“Before enacting that law, the legislature requested data on the use, by race, of a number of voting practices. Upon receipt of the race data, the General Assembly enacted legislation that restricted voting and registration in five different ways, all of which disproportionately affected African Americans. Although the new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision, they constitute inapt remedies for the problems assertedly justifying them and, in fact, impose cures for problems that did not exist.” – U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, striking down North Carolina’s “Monster” voter suppression law.
As this most unusual of Presidential campaigns barrels toward November, it often has been difficult to focus on the issues challenging our communities, rather than personalities and inflamed rhetoric. The issues challenging our communities must be on the table. In a recent Op-Ed published in Newsday, Patriotic Millionaires Board Chair Morris Pearl and I issued a challenge to NBC News anchor Lester Holt and the other debate moderators (for scheduled presidential debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump): demand answers to the most fundamental American question: Do you believe in the essential equality of each American and if so, what specifically are you going to do to ensure that each citizen has equal political power?
There are dozens of topics to tackle that will lay bare the candidates’ commitment to our uniquely American promise. The nominees’ answers (about voting rights or gerrymandering, campaign contributions or executive powers) will reveal their underlying commitment to equality, and to democracy itself. Our National Urban League Young Professionals are leading the way on voter engagement.
Here are some highlights of what the YPs will be doing from now until Election Day to encourage voter participation:
• #NovIsComing Contest: Counting down to the General Election, NULYP will issue a series of “tasks” to chapter members that seek to Educate, Engage, and Empower voters. This contest will take place on the NULYP GOTV Facebook page. The chapter member that completes the most GOTV tasks will be eligible to win the Grand Prize: Free registration to next year’s NUL Conference in St. Louis, MO.
• Interactive Debate Watch Parties: The YPs will incorporate online polls, etc. to spark real-time conversation and engagement around issues brought forth during the Presidential Debates. Instructions issued prior to each debate to will ensure chapters are “plugged in” to the conversation.
• 2016 National Voter Registration Day (NVRD): Once again, NULYP will partner with NationalVoterRegistrationDay.org to promote voter registration and ensure no one is left out of this important part of our political process. This year NVRD falls on, September 27th, but chapters are encouraged to promote NVRD on social media and host registration events anytime between September 23-October 1, 2016.
• College Absentee Voting Campaign: College students are a key demographic in our elections on the local, state, and national level. However, many miss the opportunity to vote because they fail to apply for an absentee ballot for their home districts. To raise awareness about the importance of timely absentee voting, NULYP chapters are encouraged to share pertinent absentee voting information with non-partisan student organizations at local university/college campuses.
I’m proud of our Young Professionals for their commitment to civic engagement – one of the core principles of the National Urban League. Whether you join one of the debate watch parties or encourage your neighbors to register and vote, stay engaged, stay informed and most importantly, vote! Check out the full Main Street Marshall Plan at www.stateofBlackamerica.org, and urge your elected representatives to support it.