are not registered and to turn out people who are unlikely to remember to vote,” Jealous told BET.com. “Our hope is that this year we can overcome the impact of laws that from Florida to Texas to Pennsylvania that have made it so much harder for people to sign up to vote.”
According to Jealous, backlashes have historically taken place following African-American political milestones, such as the passage of the Voting Rights Act, so the NAACP has been preparing for the onslaught of new voting laws since 2009.
“We knew that after the inauguration of the first Black president, breaking the color barrier at the White House by the largest, most diverse electorate in presidential history and a year in which Black women voted at a higher frequency than white men, that we were going to be dealing next time around with a similar type of backlash, so we’ve been preparing to fight back for some time.” Jealous said.
The organization is the only group outside of the Republican and Democratic parties to acquire a voter database for all 50 states. It conducted extensive eight-hour training sessions on the technology for volunteers at 1,200 sites around the nation that included motivating people to sign up for what will be “very hard work for free — just because it’s the right thing to do.”
In addition to an extensive ground operation to physically register voters, and direct mail and paid advertising campaigns in the 12 targeted states, the NAACP has a toll-free number, 866-MY-VOTE-1, and the website www.thisismyvote.org that people can use to get information about any new rules in their states and what’s required to cast a ballot. They also can text the word “vote” to 62227 for voting details.
“We are doing everything we can to make it easier. We’re fighting these difficult laws on the ground, pushing through to register folks anyway, and fighting them using technology and innovation,” said Marshall Randolph, who is heading up the campaign.
Randolph also said that a record 3.6 million African-Americans will turn 18 this year. The NAACP’s birthday gift to 1.2 million of them will be a voter registration form for their state that they can just sign and mail.
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