We are beyond the days when Black voters had to jump through blatantly racist hoops at the polls, such as reciting the entire constitution, meeting morality character requirements, or proving that our grandfathers had the right to vote. Now voter restriction is much more subtle, yet just as pervasive and effective. Take for example the voter registration fiasco at Prairie View A&M last year, where thousands of students at the historically Black college were instructed to register using the incorrect precinct address. Or Florida’s SB 7066 which undermines Amendment 4 – a law overwhelmingly passed by voters last November – and denies those convicted of felonies from casting their ballot until they pay all of their legal fees.
It is clear that we need to ensure that elected officials and other key stakeholders are accountable to our communities well after Election Day, yet voter access still primarily centers around election-year efforts to increase registrations.
As organizers and proponents of political participation from marginalized communities, we need to re-evaluate how we talk about voting today in light of these new challenges. We especially need to consider how we keep the voter access engine running even when it isn’t an election year because voting divorced of sustained community organizing is guaranteed to fulfill the political objectives of others–but not ours. Rather than just ‘Get Out the Vote’ we need to, in the words of Latosha Brown, ‘Get Out the People’ and promote sustained political engagements in communities.”
Read the full op-ed here.