Op-EdOpinion

MORIAL: National Urban League, BET Networks Launch #ReclaimYourVote

“Voter suppression isn’t guns and hoses and bully clubs and Bull Connor. It’s administrative burdens that interfere with your right to vote. In the south they try to stop you from getting on the rolls … and to stay on the rolls … and have your ballot be counted. We need our democracy to work, we need poverty to end, we need disenfranchisement to be a thing of the past, because when people are suppressed or oppressed it rages. It may be silent for some time but eventually it will come out.” — Stacey Abrams

During a hearing in 2017, California Congresswoman Maxine Waters secured her place as a social media hero when she dismissed the evasive meanderings of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin with the stern and uncompromising retort, “Reclaiming my time.”

Now, the National Urban League and BET Networks have turned Waters’ iconic catchphrase into rallying cry.

#ReclaimYourVote is a social change campaign committed to harnessing Black collective power and increasing Black participation in the 2020 census and the 2020 election.

With its primary channel reaching more than 90 million households, BET Networks is the nation’s leading provider of quality entertainment, music, news and public affairs television programming for the African American audience.

The biggest part of Russia’s insidious operation to disrupt the 2016 presidential election was aimed at dissuading Black Americans from voting, as our 2019 State of Black America® report revealed. This illegal foreign operation unfortunately aligned perfectly with a wave of racially-motivated voter suppression laws that have swept the nation over the last several years.

#Reclaim Your Vote is our response.

Fully half the states in the nation have enacted restrictive voter suppression laws, aimed at racial minorities, over the past 10 years. The 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby v. Holder, which gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, opened the floodgate for racially-motivated voter suppression.

Texas, for example, passed a strict voter ID law that allows voters to use a handgun license to vote, but not a student ID from a state university. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, more than 80 percent of handgun licenses issued to Texans in 2018 went to white Texans, while more than half of the students in the University of Texas system are racial or ethnic minorities.

Meanwhile, Russia’s campaign to disrupt and influence our democracy continues. We must be vigilant against misinformation about the candidates and any efforts to mislead voters about the election. One of the most common tactics of hostile foreign actors is to abuse the trust in movements like #BlackLivesMatter to insinuate themselves into online communities to spread lies and dissuade Black people from voting.

The nationwide #ReclaimYourVote campaign will layout the most significant issues, break down otherwise confusing processes, and highlight specific ways where we can reclaim our collective power by harnessing the power of media, entertainment and technology to drive civic engagement.

The next phases of #ReclaimYourVote will focus on rallying the community around the critical matters that directly affect them with issues-based content and comprehensive analysis.

Morial is president/CEO of the National Urban League.

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