Voting Advocates Working to Turn the South Blue

“If you don’t exercise your ability to vote you will lose it.” Andrea Miller is the executive director of Common Ground.

By Peter White

NASHVILLE, TN — Tennessee election officials have purged 145,806 people from the voter rolls since 2018, That’s about 3.5% of the 4.1 million registered voters in Tennessee. 

That is a relatively small number compared to the 2.7 million voting-age Tennesseans who are eligible but not registered. If they were, the size of Tennessee’s electorate would increase by 1/3 and that would have an enormous impact in the 2020 Election. 

“If you don’t exercise your ability to vote you will lose it,” said Andrea Miller, executive director of Center for Common Ground. Miller’s group is allied with NAACP, Black Voters Matter, Mi Familia Vota, VoteRiders, and DemLabs. They began a Reclaim Our Vote campaign in 2018.

They reached out to nearly a million voters of color in states like Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, Texas and Mississippi—states with a long history of voter suppression. Phone banking increased voter turnout by 35% in Alabama; they made 185,00 calls in Georgia and 65% resulted in votes; Stacy Abrams came within a whisker of winning the Governor’s race there. 

Miller says thanks to their efforts, they flipped both houses and took the governorship in Virginia. The last time that happened in Virginia was in 1993. She said that in 2015, Virginia had 43 open seats and democrats did not win one of them. 

“In 2020 our target states are North Carolina, Texas, Arizona, Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia,” Miller said. Their tools include postcards, phone banks, text banks, geo-fencing, GOTV billboards in key areas, and canvassing. They will have election monitors and drive voters to the polls on Election Day. Miller intends to put all six states in play. 

An active voter will not have any problems voting in November. An inactive voter will be challenged when they go to vote.  Election officials may want more identification or a photo ID, or a signature, or a current address. If you supply them, you will be allowed to vote.

“If you haven’t shown up the last 2-3 federal elections, you have prove who you say you are,” Miller said.

There are numerous reasons routinely given to justify purging voter rolls. Not surprisingly, almost all of them are used in the South. It works like this:

You get a postcard in the mail. It is confusing. It has the right name on it and the right address. Most people think “Ok, everything’s fine” and throw it away. “But they miss the little line that says ‘if you don’t call or return this card to your local election office, you are going to be dumped,” Miller said. “Voting is not a right. It’s a privilege,” she said. 

Davidson County election officials have purged 24,011 voters since 2018. Miller calls them “de-registered”. Of those, 17,794 (75%) were African American.

There are 104,000 voting-age African Americans in Davidson County and 17,000 have been removed from the rolls. “That’s pretty scary,” Miller said.

What to do about it

To find out if you are registered or obtain an absentee ballot or register to vote, go here: https://sos.tn.gov/products/elections/am-i-registered-vote or here: https://www.govotetn.com/app.html.

You can also find out your voting status, and re-register if you need to, by going to the Davidson County Election Commission office at 1417 Murfreesboro Pike, Nashville, TN 37202. 

You can get a Mail-In application to register here: http://sos-tn-gov-files.s3.amazonaws.com/forms/ss-3010.pdf

There are deadlines, so voting advocates say get registered, vote early or send in your absentee ballot early. Trump is going to challenge mail-in ballots. The safest course is to show up at the polls and cast your vote at your polling place.

Miller said the 2020 Election is going to be a blowout. Trump won in 2016 because of a large protest vote. “The protest vote is mostly gone and we are not going to have democrats voting for Trump,” Miller said. She said this year just the opposite will happen. A lot of republicans will vote democratic.

“The republicans are going to be bleeding voters. A very small number are saying ‘let’s celebrate racism.’”

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