Mendez: WSSU early voting site must return

John Mendez

Mendez: WSSU early voting site must return
August 11
08:00 2016



RALEIGH —The early voting site that was closed at Winston-Salem State University must be reopened for the November general elections, says one of the state’s most prominent civil rights leaders.

That’s the message the Rev. Dr. John Mendez, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Winston- Salem, plans to deliver to the Forsyth County Board of Elections (BOE) this afternoon when the Republican-led panel meets to determine the new voting site plan in the aftermath of the July 29 U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals striking down aspects of the restrictive N.C. 2013 voter ID law.

In ruling the law “discriminatory” to African-American voters, the three-judge panel mandated that North Carolina’s 10-day early voting period before the Nov. 8 general elections immediately revert back to the original 17-day early period the law originally upended.

“We need to have the voting site at [WSSU] re-implemented,” Mendez told The Chronicle Saturday during a statewide N.C. NAACP meeting in Raleigh.

To Mendez, the fact that the federal court determined that the Republican-led N.C. legislature deliberately intended to suppress the black vote is reason enough for the Anderson Center on WSSU’s campus to be reactivated, after the Forsyth BOE, by a 2-1 Republican majority vote on July 15, decided to close the early site which had served the campus and African-American community from 2000 to 2012.

When the board took WSSU off the early voting list almost a month ago, Eric Ellison, chairman of the Forsyth County Democratic Party, said “Shame on them.” An online petition has since been circulated to have the WSSU site reopened.

Last week, the state BOE instructed local BOEs in all 100 counties to revise their early voting site plans in lieu of the federal ruling. At a meeting Saturday in Raleigh, the Rev. Dr. William Barber II, N.C. NAACP president, warned attendees that all local BOEs might be resistant to adopting the 17-day mandate, and might try to cut the number of sites or hours of operation as a result.

Since studies prove that African-Americans favor early voting, social activists like Mendez say fighting to have more sites and hours is one battle. But it’s all for naught if there aren’t strong voter education and get-out-to-vote efforts as well.

“We have to do everything we can to get people out to vote,’ says Mendez. “That’s the biggest challenge.”

“We do not want, and cannot afford to have a repeat of Reconstruction,” he insisted.

Mendez is confident that Winston-Salem/Forsyth County will have a good voter turnout in November. But voter edu-cation is essential, he said, also challenging every church to have a “social action ministry” committee to not only register people in the church, but also in their communities.

“I plan to hit these streets myself, and go into a lot of these communities, talk to folks, and really try to get them to come out and vote,” Mendez told The Chronicle, emphasizing that people really need to know what’s at stake.

“There can’t be an excuse for anybody not to get out to the polls,” Mendez said, later adding, “They have to realize that their behinds are at risk. If Donald Trump gets elected, it’s going to be doubly open season on black folk and people of color.”

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Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels

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