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Southern Poverty Law Center Announces Initial Grants in $30M Vote Your Voice Initiative

Twelve organizations receive grants for voter registration, education, and mobilization in the Deep South. Application information for second round of grant distributions also detailed.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Today, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) announces the first round of Vote Your Voice grants to 12 voter outreach organizations across the Deep South as part of the $30 million voter mobilization initiative.

The 12 organizations, which have long histories and proven track records empowering voters of color, submitted innovative proposals to boost voter registration, education, and mobilization in Vote Your Voice's five targeted states – Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and Mississippi. The grants will help the organizations continue their efforts and further their strategies to turn out low-propensity voters amid voter suppression schemes and other barriers, including the pandemic, in advance of upcoming elections. 

"The organizations announced today have records of achievement in their communities registering, educating, and mobilizing voters of color, young people, low-income people, and returning citizens, and we are thrilled to support their work and engage more people in civic participation in the South," said SPLC President and Chief Executive Officer Margaret Huang. "In addition to facing the legacy of systemic racism, communities of color face disproportionate harm from the COVID-19 pandemic. Today’s announcement ensures more eligible voters of color in the Deep South will have a say in the direction of our country as we deal with the pandemic fall-out and reckon with lasting injustices."

In total, nearly $5.5 million is being distributed across the five states as part of the Vote Your Voice initiative, including $2,010,000 in Florida, $1,575,000 in Georgia, $800,000 in Louisiana, $550,000 in Mississippi, and $500,000 for a project working in Alabama and Georgia.

The 12 grant recipients are: 

Alabama/Georgia

  • Black Voters Matter increases civic engagement and power building in predominantly Black communities. The organization works in nine southern states — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. In 2019, it expanded into two northern states — Michigan and Pennsylvania.

    Through the $500,000 grant the organization will register, educate and mobilize Black voters in 17 Alabama counties and 24 Georgia counties through mini-grants to grassroots groups and conduct outreach via texting and other digital and social media strategies.

Florida

  • Dream Defenders is a membership-based organization of Black and brown youth, young adults and students fighting for a better future by organizing campaigns, services, and political-education programming to improve community outcomes. The organization has 10 chapters across the state of Florida in Broward, Daytona, Gainesville, Miami, Orlando, Pensacola, Sanford, St. Petersburg, Tallahassee, and Tampa. 

    Through the $200,000 grant, the organization will register, educate, and mobilize Black and immigrant young people ages 18 to 34 in Broward, Orange and Osceola counties in Florida. Their outreach will include digital ads, social media, online events, texting, and phone banking.

 

  • The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC) is a grassroots membership organization run by returning citizens who are dedicated to ending the disenfranchisement and discrimination against people with convictions, and creating a more comprehensive and humane reentry system that will enhance successful reentry, reduce recidivism, and increase public safety. FRRC led the effort to pass Amendment 4 in 2018, and for many years has been building a statewide movement to transform the conversation around criminal justice reform.

    Through the $1 million grant, the organization will focus on voter registration, education, and mobilization efforts on 1.1 million low-propensity Black and Latinx voters in the most heavily incarcerated precincts across 35 Florida counties, including the Panhandle, Central, and Southeast counties. This year, the group will mobilize voters via mail, relational organizing, and digital and radio advertising.

 

  • New Florida Majority Education Fund, Inc. is a community-centered racial justice organization dedicated to protecting and expanding democracy and advancing racial justice by educating communities about voting rights to increase democratic participation and the need to protect, reform, and modernize democracy. This organization does this by carrying out civic engagement activities in Black and brown communities who are often disengaged from the democratic process. 

    Through the $500,000 grant, the organization will conduct voter registration, education, and mobilization statewide among Black and brown communities, including returning citizens, in North and South Florida. The group’s aim is to register voters via calls, texting, digital and earned media, and in-person canvassing in compliance with CDC guidelines.

 

  • Organize Florida Education Fund’s mission is to engage its members in building power to advance policies that challenge systemic inequity and improve their lives through campaigns that include public education, civic engagement, legislative advocacy, and direct action. It is a multi-issue grassroots organization, representing mainly low-income women and women of color along the I-4 Corridor in Florida with offices in Hillsborough and Osceola Counties.  

    Through the $310,000 grant, the organization will conduct voter registration, education, mobilization, and protection with a focus on low- to moderate-income people of color with a low propensity to vote along the I-4 corridor in Florida.

Georgia

  • The Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda's mission is to improve the quality of governance through a more informed and active electorate who will hold elected officials accountable. The organization operates seven offices – metro Atlanta, Athens-Clarke County, Bibb (Macon) County, Chatham (Savannah) County, Dougherty (Albany) County, Richmond (Augusta) County, and Troup (LaGrange) County and conducts civic engagement activities, registers thousands of voters, holds educational forums, and mobilizes them to participate through phone banks, texting and providing rides to the polls, focusing primarily on African American women and men in  57 counties across the state.

