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SPLC Announces “We Vote! Mississippi” to Drive Up Registration and Turnout in Mississippi 2019 Elections

$450K project will target Hinds and Washington counties, HBCU campuses 

JACKSON, Miss. – Ahead of the pivotal 2019 statewide Mississippi elections in November, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) today announced a non-partisan, grassroots voter engagement project called We Vote! Mississippi, which will focus on voter registration, mobilization, and get out the vote (GOTV) efforts across the state. The SPLC will invest nearly half a million dollars in the project.

“Building political power in the South takes effort, people power, dedication, and resources,” said Nancy Abudu, deputy legal director for voting rights. “The SPLC is excited to magnify the ongoing work in communities across the state to secure the franchise for all those eligible to vote in Mississippi.”

Focused in Hinds and Washington counties, as well as on multiple historically black college and university (HBCU) campuses, We Vote! Mississippi seeks to raise awareness of the stakes of the statewide elections in November for historically marginalized communities, communities of color, and new voters. The project will coordinate with groups in the state conducting established voter outreach efforts.

Building on the SPLC’s successful We Vote! Jackson project during the 2018 U.S. Senate special election, We Vote! Mississippi will begin with voter registration drives in Hinds County and on multiple HBCU campuses across the state until the October 7 registration deadline. For the remaining month until the election, the project will transition into a door-to-door canvass, voter mobilization, and GOTV operation.

In 2018, We Vote! Jackson interacted in person with over 45,000 Jacksonians before the runoff election for the U.S. Senate seat. The results of the SPLC’s work and other programs: Among Mississippi counties with greater than 100,000 registered voters, turnout between Nov. 6 and 27 went down in each county except for Hinds County. Among Black voters in Hinds County who did not vote in the general election, but were targeted with the SPLC’s program for the runoff election, turnout increased more than 33 percent. Now, the SPLC plans to expand this outreach beyond Hinds County.

Analysis of recent census data and the current Mississippi state voter file reveal potentially 284,000 unregistered Black Mississippi voters of age, a number far greater than the 76,000 votes that decided last year’s U.S. Senate special election.

“Changing demographics can lead to a new era of policy across the South, but only if activists, engaged citizens, and organizations work to register and activate voters,” Abudu said. “Activists and advocates must be particularly vigilant in Mississippi to overcome long-standing policies intended to decrease voter participation, like disenfranchising Mississippians with certain felony convictions and cumbersome absentee ballot processes.”

For more information on We Vote! Mississippi, please go to www.wevotemississippi.org.

We Vote! Mississippi is part of the SPLC’s growing effort to expand its advocacy in the Deep South. In addition to litigation and its work in state legislatures, as the 2020 election cycle nears, the SPLC will mobilize historically disenfranchised communities and work to eliminate barriers to voting across the South. The SPLC already invested roughly $250,000 this year ahead of the state elections in Louisiana to register voters who are newly re-enfranchised and transient voters that historically drop off in gubernatorial election years. In 2018, the SPLC funded a $1.3 million campaign in Florida to inform and motivate voters ahead of an election that determined numerous amendments and revisions to the state’s constitution, including Amendment 4, which originally granted roughly 1.4 million Floridians with a prior felony conviction the right to vote.