There is no doubt that the 2008 presidential election brought out record numbers of voters, of which approximately 4 million were minorities. In response to that dramatic increase, an insidious and concerted effort has been in effect to make it harder to vote. Not since the days of Jim Crow (1876-1965) has there been such a concerted effort to suppress access to the ballot.
More than 100 years ago, so-called Black Laws placed legal obstacles in the way of Black voters, guaranteeing that they could not vote. How well do legal obstacles work? Consider that in 1896, the state of Louisiana had more than 130,000 registered Black voters, but by 1905, less than 2,000 were registered. That is just one startling example.
These voting obstacles naturally affected the number of Black elected officials, sharply reducing their numbers. Note that in 1870, Hiram Revels of Mississippi became the nation’s first Black senator. The nation would not see another Black senator until Edward Brooke from Massachusetts was elected in 1966.
Fast-forward to 2011, and some 34 states have introduced legislation that will diminish voter turnout. Fourteen states have already passed such laws, while other states have similar laws pending. These restrictions include but are not limited to requiring photo ID, curtailing early voting windows, purging voting rolls and stripping those formerly incarcerated of the right to vote, despite them having paid their debt to society.
In response, the NAACP has launched an ambitious, nationwide initiative called “This is My Vote.” The campaign is aims to increase the number of registered voters in every state and aims to significantly boost participation among minorities and young and elderly voters. It is the only nonpartisan electoral program in the country.
“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 100 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 on the campus of Clark-Atlanta University at the national launch of the campaign, which, through the coordinated efforts of state and college NAACP chapters, voter advocacy groups and other civil rights groups, hopes to register hundred of thousands of new voters.
The strategy also includes a national voter hotline (1-866-MY-VOTE-1) as well as mailings to more than 1 million Black youth who will be 18 years old by Election Day of this year.
The National Baptist Convention will also work with the NAACP to educate and register members at their 10,000 churches nationwide.
“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 the help of 1-866-MY-VOTE-1, we can get people fired up and to the polls in record numbers again this year.”