DETROIT – Voter suppression in the United States is American as apple pie. From only allowing white men and freed African-American slaves in four states who owned property to vote in the late 1700s, to denying the basic right to all women up until 1920.
Even with African-Americans having the right to vote in the U.S., voter intimidation and Jim Crow voting laws continued to suppress the black vote. Poll taxes and literacy tests were instituted to stop poor and uneducated blacks from voting.
Still, in 2018, people of color in the south are experiencing voter suppression in the race for governor in Georgia. Candidate and secretary of state Brian Kemp, who is white, has invoked the so-called exact-match law to suspend 53,000 voter-registration applications, for infractions as minor as a hyphen missing from a surname. He is running against Democrat, Stacey Abrams, the former minority leader of the state House of Representatives — who, if she wins, will be the first black female governor in the country.
The Detroit Branch of the NAACP is fighting against voter suppression in its region by launching a campaign titled, ‘Take Your Soles To The Polls.’ In partnership with AARP, the City of Detroit, Wayne County, and community leaders, the initiative is an effort to increase and motivate the voter turnout for the general election on November 6.
“It is blasphemous and does not speak well of our nation,” Detroit Chapter of the NAACP president Reverend Wendell Anthony said on voter suppression. “We are better than this. You heard the president of the United States say he is for voter identification. That’s a dog whistle for suppressing the vote. It’s wrong and that’s why we are here: to promote the vote and tell people to take their soles to the polls.”
From now through election day, the Detroit NAACP will be engaged with voters and community organizers to encourage residents to exercise their vote. The branch will continue to knock on doors and make personal visits to residents in areas with high voter registration, but low voter turnout.
Saturday, October 27, the Detroit NCAAP will canvas both the west and east sides of Detroit to spread awareness of election day and why the black vote matters in this year’s election. The westside location will be at 17227 West Seven Mile and Galilee Baptist Church at 5251 East Outer Drive will serve as the eastside location.
Three days before the election, Detroit NAACP canvassers will meet at the branch’s headquarters at 8220 Second Avenue, and at the McDonald’s on Mack Avenue and Conner. They will knock doors from 12 noon-4 p.m. on both days.
“The average person might question where they matter during election time,” said Mayor Mike Duggan. “But on election day, it doesn’t matter the size of your wallet. Everybody’s voice counts exactly the same and it is critical that we get the residents of this city out to vote. I am pleased to support Rev. Anthony and the Detroit NAACP in declaring November 4, “Take Your Soles to The Polls Sunday” throughout the City of Detroit.”
The Detroit NAACP also garnered support from Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans. Detroit is the largest city in the state, in the largest county in Michigan. There are over 1.7 million people throughout the 43 communities of the county, 40 percent who are African-American.
“There is nothing more important than us voting on November 6,” said Evans. “We are trying to get the energy up to vote and it almost seems strange that you would have to get the energy up during this important time. But I think there is a certain amount of lethargy that comes from all the misinformation that people hear on a regular basis and the feeling they have about the direction of this country. We fight that by going to the polls.”
Voting rights are under attack nationwide as states pass voter suppression laws. These laws lead to significant burdens for eligible voters trying to exercise their most fundamental constitutional right. Over the past 10 years, states across the country have passed measures to make it harder for Americans—particularly black people, the elderly, students, and people with disabilities—to exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot. These measures include cuts to early voting, voter ID laws, and purges of voter rolls. The Detroit NAACP has served people of color in the city since 1912 and plans to continue fighting for the right and opportunity to vote November 6 for black Detroiters.
“If people are doing the wrong thing (on election day), we want to know,” said Rev. Anthony said possible voter suppression methods in Detroit. “You can call the branch at 313-871-2087. We have lawyers and we don’t mind taking people to court. We will sue you if in fact people are doing the wrong thing. That’s through our Voter’s Protection efforts. We’ve come too far to turn back now.”