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Voter advocates reach out to poor and underrepresented groups
Goal is to raise awareness and turnout
Published Monday, September 7, 2020
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

Local and national voter advocacy and civil rights groups are reaching out to underrepresented groups to improve voter education and turnout ahead of the Nov. 3 general election.

Low-income voters could be a rich constituency on Election Day.

Voter advocacy and civil rights groups are reaching out to help potential voters from underrepresented groups understand their rights ahead of casting ballots. Of special interest are low-income people and those who have been less likely to participate in elections.

The Poor People’s Campaign led by Goldsboro pastor Rev. William Barber is launching training on voter participation and protection for low-income Americans. An estimated 140 million low-income people live in the United States, defined as twice the official federal poverty line.

According to an August report commissioned by the Poor People’s Campaign, Columbia University professor Robert Hartley concluded a small increase among poor and low-income voters could affect the presidential race in 15 states and U.S. Senate races in 16 states, including North Carolina. The report found that low-income voters are 22 percentage points less likely to participate in national elections and a quarter of all eligible voters regardless of income don't bother to cast a ballot ever because of disinterest or feel their vote won't matter.

“Poor and low-income people make up 25% of the electorate in this nation,” said Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. “In 15 states, an uptick in the number of these voters as small as 1% and up to 19% can fundamentally change the political calculus of the U.S.”

In Charlotte, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County NAACP, Peace4Poverty and Snow Legal Group are partnering on #GoVoteCLT event on Sept. 11 to raise awareness about voting and voting rights in traditionally low-turnout neighborhoods.

The organizers will make stops: Grier Heights Neighborhood Park (3110 Leroy St.) from 12-3 p.m.; Sugaw Creek Park (943 W. Sugar Creek Road) from 3:30-6 p.m. and the intersection of LaSalle Street and Beatties Ford Road from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

“Voting is the most important thing we can do to make a difference in our future. It’s more than a checked box on a piece of paper. It is an opportunity to lead, to help, to transform lives in a way that will leave a mark on future generations,” said Joshua Proby, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP’s criminal justice chair. “We created this event because it’s vital for communities to understand why voting is such a critical part of building a better future for our neighborhoods and our children.”

According to the Mecklenburg County Quality of Life Explorer posted by the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, 63.1% of county voters participated in the 2018 midterm election, but poorer neighborhoods to the east, west and north of Charlotte's urban core lagged. Several of those communities were 15%-20% off the county average and the Tryon Hills neighborhood bound by Norris Avenue, North Tryon and North Graham streets recorded 33.5% participation.

“The right to vote is an essential part of our democracy, but voter suppression, additional obstacles to registration, and strict voter identification requirements can make voting confusing for many of our community members," said attorney Kenneth Snow, whose firm will provide legal insight for the Charlotte initiative. “We want to help get those questions answered so everyone feels comfortable and empowered casting their vote – not just for the November 2020 election, but for elections to come.”

The Poor People’s Campaign is sponsoring a livestream of the Moral Monday on Voter Power program Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. with details on “democracy hot zones” where voting rights are most restrictive. Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and Caitlin Swain, co-director of Forward Justice, which fought North Carolina’s racially restrictive voter access rules, including reduced early voting days, the elimination of same-day registration and a photo ID law, will lead the training. Forward Justice sued the state to stop the ID law as racially discriminatory and won a temporary injunction in December that remains in effect.

Among the speakers is Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden, who will talk about how the policies he proposes would address priorities for poor and low-income people. The campaign also invited President Donald Trump, who has not responded, organizers say.

The campaign also will announce an initiative for 1,000 faith and community leaders to bring 1,000 people to the polls.

Since 2010, 26 states have passed restrictive voter access laws, which civil rights activists insist make it harder for people of color and the poor to vote.



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