The NAACP is in the final push of a fall campaign aimed at boosting Black voter turnout in battleground states, including Pennsylvania. The “Black Voices Change Lives” campaign will use volunteers to call or text low frequency Black voters and urge them to cast their ballots on November 3.
The goal is to increase Black voter turnout by more than 5% compared to four years ago. According to the Pew Research Center, Black voter turnout declined to 59.6% in 2016 after reaching a historic high of 66.6% percent in the 2012 elections. The 7-percentage point drop from the previous presidential election is the largest on record for African Americans.
“When we fail to vote, we are giving a rubber stamp to those who may not have our interests at heart,” said NAACP Pennsylvania state president Kenneth Huston. “We want people to understand the impact that not voting has on our communities, and if we want to see change, we have to be serious about this,” he added.
Huston said the organization wants to help Black people become informed voters. “Knowledge is one of the best ways to motivate people who haven’t voted to cast a ballot,” he said. “We want people to understand the impact that not voting has on our communities.”
The civil rights organization said it launched the grassroots, civic engagement campaign to address the urgency of the 2020 presidential election and how the outcome will impact issues like the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The economic impact of the pandemic has hit the Black community especially hard not only in terms of their health but also economically,” said Huston. “There are a substantial number of people of color who don’t have savings, who do not have 401ks, and cannot take out second mortgages on their homes and are living paycheck to paycheck,” he noted.
Systemic racism is also an issue that Huston said is threatening the lives of African Americans. He said President Donald Trump’s rhetoric has some Black citizens concerned about what they see as attempts at voter suppression.
“You have a president of the United States who is touting fraud and touting sending these so-called poll watchers to intimidate those who seek to vote,” Huston said. A federal judge in early October dismissed a suit filed by Trump’s re-election campaign that would have allowed poll watchers in Pennsylvania to observe voting sites outside of their own counties.
Huston said the NAACP in Pennsylvania has a web page that can direct users to the state registry for voting. He said it provides information relevant to mail in voting and absentee voting and has a link which takes people to the state website where they can register to vote online. The deadline to register in Pennsylvania is October 19.