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Get out to vote activities continued amidst Hurricane Sandy

5th November 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Hazel Trice Edney — Only days before the presidential election, a mega-storm slowed down both candidates and threatened to knock out power in at least 10 million homes across the East Coast. But, even as the storm hit, a Black voter operation used every possible mechanism to continue get-out-to-vote and voter protection efforts for November 6.

“The Black community is facing one of the greatest challenges ever against malicious schemes and laws deliberately aimed at stopping and discouraging our people from exercising their right to vote. Only a unified effort by the Black Church can protect the vote won through the blood, sweat and tears of our people over the years,” said Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, chairman of the Conference of National Black Churches, in a release announcing “Unity: Protect Our Vote Sundays” sponsored by a string of civil rights organizations October 28 and November 4.

Meanwhile during the storm, “We have robo calls featuring Actress Vivica Fox telling the people in the states to vote early and the people in the states who can’t vote early, she’s just telling people what they need to do to be prepared to vote,” says Edrea Davis, a spokeswoman for the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation one of the civil rights organizations involved in the Unity movement. She says calls are also going out encouraging people to “Walk a friend to the polls,” a special outreach to the youth.

“The hurricane is going on but the work is also still going on,” Davis said. Live calls were also being made across the South. “Yes they’re working, encouraging people to exercise their right to vote.”

Escalating activities toward November 6, “Unity: Protect Our Vote Sundays” is a plan for Civil Rights and Black church leaders to join forces to protect Black voters.

The partners include The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP) the Con­ference of National Black Chur­ches (CNBC), National Action Network, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (LCC­RUL), Samuel DeWitt Proctor Project and A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), according to a release.

“The Unity: Protect Our Vote Sundays goals are to mobilize Black faith leaders in a call to action to Black denominational and congregational leaders to take up arms to mobilize and protect their congregations from voter suppression tactics across the country by providing them with tools and information to protect their vote through Black Youth Vote, Black Women,’’ said NCBCP President/CEO Melanie Campbell in a release.

As the storm approached, Presi­dent Obama—on a break from campaigning—issued a warning.

“Obviously, all of us across the country are concerned about the potential impact of Hurricane Sandy. This is a serious and big storm,” he said in a statement released immediately after a meeting with FEMA (Federal Emer­gency Management Agency) on Sunday. “But the other thing that makes this storm unique is we anticipate that it is going to be slow moving. That means that it may take a long time not only to clear, but also to get, for example, the power companies back in to clear trees and to put things back in place so that folks can start moving back home.”

With threats of voter intimidation at the polls amidst the close race, plans for Election Day continue. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Election Protection are providing voter protection tools including its national nonpartisan Election Protection Hotline, 1-866-OUR-VOTE. They also have a free mobile app to download and use in case voters are blocked in their effort to vote or have questions (Text OURVOTE to 90975).

“As we have done for over 10 years, the Election Protection Coalition will be there for all voters to safeguard their fundamental right to vote and have that vote counted on Election Day,” said Barbara Arnwine, President and Executive Director, Law­yers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Meanwhile, volunteers are also needed to serve as poll monitors, says CNBC President, Jacqui Burton.

She is encouraging denominational leaders, pastors, clergy, lay leaders and attorneys “to volunteer to serve as poll monitors in our massive effort to mobilize an ‘Army of Poll Monitors’ to be a moral presence at the polls against efforts to intimidate Black voters.”

This article originally published in the November 05, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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