In one of the most unique get-out-the-vote efforts this year, 18 Georgia NAACP branches in 19 counties have launched an ambitious plan to get more than 40,000 African-American voters to the polls across the state on the last Saturday of early voting.
It’s called Party to the Polls, a day that will include symbolic Civil Rightsera marches, bus caravans and carpools culminating in poll parties with music, food, speeches and prizes, and in the era of coronavirus, masks, social distancing and plenty of sanitizer, organizers promised.
The date is Oct. 24, and from Savannah in Chatham County to Augusta in Richmond County to Peachtree Corners in Gwinnett County and Columbus in Muscogee County, the organizers have planned a flurry of individual voter mobilization efforts. Also participating are NAACP branches in Bibb, Clark, Clayton, Cobb, Dekalb, Dougherty, Douglas, Fayette,
Fulton, Henry, Houston, Lowndes, Newton, Paulding, and Rockdale counties.
This year, NAACP’s Georgia leadership decided to take a different tact to maximize black voting power.
“While the regions we have targeted represent only 12 percent of Georgia’s counties, they include 77 percent of all African-American voters in the state,” said Richard Rose, who is spearheading the effort as president of the organization’s Atlanta Branch. “We are using our combined energy and capital to get more black people to the polls.”
The black voter turnout in the 2016 presidential campaign declined nationally for the first time in 20 years, falling to 59.6 percent in 2016 after reaching a record-high 66.6 percent in 2012. The number was even more dismal in Georgia, Rose said, where only 48 percent of black men and 62 percent of black women voted in 2016, compared to 67 percent of white men and 68 percent of white women.
Each branch will hold their own mass event. In Metro Atlanta, the NAACP branches in Rockdale and Newton counties have joined with the Rev J. Phillip Baker for two symbolic “1,000 Male March to the Polls,” followed by a Tailgate at the Polls after voting. Nearby in Fulton County, voters will be admitted to one of three sites after showing their “I Voted” stickers where they will be feted to food, beverages, and music.
Halfway across the state in Richmond County, the Rev. Melvin Ivey, the branch president and pastor of Greater St. John Baptist Church in Augusta, will be loading people into vans donated by the New Georgia Project along with buses made possible by a coalition of churches for a trip to the James Brown Arena, where they will be fed by the World Central Kitchen before voting at the Bell Auditorium the county’s largest voting site.
Check with your local branch for information on their Party to the Polls.