Madison’s black leaders to roll out plan to get more minority voters to the polls

Black voter turnout dropped 19% in 2016 election

Black leaders representing more than a dozen organizations in the Madison area are joining forces to increase voter turnout among minority groups this November.

With the midterm elections less than two weeks away, the coalition is rolling out its plan Thursday in an effort to get out the vote.

The leaders say they want communities of color in Wisconsin to know they have a voice this November and to make it count, after turnout among black voters fell about 19 percent in the 2016 election as compared to 2012, according to an estimate based on data from the U.S. Census, polls, and state voter files. That drop was four times the national average.

Black leaders in Madison say turnout was down because, unlike 2008 and 2012, there were no black candidates on the top of the ticket in 2016.

“It was easy to motivate our communities when President Obama was on the ballot,” said Bishop Harold Rayford, President of the African American Council of Churches. “But we noticed in past elections that a lot of people voted when his name was on the ballot, but didn’t vote in this past election. We want to change that.”

Madison black leaders say their efforts aren’t an attempt to get more people to cast their ballots for Democrats like Obama. They say they aren’t promoting any agenda or particular candidates. Rather, they’re challenging people to do their own research and cast their ballots for the people and agendas they believe will best serve them.

“I think people feel like their vote doesn’t count or that there’s going to be some sort of hassle when they go to vote. But we really have to change that because every vote, every election, every issue is important,” said Bishop Rayford. “We are not endorsing any person or political party. We just want people to vote. We understand that communities of color are no longer a monolith, which they have been historically. We just want people to vote.”

Rayford said he wants everyone to know who and what is on their ballot, from the people running for governor to the “man running for dogcatcher.”

At Thursday’s meeting, local leaders will talk about plans to drive voters to the polls, get them registered, find their polling place, and understand the issues up for election.

Leaders involved in this push represent more than a dozen organizations, including the Urban League of Greater Madison, the African American Council of Churches, the NAACP, black Greek organizations, and more.

The meeting starts at 1 p.m. Thursday at the Urban League of Greater Madison headquarters on Park Street.

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