On Wednesday, Jan. 6, Rev. Dr. William Barber outlined a joint campaign launched by the North Carolina chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Democracy NC to empower voters through supporting access to voting and providing education on key issues.
Surrounded by supporters in The Block off biltmore, a coffee house and event space at the YMI Cultural Center, Barber announced the “It’s Our Time — It’s Our Vote” campaign.
Barber, Moral Monday leader and head of the state NAACP, said a coalition of over 3,000 faith- and membership-based communities will implement the issues-based campaign to empower, educate and protect voters.
“Others have had their time over past few years to vote on regressive policies. It’s our time now,” Barber commented. “In North Carolina, we have been fighting the worst voter suppression law in the country.” In partnership with other organizations, the NAACP has challenged new voting laws passed in 2013, including voter identification requirements, the elimination of same-day voter registration and the elimination of out-of-precinct voting. Barber asked attendees to spread the word about a July 2015 change in the North Carolina General Assembly statute which allows voting without ID in the case of a “reasonable impediment” to obtaining identification.
“Go and vote,” urged Barber. “The law has not been fully adjudicated. They had to water it down because they knew what they had passed was totally unconstitutional. That came from our efforts and those of our partners.”
Initiatives planned for the campaign include a voter registration campaign from Dec. 1 to Feb. 19, a Mountain Moral Monday event in Asheville on Jan. 25, a statewide rally in Raleigh on Feb. 13, a voter guide detailing statewide candidates’ stands on issues of concern to NAACP and its partners and a Freedom Summer II statewide youth initiative. Barber said the coalition will be conducting get-out-the-vote efforts in 90 North Carolina counties, with intensive efforts planned for 55 counties. The campaign will organize moral marches to the polls during early voting and on election day. “We intend to have a thorough, organized effort throughout the state,” explained Barber.
Barber stressed the importance of the issues the election will impact. In addition to state and local offices, Barber said “Health care is on the ballot. Public education is on the ballot. Living wages are on the ballot. Black Lives Matter is on the ballot. If you care about that issue, remember that sheriffs, judges and district attorneys are elected. Chiefs of police are appointed by elected officials. You can’t even sit on a jury unless you are registered to vote.”
Barber focused particular attention on North Carolina’s failure to expand Medicaid eligibility: “Legislators from this county voted against Medicaid expansion. That affects 8,400 people in this county. They would have health care today but do not have it because legislators chose to vote against them. Those are the stories that we will be telling.”
“We want people to get out and vote, we want them to look at the issues, we want them to understand that voting has consequences and that we’re building an infrastructure not just for 2016 but beyond as well. We have to understand that the fear-mongering, racist rhetoric that we’ve seen is an affront to our democracy and to our deepest moral values. We must take our moral consciousness into the streets and into the ballot box,” Barber concluded.