I am thrilled to share with you that we’re launching the SPLC’s Vote Your Voice initiative to help support voter registration and mobilization efforts in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi.
We’ll be investing up to $30 million from our endowment in nonpartisan, nonprofit voter outreach organizations in these states to increase voter registration and participation among people of color.
As you know, our nation has a long history of denying voting rights to its citizens, especially Black and brown people, women and young people. While we have seen gains in voting rights and access in recent decades, since the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, there has been a resurgence of state-sponsored voter suppression that is targeting communities of color “with almost surgical precision.” These tactics include purging voter rolls, blocking rights restoration efforts, eliminating polling places, scaling back early voting, instituting onerous voter ID laws, limiting access to voting by mail and other measures. As I’m sure you are aware, last Tuesday’s primary election in Georgia — a state that has been a hotbed of voter suppression efforts — was an operational disaster. It’s a deeply troubling preview of what the Nov. 3 election could look like.
This initiative is especially important right now, as millions of people across the country feel the urgency to make their voices heard this fall after the continued silence from our leaders on the many Black people being killed by police. Voting won’t solve this problem the day after the election, but in order to begin dismantling white supremacy, we need to ensure that every voter of color is able to cast their ballot without interference or hardship.
The work ahead of us will not be easy. The COVID-19 pandemic has and will continue to have a disproportionate impact on democratic participation for communities of color who have been harmed most deeply by the health and economic crisis and who will encounter greater barriers to voter participation given the new risks of voting in person on Election Day.
Throughout the five states where this initiative is focused, numerous organizations have been tirelessly working to promote voter registration and participation to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard and everyone’s vote is counted. Many of these groups struggle to secure the resources they need to conduct outreach due to a once-in-a-generation economic recession. They are also facing new barriers to reaching voters in an era of social distancing where face-to-face canvassing has been curtailed.
That’s where we want to help.
In addition to supporting voter registration and mobilization activities among voters of color, we’ll be seeking to particularly aid those who face the greatest barriers to participation, including returning citizens, young people, individuals who have been purged from voter rolls, and infrequent voters who are not usually contacted by outreach groups.
We’re also aiming to help groups build capacity in between federal election cycles — too much of this work is transactional where groups are only supported ahead of presidential and congressional elections. We plan to help sustain these organizations during local election cycles by providing multi-year grants.
Our partner in this effort is the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. Together, we’ll make the first round of grants in early July, with a second round later in the summer.
I am truly thrilled to see this work underway, and I am especially grateful to you, our supporters, who helped make Vote Your Voice possible.
Photo by AP Images / Ross D. Franklin