We are a coalition of Black athletes and artists who came together amid the protests fueled by the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police. We are focused on systemic, targeted voter suppression in our community and have a specific mission: educate, energize and protect Black voters. We are driven by a shared understanding that our influence and prominence, particularly among young people, is a responsibility to continue the tradition of Black athletes working together to fight for justice and equality.
We are not politicians or policy leaders and we are not trying to be. Our organization is not here to tell you who to vote for. As individuals, we may choose to talk about specific policies or candidates, but as a team we came together to focus on one issue this year: systemic racism’s impact on our right to vote. Black voter suppression has many forms. We are focusing on the threat of COVID-19 as a tool of suppression, the abuse of political power to make voting more difficult and the misinformation intended to intimidate and deceive our community.
We saw you in the streets. We saw your social media posts. Your voices are breaking through, but it’s now time to do more. We know you have the ability to organize. So join us and take your protest to the election and fight to keep our community from being silenced.
The most important thing you all need to know is Black voters matter more than ever. The biggest cities in the most critical states in this election have incredible, vibrant Black communities. Detroit, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Miami, Milwaukee, Atlanta. Not surprisingly, because these Black voters have so much influence, they will be more aggressively targeted by forces of suppression. Many in power who oppose our fight for change believe it is easier to cancel one of our votes than to find a new vote of their own. You need to know this and understand how it works.
One critical and immediate threat to our vote is COVID. Black communities are overwhelmingly more vulnerable than white communities. In counties where Black people are the majority, death rates are 3.5 times higher than the national average. Our voting locations must offer safe, socially distanced voting. If we don’t address this now, no joke, many Black people will be forced to put their health at risk just to cast a ballot.
One solution that More Than A Vote is working on is to convert as many arenas and sports facilities as possible into voting precincts. These are large, open spaces, often in city centers, that allow for social distancing. They are also going totally unused (we should know) and should be put to use in every city that needs more space. Atlanta and Detroit led this effort. Charlotte and Sacramento are on board as well and we are working with a number of other cities that should be ready soon. We just announced Dodger Stadium as the first MLB facility. Sports venues not in use need to be converted into voting locations and we are here to help the teams and universities ready to step up. More Than A Vote created a bipartisan group of election experts led by Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to serve as a resource for sports teams and universities interested in converting their facilities into safe voting locations and in need of technical support.
The next significant threat is the systemic abuse of political power to make voting more difficult. We saw this in Georgia earlier this summer and it is a real risk for Black voters in the fall. We are seeing it right now with underfunding the U.S. Postal Service. Black communities often experience understaffed facilities, poor voting conditions, broken voting machines, long lines and undermining efforts to vote by mail. One in 13 Black Americans can’t vote due to disenfranchisement laws. Seventy percent of Georgia voters purged in 2018 were Black. Eighty percent of registrants blocked by Georgia’s strict “exact match” law were people of color.
In Florida, after voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to give ex-felons released from prison the right to vote, the state legislature passed a law requiring those individuals to pay the entirety of fines owed before they can register — a modern-day poll tax. And we know, because of a broken criminal justice system, who makes up the vast majority of those disenfranchised by this law … Black people. More Than A Vote has partnered with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition to try to fight this law and help people pay this unjust poll tax. This is just one of the countless examples of systemic voter suppression through the abuse of political power. If we don’t take the same energy we had during the protests and organize, it will just keep happening.
The third form of voter suppression is deliberately lying to and misinforming Black voters. It is publishing and broadcasting wrong and intimidating information to our community to keep us from voting through fear and confusion. Shouldn’t surprise anyone, but those trying to spread false information on social media about the election target Black voters more aggressively than any other voters. More Than A Vote will be working with our partners to use our voices and influence to help share accurate information and to educate about voting.