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Non-partisan collective targets voter registration, turnout in November

A multi-pronged coalition has launched a local voter registration and Election Day turnout drive.

Representatives of the NAACP, AFL-CIO, Teamsters, MICAH (Memphis Interfaith Coalition for Action and Hope) and the A. Phillip Randolph Institute (APRI) on Tuesday announced their apolitical partnership aims to get more voters registered for a massive turnout in the general election on Nov. 3.

The “Continue the Dream Voter and Volunteer Alliance” is a substantial, local response to threats of voter suppression through mail-in and absentee voting, which has developed on the national front.

President Donald Trump said in a White House briefing last week that he plans to block additional funding and election assistance for the U.S. Postal Service to thwart efforts to expand mail-in voting capacity.

Kendra Lee, political fellow coordinate of the APRI, said her organization is “ecstatic” to be joining in the Voter and Volunteer Alliance.

“It is important to return power back to the people,” Lee said. “Memphis has a history of advocacy and a history of organizing. Politics are about people, and power should be in the hands of the people.”

APRI successfully sued the Tennessee Election Commission to ease excuse requirements for absentee ballots during COVID pandemic, stating in filing documents that people “should not have to choose between staying safe and exercising their right to vote.”

NAACP Political Chair Ian Randolph said the coalition wants to ensure that “all people get to flex their power on Nov. 3.”

“Voting is power. And the time to exercise that power is by marching to the voting booth to vote. Our role in the alliance is focusing on voter registration, encouraging early voting, and educating people about absentee voting,” Randolph said.

NAACP Memphis Chapter President Van Turner said absentee voting can be exercised by anyone over the age of 60 and allowances are being made for the pandemic.

“Of course, anyone over 60 may request an absentee ballot,” Turner said. “Also, those who are caring for a COVID-19 patient, as well as those who have COVID-19, may also vote absentee. But no one will be given an absentee ballot for fear of catching COVID-19.”

The NAACP has continuously sponsored voter registration drives throughout the year. Memphis Executive Director Vickie Terry said those who do not choose absentee voting and need transportation to the polls would be safely transported in vehicles that have been thoroughly sanitized.

“Everyone will be wearing a mask and social distancing will be observed,” Terry said. “We want people to feel confident that they can be transported to the polls in a clean and safe environment. We want to take the fear out of voting.”

MICAH’s Meggan Kiel said the organization is still open for volunteers who can work in the virtual phone bank.

“We have the complete list of those who have been purged from voter rolls in Shelby County,” Kiel said. “Everyone on the list will be contacted to inform them that they have been purged because many don’t know that. They get an opportunity to re-register in time for the Nov. 3 election.”

Teamsters Local 66 AFL-CIO President James Jones said the concerted voting effort is needed now like it has never been needed.

“We are coming together as a collective so that everyone who wishes to vote will have that opportunity,” said Jones. “Purging voters and other voter suppression tactics must be fought aggressively to make sure those tactics do not succeed.”

Suzanne Thompson, Shelby County Election Commission public relations, acknowledged that some Republican-run states have used purging and other suppression strategies that are not lawful.

“We want to give all voters in Shelby County every opportunity to exercise their right to vote,” said Thompson. “Our administrator, Linda Phillips, goes out to give talks about how individuals can go about getting their voter rights restored. People can register to vote online at: GoVoteTN.com. Everyone must be registered by Oct. 5, to be eligible to vote in the general election.”

Early voting will run Oct. 14-27. Requests for absentee ballots must have a postmark of Oct. 5 to be honored.

To volunteer for the Vote and Volunteer Alliance, or to secure a ride to the polls, call the NAACP office at: 901-521-1343. All community organizations and churches are encouraged to join.

 

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