National Voter Registration Day wrapped up on Tuesday, but local efforts to get people registered to vote remains under way. More than 70 groups across the county have come together to get people signed up in time for the Nov. 8 election.
“I am extremely pleased that everyone is working together. I think everyone recognizes that we can get more done when we work together,” said Rep. Brenda Gilmore (Dem), District 54.
Gilmore has been very outspoken regarding the controversial voter registration laws that include requiring a photo ID to vote, a law that she and the NAACP refer to as voter suppression. To help combat what Gilmore refers to as an outright attempt to suppress the Black vote, she has hosted registration drives. She’s not alone. Several groups like the Alpha Delta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. are working hard to increase the number of registered voters.
“If you don’t vote, you are allowing 15% of the people to make a decision for the 85% of us. If you’re not at the table sometimes you get eaten up ,” said Gilmore.
Woman Flies Solo on Voter Registration Mission
Barbara Buchanan Covington doesn’t have the well-oiled machine of most large organizations supporting her as she registers people. She’s a lone woman with a passion and plan to register as many people as she possibly can. She started in May hosting events. Every Sunday after church, she’s getting people signed up. To-date, she’s hosted seven events and has registered close to 500 people.
“It’s important to me for the maintenance and the advancement of freedom for persons who I classify as under-resourced and for everybody. I’m very interested in getting our state legislator Democratic again,” said Buchanan. She’s also focusing on restoring the voting rights for felons. Those who were once convicted of a felony can have their rights restored if they meet the following criteria: their sentence must have been completed or pardoned, parole or probation must have been completed, must have paid all court ordered restitution and court costs assessed against them, all child support payments must be paid up to current.
“We have a number of people who have used terrible judgment and made mistakes when young and it’s been years since they’ve committed a crime. They have fully satisfied their jail time and probation and any conditions that the court has asked them to do. They still have not been made to feel like they are an American because voting is an American right. It is their voice,” said Gilmore.
Churches Ramp Up Efforts
The church has been a first stop for folks like Buchanan and others who are desperately trying to reach the African-American voter. Many churches around town such as Greater St. John Missionary Baptist Church, Mount Zion and more have focused on getting the forms signed and turned in by the deadline.
Pastor Ronnie T. Mitchell of New Livingstone Church in East Nashville says the Black Church is active with regards to voting, but it’s time for the church to take more of a leadership position.
“If the Black Church would direct as much attention to the issue of voting as it does to so much and so many other things, the entire Outlook of Blacks would change for the better. It would manifest itself in employment, incarceration, healthcare and education,” said Mitchell.
He launched a voter registration program about four months ago at his church. He started with making sure his entire congregation was registered. When visitors attend the 250-member church, they receive a church program and are given voter registration forms if needed.
Because of efforts like that at New Livingstone, Albert Tieche, administrator of elections for Davidson County, says they anticipate seeing the same if not more voters turn out in November. Currently, there are 304,000 active voters in the county. About 70% of them turned out to vote in 2008.
The deadline to register is Oct. 8. You can pick up a registration form from the Davidson County Election Commission Office at 800 2nd Ave South, any U.S. Post Office, public libraries, County Clerk’s office, Department of Safety and Department of Veteran’s Affairs. Early voting will run Oct. 1 through Nov. 1.