    Through the $75,000 grant, the organization will continue their work in voter registration, education, mobilization and protection with a focus on people of color, young people, single women and low-income Georgians in six areas: Athens-Clarke, Bibb, Chatham, Dougherty, Richmond, and Troup. Their tactics include phone banking, texting and relational organizing.

 

  • The New Georgia Project (NGP) is focused on voter registration, engagement, and power building for the large and growing population of African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans in Georgia. NGP is part of a movement – not a moment – to meet the changing demographics of Georgia, to harness the unheard voices of the New American Majority and to position Georgia for leadership in the South and across the country, identify local policy priorities, demystify the political process, and move their families and neighbors to action.

    Through the $750,000 grant, the organization will engage in voter registration, education, and mobilization among low-propensity communities of color, women of color and young people. Its aim is to reach voters through earned and paid media, virtual phone banks, texting, and relational organizing. Additionally, it will counter online voter suppression with videos, songs, social listening, and tech tools. 

 

  • ProGeorgia is a bold, trusted, and diverse collaborative that champions an equitable and inclusive democracy, for and with traditionally underrepresented communities. The organization supports and coordinates the civic engagement programs of its diverse partners. ProGeorgia develops the infrastructure, executes the joint strategies, and employs new tools and technology to assure a government that is more responsive to the needs of its constituencies.  

    Through the $750,000 grant, the organization will continue its work to register, educate, mobilize, and protect voters in low-propensity communities of color as well as women of color and young people, focusing on 33 counties for voter engagement and 70 counties for election protection. Its goal is to reach people of color through texting, digital pledge-to-vote drives, phone banking, mail, and earned media.

Louisiana

  • The Power Coalition for Equity and Justice is a statewide civic engagement and base building table in Louisiana that is working to shift power back to the people, fight policies that hurt the state’s families, and increase voter participation by building support structures for community activism. Power Coalition’s support for grassroots leadership development empowers citizens to address classism, racism, and other marginalization in their own lives.

    Through the $500,000 grant, the group will conduct voter registration, education, and mobilization among young people, returning citizens, seniors, and immigrants/migrants who are infrequent voters of color. Its strategies include phone banking, texting, social media, literature drops, events, and regranting.

 

  • Voice of the Experienced (VOTE) aims to restore the full civil and human rights to all current and formerly incarcerated people and their families, friends, and allies. VOTE works on restoring the right to vote as well as registering and mobilizing voters.

    Through the $300,000 grant, the organization will engage in voter registration, education, and mobilization with an emphasis on incarcerated people and their families. Strategies include phone calls, door knocking under the guidance of the CDC, and literature drops.

Mississippi

  • Mississippi Votes (MS Votes) envisions a voter-friendly Mississippi — measured by increased voter registration and turnout (specifically within 18-35 voting bloc), the removal of historic barriers to voting access, an educated and informed electorate, and the implementation of policies designed to lessen the burden of voting. MS Votes engages low-income, young, and underserved Mississippians of color in all electoral and legislative processes.

    Through the $200,000 grant, the organization will conduct voter registration, education, mobilization and protection activities with a focus on low-income, young, and underserved Mississippians of color between ages 18 to 35.

 

  • One Voice's mission is to ensure an equal voice to traditionally silenced communities across the South. One Voice builds community awareness and increases the capacity of communities, so that local organizations and leaders are empowered and provided opportunities to engage in the formation of public policy that affects their lives.

    Through the $350,000 grant, the organization will conduct voter registration, education, and mobilization activities focused on infrequent Black voters primarily in the Central District of Mississippi. Efforts also include voting rights restoration for individuals with felony convictions.

 

Announced last month, Vote Your Voice is a partnership between the SPLC and the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta (Community Foundation) to invest up to $30 million through 2022 from the SPLC's endowment to engage voters and increase voter registration, education, and participation; support Black- and brown-led organizations often ignored by traditional funders; support and prototype effective voter engagement strategies; and re-enfranchise returning citizens despite intentional bureaucratic challenges. 

"During recent election cycles, and even in primaries just this year, voters in Georgia and across the South have experienced purging of voter rolls, long lines at polling stations and inoperable equipment, often in majority Black communities," said Clare S. Richie, public policy specialist at the Community Foundation. "These grants will lift up organizations working at the ground level, and those maximizing mobile technology and social media in this time of social distancing, to overcome long-standing policies and practices that have stifled the voice and vote of Black and brown communities."

Also today, the SPLC and Community Foundation have started to accept applications for grants in a second round of distribution across the target states. The initiative is seeking a broad cross-section of nonprofit organizations with deep roots within communities prioritized; experience in nonpartisan voter registration, education, and mobilization; and a commitment to working with the initiative’s data partner to track progress and impact.

Together with the first cohort, organizations participating in the Vote Your Voice initiative will use grants to amplify their ongoing work to engage millions of voters across the South this election cycle to exercise their basic right to vote and ensure their voices are heard. 

Applications for the second round of grants are due by August 14, 2020. Organizations can apply here: http://cfgreateratlanta.org/nonprofits/available-grants/vote-your-voice/   

Additional Vote Your Voice information may be found here: https://www.splcenter.org/vote-your-voice