N.C. NAACP leads 80-day voter engagement drive

N.C. NAACP leads 80-day voter engagement drive
December 03
00:00 2015
Photo by Cash Michaels
 N.C. NAACP President Rev. William Barber II, center. surrounded by Democracy N.C. Director Bob Hall, left, and the Rev. Anthony Spearman, right, announces an 80-day voter engagement campaign from now until the March 15, 2016 primaries.

By Cash Michaels

For the Chronicle

Calling it “the first part of our fight at the ballot box for 2016,” the  NCNAACP, in coalition with the nonpartisan Democracy NC and leaders of the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths statewide, announced the “It’s Our Vote, It’s Our Time,” a mass voter registration campaign over the next 80 days to register as many North Carolinians as possible in time for the March 15, 2016 primaries.

“We have determined to fight three ways to preserve the right to vote,” Rev. William Barber, president of the NCNAACP, surrounded by supporters, told reporters Tuesday at Martin Street Baptist Church in Raleigh.

“We will fight in the legislative halls; we will fight in the courts; and we will fight at the ballot box,” Barber vowed.

It was no accident that Rev. Barber made the announcement on the 60th anniversary of civil rights activist Rosa Parks’ historic refusal to give her seat to a white man aboard a Montgomery, Ala. segregated city bus on Dec. 1, 1955.

Mrs. Parks’ courageous act helped to spark a citywide bus boycott by black citizens for over 381 days, and introduced the world to a little-known local preacher named Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who would go on to lead the subsequent 60’s civil rights movement.

“There comes a time when people get tired,” Rev. Barber said, adding, “And when they get tired, they don’t quit. They fight back.”

“Rosa sat down so that we can stand up. Too many sacrifices have gone on for us not to fight for and exercise the right to vote,” Rev. Barber declared.

With more than 600,000 unregistered white voters in North Carolina, along with over 250,000 unregistered black voters and 100,000 unregistered Latino voters in North Carolina, Rev. Barber vowed that after going to the streets, jail and to court together, “We will go to the ballot box” together.

Bob Hall, the executive director of the nonpartisan Democracy North Carolina, told reporters that the mass voter engagement campaign had four key components – voter education, voter registration, voter protection and voter mobilization.

Over the next two weeks, county boards of elections are being encouraged to devise “strong early voting plans with evening and weekends,” Hall said, adding that just in case the federal courts uphold the restrictive North Carolina voter photo ID law, Democracy North Carolina is working to help those who don’t have government-issued identification in time for the primaries, when it will be first required.

“You must vote,” Hall said to applause from supporters present. “You must push back and show your resistance to any effort to make voting harder. We will educate, and we will register voters.”

Hall added that his organizations will deploy volunteers to polling places across the state to make sure that the public’s right to vote is not impeded. They will also document whom is being harmed by the voter ID law.

“And we’ll take that evidence into court,” Hall vowed. “We will engage over 3,000 churches and faith centers in the largest ‘Souls to the Polls’ campaign this state has ever seen.”

There were representatives of the NC Council of Churches and various Christian denominations; the Jewish community and Islamic faith, in addition to the Latino community who announced their endorsement of the mass voter registration campaign.

“If they could build fusion coalitions in the 1800s, we can build them in the 20th century,” Rev. Barber said. “We will not be divided.”

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