Submitted by Phyllis Jones, Speakin‘ Out News Sr. Staff Writer
Partially because of the unexpected Presidential/General election outcome in 2016, people immediately began to murmur “can’t wait until the midterm elections”. Well, we are 42 days away from the big day. Are you on your mark to get ready and set to GO to the polls?
On November 6th, some major shakeups can transpire locally and nationwide, only if the people, particularly African American people, will make their way to the polls. Just in the Huntsville/Madison County area alone, there are plenty of opportunities to become a registered voter and become informed about the candidates who are running for office.
Just two weeks ago, the North Huntsville Community United for Action (NHCUA) committee hosted a political forum that was held at First Missionary Baptist Church. The forum participants included candidates for Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Congressional District 5. The chairman, Dr. Oscar Montgomery (pastor of Union Hill P.B. Church), shared that the purpose of this committee is to promote the quality of life and opportunities for the citizens of North Huntsville. “We’re focusing on improvements in education, economic empowerment, political awareness, social justice and family structure,” Dr. Montgomery stated. The committee consists of local black elected officials, community leading pastors across denominational lines, members of the non-Christian community and local community leaders. The committee’s midterm mobilization plan includes hosting a series of political forums. The next forum will be held at Union Hill P.B. Church, on October 9th beginning at 6pm. Candidates running for senate and county offices will be present.
Dr. Montgomery said that it is important that every citizen, particularly the African American citizens who reside in the Huntsville/Madison County area, understand that this is a critical election. “We have the opportunity to make a difference. Every African American should be a registered voter and then go out to vote.”
Faith in Action Alabama is a faith based, multiracial, multi-faced community organization. This 501 (c) 3 organization seeks to dismantle systemic racism at local and state levels. Stephanie Strong is the Community Organizer. Strong shared, “Our plan is to build and bridge relationships that goes beyond the electoral cycle, by linking up with congregations who are already meeting a need and joining in to help them.”
The organization’s midterm election theme is “Turn Up! Go Vote!” Their midterm mobilization plan includes conducting a phone bank campaign, which will take place October 2nd to November 5th (Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30pm to 8:30pm) at the Stone Christian Center (322 Lodge Road – Huntsville, AL). Their voter goal is 10,000 people, between the ages of 18-35+, who have not voted in the past three elections.
Faith in Action Alabama will also provide voter education and information on voter rights restoration.
Robin Miller, President of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (Rho Chi Omega Chapter) stated, that their chapter’s midterm mobilization process includes planning a voter’s registration drive, as well as solidifying logistics on how to get people to the polls to vote. “We want to make certain that everyone, 18 years of age and older becomes a registered voter and have the opportunity to exercise his/her right to vote for this upcoming election,” Miller stated. The date and location for the voter’s registration drive will be announced within the next week or so. According to the chapter’s Connections Committee Chair, Phyllis Campbell, they will also partner with Faith in Action Alabama, to assist with the phone bank efforts.
Members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (Epsilon Gamma Omega Chapter) are also getting geared up and putting their mobilization plan into place. Currently, they are working the phone banks for Precinct #38 (Bob Harrison Center). Chapter President, Wilma Ruffin shared, “We are registering auxiliary members at the local high schools. Additional voter registration drives will be coordinated at local churches and at the Walmart on Sparkman Drive. The actual dates and times will be forth coming.” This chapter is also instrumental in assisting NHCUA in coordinating the political forums.
The NAACP members are participating in phone banking. As part of their midterm mobilization process, they are targeting those individuals who did not vote in the recent primary election. Bernard Simelton, Alabama State President for the NAACP, mentioned that a traditional voter registration drives will be conducted, in addition to conducting a voter registration for individuals in jails, who have not lost their right to vote. “We will make certain that once registered, they will receive their absentee ballot, provided that they are still incarcerated during that time frame.” Simelton wants to make sure that voters are aware of what is at stake and encourages everyone to make certain that they have all of their credentials to vote. He also recommends, “Check your voter status in advance, to make sure your name is still on the roster and hasn’t been dropped off for some unknown reason. If you find out that your name has been dropped on Election Day, then it’s too late to have anything done about it.”
Like other politically inclined organizations, the Huntsville Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. midterm mobilization process includes preparing for a voter registration drive. A political “Get Out to Vote” forum is also being planned. Invitations will be extended to all of candidates to participate. Chapter President Jackie Perry shared, “This forum will be designed to bring other members of the Divine Nine together, like we did during Senator Doug Jones’ campaign.” Collaboration efforts for this event are in the works with Representative Laura Hall (District 19) and the NAACP. Actual event dates will be forth coming.
The midterm mobilization process for the Alabama Democratic Conference (ADC) consists of the “Get Out to Vote” voter registration drive, which also includes the Hispanic community. ADC Chairman, Eddie Sherrod, said that he plans to do schedule an additional event at Alabama A&M University.
ADC is also pushing voter registration via text. Yes, you can now become a registered voter via text! This is definitely a bonus for the millennials and the techies. ADC member Laurie McCaulley explained, “If you want to register to vote, you can text the word VOTE to 33222. If you want to check your voting status, you can text the word STATUS to 33222. If you want to know where you go to vote, just text WHERE to 33222 and it leads you to the site.” This was a simple process that McCaulley demonstrated to a congregation during church services on Sunday. It was a process that she says took less than five minutes. She also mentioned that knowing your voter status is very important. “If you haven’t voted in the last two general elections, you can possibly be removed from the voting roster and not even know it until Election Day,” McCaulley said.
Additional mobilization events include a Creative Sippin’ Arts and Politics event that will be held Saturday, October 6th from 7:00pm until 10:00pm at Creative Sippin (525 Hughes Road – Madison, AL 35758). McCaulley hopes this event in a relaxed and entertaining atmosphere will draw millennials into political conversations. ADC is also establishing Young Democratic Clubs in some of the local high schools. Lee High School already has a functioning chapter. Sponsors for Jemison and Columbia High Schools are in the works and may be in place within the next week or so. For some time now, chapters for the Young Republican Clubs have already been established at Grissom and Huntsville High Schools.
Now you have a general idea of the different mobilization events taking place. So, what else is there to be done? Go Vote!! If you need dependable transportation to the polls, several organizations are offering free rides, including Lyft. In 2016, 15 million voters didn’t vote because of transportation issues. For the 2018 General Election, the ride share company is partnering with some non-profits organizations to make this happen. They will be offering discounted and free services for individuals who live in underserved areas whereas transportation can be challenging. Nonpartisan nonprofit groups Voto Latino, Urban League and the National Federation for the Blind also plan to help voters catch free Lyft rides.
*AFRICAN AMERICAN VOTING POPULATION IN MADISON COUNTY:
• Total Population in Madison County: 361,046 (as of 2017)
• Total Registered Voters in Madison County: 262,779 (as of August 20, 2018)
• Total African American Active Voters: 55,341
• Total African American Inactive Voters: 9,397
• Total Unregistered African American Voters: 11,772
*Information provided by Stephanie Strong and Angela Curry
DID YOU KNOW?:
According to a 2016 study by the Pew Research Center, over 48% of the nation’s registered voters identify as Democrats compared to 44% who identify as Republicans. And of course there is a myth that all African Americans are Democrats. According to this same study, three percent of African American voters voted Republican. That number was a decline from 1992, whereas five percent of African American voters voted Republican.
DATES TO REMEBER:
October 22 – Voter Registration Deadline
November 1 – Last day to apply for an Absentee Ballot
November 5 – Last day to hand deliver or postmark an Absentee Ballot