Getting Out the Vote: Takes a Village of Individuals and an Army of Organizations
For midterm success in 2018, it will take a village of individuals and an army of organizations. The Color of Change Political Action Committee (PAC) spot-lighted this week conducted a get out the vote “weekend of action” pushing support for Amendment 4 while canvassing for gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum and incumbent Senator, Bill Nelson. Voters were encouraged to vote “yes” on Amendment 4, which restores voting rights for non-violent offenders provided it obtains 60% approval from voters in November. The Color of Change organization is a welcomed ally for candidates, as Florida has not seen a democratic governor in decades. Notwithstanding, the state falling short by a 1% vote margin the last two attempts for the governor’s house.
Organization members, led by Director Arisha Hatch, came from various areas of the country determined to work their plan: “Engaging with Black people and allies to win elections.” Their staff on hand, engaging residents of Miami and Broward counties, were young, personable and mission focused — as evidence by the execution of their volunteer training sessions last weekend at the Betty T. Ferguson complex in Miami Gardens. The PAC is the nation’s largest on-line civil rights organization providing get out the vote training and canvas activities.
The organization, founded in 2005, was the brainchild of James Rucker and former Obama administration Green Jobs Czar, Vann Jones — with its political committee formulated in 2016. It was started to support and elect leaders to office with the idea that those leaders would serve to protect the expressed interests of its constituency. Conversely, when leaders do not operate in the best interest of its constituency, those same members of the community—would vote them out of office. Consequently, the accountability of elected officials is its organization’s core principle.
Operating under such a principle, Color of Change sought to devise a system with a structure that brought community stakeholders together over brunch, engaging them in relationship building around a table and providing them voter contact training then sending them out to canvas neighborhoods. At the completion of canvassing, squad members return, debrief and celebrate with a block party.
At the inception of the organization, the first area of focus was to begin looking at the State Attorney Offices across the country and persons running to fill it. Recognizing, too often, those holding the office did not resemble the individuals they sentenced. Thus, the group’s mission was to help elect black state attorneys around the nation. One such success story is that of current Orange-Osceola State Attorney, Aramis Ayala. Aramis Ayala is the first African American woman to pull such an upset in Central Florida.
The organization also hosts “Serve Our Sisters,” a Miami Gardens community service group who prepares care packages for women returning from incarceration. Sisters from the group were eager to collaborate and knock on doors with approximately 115 other squad members attending the event. Canvass opportunities are available every day at 4609 NW 199th Street. For those who choose not to canvass, there is phone banking and voter texting opportunities. Jennifer Edwards, Communications Director, reports that to date, over 200,000 text messages have already gone out in support of Amendment 4 and messaging supporting candidates’ Gillum and Nelson. Persons around the state interested in volunteering can locate offices in Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando and Tallahassee. You may also access their website: www.votingwhileblack.com.
Linda M. Thigpen, Pembroke Pines Precinct committee-woman, will be opining as a guest columnist for the upcoming weeks offering tips and voter education information. Please contact her at (305) 804 7195 or email Lindathigp@aol.com for voter engagement activities.