By Adrianne Shropshire and Charlane Oliver.
The election on November 6 is one of the most important in our lifetimes. And it is clear that those who do not support our communities’ interest also know how important this election is. They are clearly threatened by the power of the Black vote. After the Supreme Court began allowing states to make changes to their voter ID laws without federal oversight, Republicans started doing everything they could to keep people from showing up to the polls.
Here in Tennessee, we are determined not to let that happen. From Memphis to Nashville, Black voters are making plans to turnout in support of candidates like Phil Bredesen and Karl Dean, pragmatic advocates for quality education and affordable healthcare, on Election Day.
Black voters also know that what’s at stake in this year’s election is bigger than any one candidate or issue. In the past several days, we’ve seen an ugly reminder of this nation’s troubled past. When Donald Trump stood on a stage and declared himself a “nationalist,” he gave dangerous, like-minded individuals permission to act on their hate. And the results were deadly.
Ultimately, this election is about the future. November 6 will give us an opportunity to declare what kind of future our community wants, needs, and demands. It’s important to plan ahead because lines may be long at your polling place. Make sure to find your correct polling place and plan your transportation to the polls in advance.
Don’t forget to bring a form of photo identification with you to the polling place. This ID must have your name and photo and be issued by Tennessee or the U.S. government (even an expired ID will work). College IDs and IDs issued from other states are not valid.
In Tennessee, polls are open from 7am to 7pm on Election Day, but you are legally allowed to vote if you arrive by 7pm. Sometimes registration forms are filled out in a rush, but if your registration form was missing some information when you turned it in, you have a right to correct it at your polling place, and then you can vote.
If you believe you registered and are eligible to vote, but poll workers are trying to turn you away, do not leave the polling place without casting your ballot. Election Protection has a hotline to help you. Just call 1-866-OUR-VOTE (687-8683). Don’t be afraid to reach out for help to make your vote count on Election Day.
Across the country, Republicans are closing polling locations, changing voting times, purging voters from the rolls, requiring photo IDs, and invalidating registration forms that don’t meet strict “exact match” requirements. These efforts feel painfully similar to the poll taxes and literacy tests that kept Black voters from voting, and they can impact voter turnout, but only if we let them.
With 17 percent of Tennessee’s population, Black voters have the power to make a significant impact and push back on the politics of fear and division in our country. While Republicans may try to keep us from the polls with misinformation and voter suppression schemes, our community proudly exercise the fundamental right our ancestors fought for and help put our state and country back on track.
Soon, Tennesseans will cast their votes to decide on our state’s future. Who we choose to send to the US Senate is especially critical: Tennessee is a battleground for control of the Senate and the Senate confirms the Supreme Court. It is in the courts that major issues facing our community will be resolved. Because of this, the outcome of this election could have a major impact on voting rights, healthcare, criminal justice reform, and education, not only in Tennessee but across the country. With stakes this high, our community knows that this is a history-making moment and none of us can sit on the sidelines.
Charlane Oliver is the founder of the Equity Alliance, a nonprofit organization focused on civic engagement in communities of color. Adrianne Shropshire is the executive director of BlackPAC, an independent, Black-led organization that uses the power of year-round political engagement and elections to change our economic, justice and social systems.