“They’re trying to take our vote!”
I could hear my mother's fear over the phone. While trying to vote during a Democratic primary this year she was told she wasn’t on the voter rolls at her local polling station. She hadn’t gone to the wrong polling station. She wasn’t registered as a Republican or an Independent thereby disqualifying her to participate. She just wasn’t on the list. My mom, like many of us, has heard about the voter ID laws and other policies being implemented across the country. The laws and policies—that are impacting the poor, the elderly and people of color disproportionally—have been identified as an attempt to disenfranchise key demographics of the Democratic base. I tried to explain to her that I didn’t think this was a part of the broader disenfranchisement campaign but that didn’t soothe her. She’s voted in every election for decades and now wasn’t listed and feared what this meant for her and for others who may not attempt to vote until November.
Her fear is justified.
The disenfranchising of likely Obama voters is real. Civil rights organizations such as the NAACP, Color of Change and the National Action Network have all been fighting for months to halt what attorney general Eric Holder described as “a poll tax.” My mom’s fear wasn’t based in conspiracy theories she heard from the black Israelites on 125th street in Harlem. Republicans have flat out said that these laws will actively help Mitt Romney win the White House. And with the disheartening legal ruling in Pennsylvania we realize that the game has been set for November. We can—and should—continue to yell and fight but the most important thing we can do at the moment is educate.
Enter Social Media.
Twitter—the Blackity Black social media network where 28% of blacks who are online participate—is known as a space to drum up support and outrage for various issues. But just as it can be used to enrage, it can be used to inform. A great example is a Twitter conversation that’s being held at 1pm on Friday, August 17th—hosted by twitter personality and sex-positive blogger @FeministaJones. She’s joined by ColorOfChange.org, Impact-DC and other influencers choosing to use their social space to engage. The goal is to educate people about the myriad changes in registration, ID requirements and much more. Using the hashtag #voteready Jones hopes to discuss, inform and allow anyone to ask questions and follow the overall conversation.
“It’s important that we get this information out there, especially to young people who might not be aware of the changes” said Jones through her Youtube announcement of the talk. “We want to make sure everyone knows their rights and responsibilities when it comes to voting.”
As we countdown to the biggest, nastiest presidential election we’ve had in decades, the informing and engaging of young people of color is of great import. Organizations play a role in the fight to protect the vote but the grassroots advocates like Jones and others are where true change lies. If more people take up the fight to educate, no matter where they are, we will have our say in November whether Republicans like it or not.
Elon James White is a writer and satirist and host of the award-winning video and radio series This Week in Blackness. Listen Monday to Thursday at 1:30 p.m. EST at TWIB.FM and watch at TV.TWIB.ME/LIVE. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Tumblr.