The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has announced it is investing up to $30 million from its endowment in voter outreach organizations in the Deep South to increase voter registration and participation among people of color with a lower propensity to vote.
The initiative, called ‘Vote Your Voice,’ is focused on increasing voter participation specifically in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, beginning in 2020 and running through 2022.
“This initiative is especially important right now, as millions of people across the country feel the urgency to make our voices heard this fall after the continued silence from our leaders on the many Black people being killed by police,” SPLC President/Chief Executive Officer Margaret Huang, said in a news release.
“Voting won’t solve this problem the day after the election but in order to begin dismantling White supremacy, we need to ensure that every voter of color is able to cast their ballot without interference or hardship.
“The work ahead of us will not be easy. The COVID-19 pandemic has and will continue to have a disproportionate impact on democratic participation for communities of color who have been harmed most deeply by the health and economic crisis and who will encounter greater barriers to voter participation given the new risks of voting in person on Election Day.”
Numerous organizations across the five states are working to promote voter participation and reach communities of color, returning citizens and young people, but they are struggling to secure resources to further their outreach amid the COVID-19 pandemic, an era of social distancing, and major economic recession, the SPLC said in a statement.
Vote Your Voice, a partnership with the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta (Community Foundation), will administer grants up to a total of $30 million available for nonprofit-nonpartisan activities through 2022 as organizations navigate reaching their constituents amidst the pandemic and other obstacles.
“We are proud to partner with Southern Poverty Law Center to target education and mobilization efforts that support a robust, and fair, election process,” said Community Foundation Vice President of Community Lita Pardi.
“We must all work to end systemic barriers that deny our citizens their right to vote, especially in Black communities across the South.”
Other Vote Your Voice goals include:
- Reconnecting with constituencies that historically and currently face barriers to voting, focusing on returning citizens, voters of color, and those who have been purged from voter rolls.
- Engaging voters who are often ignored by outreach programs, including low-propensity voters of color and voters of color who live outside of major metro areas.
- Building greater capacity for voter outreach work to combat voter suppression by providing multi-year support through the 2022 election cycle.
- Funding and supporting organizations that are led by people of color.
- The SPLC and the Community Foundation will award their first round of grants in early July and a second round later in the summer. Organizations that work with communities of color have been invited to submit grant applications as part of the first round. The second round will be conducted through an open Request for Proposals process.
Officials noted that Vote Your Voice builds on the SPLC’s ongoing voting rights work to enable every citizen in the Deep South the opportunity to have their voice heard at the ballot box.
In the past two years, the SPLC invested a combined $2 million to help pass the Amendment 4 ballot initiative in Florida and increase voter registration and turn-out in Louisiana and Mississippi state elections.
Meanwhile, in federal courts, the SPLC has successfully sued Florida on its unconstitutional poll tax and has ongoing litigation challenging Mississippi’s lifetime voting ban for citizens with certain felony convictions.