In one of the most unique voter mobilization efforts this year, Atlanta Metro area NAACP branches and other civil rights organizations will “Party at the Polls” on Saturday, Oct. 24, the last weekend of early voting, in an ambitious one-day event to get more than 100,000 African-American voters to the polls., part of a voter mobilization effort across19 Georgia counties
The metro county branches – Clayton, Cobb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, Newton, Paulding, and Rockdale – each have separate events, from Civil Rights-era marches to the polls, bus caravans and carpools.
All culminate in poll parties with music, food, speeches, and prizes, and in the era of coronavirus, organizers promised masks, social distancing, and plenty of hand sanitizer. Other county branches also participating in the effort are Bibb, Clarke, Dougherty, Houston, Lowndes, and Rockdale.
The NAACP has been mobilizing the African-American electorate since its inception in 1909. This year, however, its Georgia leadership has decided to take a different tactic.
“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 NAACP Atlanta Branch. “So, we have come together as a collective to focus our energy and capital to get a greater percentage of black people to the polls.”
Black voter turnout could be pivotal in Georgia in national and local races. President Trump won handily in Georgia in 2016. This year, Trump and the state’s two Republican incumbent senators are in tight races.
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, according to the Pew Research Group.
The seven-percentage-point decline from the previous presidential election is the largest on record for African Americans. 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.
The organizations have received financial and logistical support from a plethora of groups: Vote Your Voice, an initiative by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta; The New Georgia Project, a voter-participation project created by former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Georgia, numerous churches, the 100 Back Men, the National Coalition of 100 Black Women and the National Pan Hellenic Council, which is made up of nine African American fraternities and sororities.
Each branch will hold an event with its own twist. In Fulton County, for example, voters will be admitted to one of three sites from noon to 4 p.m. after showing their “I Voted” stickers;
The locations include:
• Metropolitan Library, 1332 Metropolitan Pkwy SW, in Atlanta;
• East Point Downtown Commons, 2757 Main Street, in East Point and
• South Fulton Library, 4055 Flat Shoals Rd. in Union City.
There will be a DJ, music, food, and a gaming truck. In Cobb County, voters will party with a purpose from noon – 4 p.m. at the Civic Center Parking lot, 548 South Mariette Pkwy, in Marietta.
In Rockdale and Newton counties, the NAACP branches have joined with the Rev J. Phillip Baker, pastor of Shady Grove Baptist Church, for a symbolic “1,000 Male March to the Polls” in each county. The two events will be followed by a Tailgate at the Polls, with music, food, and prizes.
In Newton County, Debbie Hillman, activist, and co-chair of NAACP branch political action and community involvement committee, said 1,000 Black men and others will hold mass at 8 a.m. at the old jail before a short walk to the Newton County Administration Building to vote.
In nearby Rockdale, 1,000 men will gather at the same time in Wheeler Park,1350 Parker Rd.. in Conyers, before walking to the nearby voting sight.
Rockdale County Commissioner Sherri Washington, an NAACP member, said the marches are for everyone, but they are concentrating on black men because it is important for them to re-assume their roles along with black women as responsible voters.
“As an attorney and county commissioner, I see every day how elected officials affect their lives,” said Washington, one of the organizers of the Rockdale event. “When you see the impact elected officials, sheriffs, judges, district attorneys have upon the lives of black men, they need to be the first in line at the polls.”