Pastors, community leaders and educators are joining forces to engage black voters in Florida’s 2022 election, with a focus on policing a new “election police” office championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The push to register and get black people to vote is not a one-off enterprise. Black voters as a group have largely backed Democratic candidates and are seen as a key voting bloc in close elections.
But an effort this year by Equal Ground Education and Action Fund – dubbed “A Vote for Black Lives” – comes amid a series of laws that black leaders say make it even more important for members of their communities to vote.
“‘A Vote for Black Lives’ is a vote against voter suppression, a vote against state-sanctioned violence, a vote against racial prejudice in our schools and workplaces and it is a step towards the truth about our country and the history of our state,” Jasmine Burney-Clark, founder and consulting director of Equal Ground, told reporters this week.
The organization is teaming up with community activists, historically black colleges and universities, and church leaders in eight counties it deems essential for this year’s races. The campaign is targeting voters in Alachua, Leon, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Orange, Seminole, Volusia and Washington counties.
“Over the past few years, our heads of state have passed dangerous laws that attack and threaten black lives in exchange for their own political ambition, making black voter participation even more critical to curbing these regressive trends,” he said. said Equal Ground CEO Kristin Fulwylie Thomas. .
Thomas pointed to a series of laws, passed by the Republican-dominated Legislature and signed by DeSantis, that include efforts to make it harder for Floridians to vote by mail. She also cited a number of so-called “culture war” issues that have drawn criticism – and lawsuits – from Democrats and civil rights organizations.
A law pushed by DeSantis this year, for example, restricts how race-related concepts can be taught in schools and workplace training.
Dubbed by DeSantis the “Stop WOKE” Act, the law in part prohibits teaching that would cause students to experience “guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress due to actions, in which the person does not played no role, committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, national origin or sex. The law is the subject of two challenges in the Federal Court.
Lawmakers also approved a congressional map proposed by DeSantis that included the reconfiguration of a North Florida district held by U.S. Representative Al Lawson, a black Democrat. The new map, which is being challenged in court, could reduce the number of black members of the state’s congressional delegation.
One of the priorities of the “A Vote for Black Lives” campaign will focus on a new Office of Election Crimes and Security, which was included in a bill (SB 524) passed in March. The office will have the power to launch independent investigations into alleged voting-related wrongdoing. The office, which is housed within the Florida Department of State, will also manage the state’s election hotline.
The bill also provides for the appointment of officers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate allegations of election violations, with at least one officer in each region of the state.
The creation of the office within the State Department has alarmed civil rights leaders, who argue it is unnecessary and could be used to intimidate black and Hispanic voters. The state hasn’t released rules outlining exactly how the office will operate.
“With the passage of Senate Bill 524 which created an Election Police Force, we believe it is important to staff polling stations with poll monitors at early voting locations and on Election Day” who are trained in Florida election law and hotline procedures, so they can help voters report concerns to county election officials, Thomas said.
Equal Ground’s goal is to beat the black voter turnout of 61% by 1% in 2018, she said.
The group also recruits “trusted leaders” from the black community to work as “validators” who can train other volunteers to educate black voters on things like election dates and polling locations and polling stations. encourage people to vote, Thomas said. Group activities launched this week and digital ads will increase in August.
While any efforts focused on voter education and participation are important, Thomas put poll monitoring at the top of the list.
“It is going to be essential that we have community leaders trained to understand these new laws and our voting rights and things like that, so that they are able to mitigate any problems and report directly to our protection hotlines. election and to our lawyers who run these hotlines,” she said.
The effort to engage black voters will also target young people, according to Tameka Hobbs, executive director of the A. Philip Randolph Institute for Law, Race, Social Justice and Economic Policy at Edward Waters University in Jacksonville.
“As an advocate for students and black history, I am deeply concerned about how some politicians are using education for their own political agendas, turning our children and young adults into pawns and potentially jeopardizing their future. instead of ensuring that our schools have all the resources they need to provide a positive learning environment for all students. It has to stop,” she said in a Tuesday call with reporters.
Hobbs pointed to the new Elections Office and part of Florida law that removes registered voters from rolls if they haven’t voted within a certain amount of time.
“Both of these policies will have real adverse effects on people of color and young voters,” she said.
Hobbs said she and other campus and community leaders are working to ensure students are registered to vote and have accurate information about upcoming elections.
Hobbs said people between the ages of 18 and 24 accounted for just 10% of the vote.
“We need to increase this number as the laws being passed are going to have a profound impact on the voting population. And we must do everything in our power to engage and empower this generation,” she said.