NAACP President Derrick Johnson (File photo)
NAACP President Derrick Johnson (File photo)

With an ambitious goal to increase turnout among African American voters by more than 5 percent over 2016, the NAACP has launched the first phase of its “Black Voices Change Lives” campaign.

The initiative marks an unprecedented effort by the nation’s oldest civil rights organization to engage Black voters across the country by deploying what NAACP President Derrick Johnson called a blend of traditional and innovative turnout tactics in a select number of battleground states.

“We’ve seen the outcome of when we have a drop in voter activity in the Black community,” Johnson declared. “We have racism germinating from the White House.”

Johnson added that there’s an added sense of urgency in getting African Americans to vote this year. As a part of this effort, the NAACP said it would release radio and digital ads in Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The NAACP turnout strategy is anchored in indirect relational voter turnout (IRVT), an initiative pioneered by the data science firm GSSA, where high-propensity Black voters are recruited as volunteers to encourage low-frequency Black voters to hit the polls.

Johnson said the goal is to enlist the services of about 200,000 “high-propensity” Black voters or people who turned out to vote in a high number of recent local, state and presidential elections.

In turn, those voters would look to mobilize “low-frequency” Black voters — individuals who were registered to vote, but who had not voted in the most recent election cycle or several election cycles — in Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The announcement coincided with presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden selecting Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) as his running mate.

Harris is the first Black woman to appear on the presidential ticket for a major party.

“Throughout the history of this nation, Black women have been at the forefront of moving us toward a more representative and unified society,” Johnson said. “From the voting booth to grassroots movements, Black women have fought for and uplifted this country with their vote and voice. But their representation in the highest levels of government has never matched their unwavering participation in our democracy.”

The NAACP president called the selection of Harris a choice that breaks down barriers in historic proportions.

“This announcement is even more powerful as it comes at a time when Black Americans face dueling threats — a global health crisis and ingrained racism,” Johnson said. “This moment is long overdue.”

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Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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