The Selma Initiative: NAACP Mounts Nationwide Voter Protection Effort

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Hotline and lawyers deployed to protect voters on Election Day adds to the organization’s robust ongoing mobilization work

(Washington, DC) On March 21, 1965, thousands of nonviolent protesters marched out of Selma, Alabama alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. Five days later, they arrived in Montgomery and gathered on the steps of the Capitol, demanding equal and full rights of citizenship. Five months later, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act.

Today, November 3, 2016, we stand five days away from the first presidential election in more than fifty years in which the Justice Department will operate without the full support of the Voting Rights Act. People of color, seniors, young people and immigrants are uniquely vulnerable this year, with months of warnings of voter fraud and a “rigged” election on the campaign trail.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has launched a nationwide voter protection initiative to safeguard Americans exercising their constitutional rights in this election. We have mobilized our two million digital activists, nearly half million card-carrying members, and 2,200 local units to join our effort. In these five final, critical days before the election – our own Selma to Montgomery sprint – we are working around the clock to protect all citizens from voter suppression.

The NAACP national mobilization campaign targets 17 critically vulnerable states and supports all 50. Through door-to-door canvassing, more than 40 in-person phone banks and countless more automated voter outreach drives, we have reached more than 6,022 African American precincts (those with an African American population at least 65%).

“In every presidential election since 1965, we have battled to increase the turnout of black voters, and once again we are doing everything in our power to encourage black voters to get to the polls in record numbers,” said NAACP President and CEO Cornell W. Brooks. “The kinds of threats we have heard in recent months—ID checks, voter intimidation, misinformation campaigns—harken back to the first half of the 20th century. And although the current iteration of the Voting Rights Act is not nearly as powerful as it was, make no mistake: these practices are illegal, and they are wrong.”

The NAACP mobilized staff and operationalized national resources to fight voter suppression:
●    We joined with the National Election Protection Coalition to make sure every American can exercise their constitutional right this November.
●    In voter suppression states like Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Texas, state conferences sent letters to their election officials informing them of voting machine malfunctions which keep voters from electing their candidates of choice, and to provide the required notice for Election Day vote monitoring.
●    The Texas NAACP, as a plaintiff in the Veasey v. Perry case, worked to ensure the Secretary of State’s office properly informed voters of their right to cast a regular ballot with alternative identification, if they do not have voter identification, as outlined in the SB14 law.
●    We collaborated with BET, the Sheryl Underwood Radio Network and Bishop T.D. Jakes of the Potter’s House in Dallas for a series of national public service announcements and voter education.
●    We partnered with other organizations with national networks, from the AME Church to the Divine 9 to the Masons, Shriners and The Links, to get out the vote and raise awareness about voter suppression.
●    This week the NAACP sued North Carolina due to discriminatory practices in voter purging.

In these final days before the election, the NAACP’s national campaign – our Selma Initiative – is providing crucial voter information and serving as a resource for reporting voter obstruction:
●    Members of the NAACP legal team have crossed the country, training organizers on the ground, sharing resources available from the national office and holding webinars with all NAACP regions on how to respond to potential voter misinformation and intimidation tactics.
●    As part of its work with the National Election Protection Coalition, organizers have recruited and trained lawyers, law students and other legal professionals to work in call centers on Election Day.
●    At the Election Day Command Center at the NAACP’s National Headquarters, volunteers will staff 10 election protection stations and more than 20 phone banks throughout polling hours.
●    NAACP experts have set up the Vote Monitor Hotline so voters can directly report efforts to prevent voters from casting their ballots.

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If you experience or witness voter obstruction on or before Election Day, email [email protected] or call 1-866-OUR-VOTE to report the incident or ask for help.

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