Black Wisconsin Churches Join With Other Organizations to Get Out the Vote on Nov. 6

After a double-digit drop in black voter turnout in Wisconsin two years ago and amid a push for greater racial equity in Madison, black leaders took to a podium Thursday to exhort Dane County’s people of color to get to the polls for midterm elections Nov. 6.

“Our votes do matter,” said Harold Rayford, bishop at The Faith Place church in Sun Prairie and head of the African American Council of Churches. “They only don’t matter when we don’t use them.”

The Urban League of Greater Madison, Rayford and the 20 congregations that compose the AACC are partnering to provide free rides to the polls to anyone who needs one. In addition to Election Day when polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., early voting in Madison is available at every public library through Nov. 3 or 4, depending on location.

The Urban League and black Greek organizations have conducted voter education or voter-registration drives in the past, and Madison’s black churches have long provided rides to the polls, according to Urban League president and CEO Ruben Anthony. The difference this year, he said, is the level of coordination between those groups and others to get the vote out.

“Don’t be discouraged. People need to know what you think,” he said during a news conference Thursday at Urban League offices that doubled as a get-out-the-vote rally and — with Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell and the local branch of the League of Women Voters in attendance — a place to get information on voting.

“Make a commitment to bring somebody else out to vote,” he said.

Organizers made clear that they weren’t interested in telling people whom to vote for, although Greg Jones, president of the Dane County branch of the NAACP, noted that only one Republican candidate responded to questions from the Dane County League of Women Voters for the League’s election guide.

Get a copy of the guide, Jones said, “and ask yourself: Why didn’t they respond?”

A study released last year by the liberal Center for American Progress found that black voter turnout in Wisconsin dropped by 19 percentage points from 2012 — when the nation’s first black president, Barack Obama, was running for a second term — to 2016.

“There is work to be done to boost turnout among black voters in Wisconsin,” said UW-Madison political science professor Barry Burden.

In the 2014 midterms, “Wisconsin had the second-highest turnout rate in the country, yet black turnout in the state was reported by the Census Bureau as being only 41 percent,” he said. “That is nearly 20 points lower than the turnout rate among whites in 2014 in Wisconsin.”

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Source: Wisconsin State Journal