By Nadira Jamerson | Word In Black
(WIB) – From expanding environmental protections and ensuring access to abortion, to fully funding public education and enacting common-sense gun control, the future of America will be decided on Tuesday, November 8, 2022. That’s because all 435 House seats are up for election, as are 35 Senate seats and 36 governorships.
On top of that, statewide and local offices — your state attorney general, local mayor, district attorney, county sheriff, and even local judges — might also be on the ballot.
“Voting is voting for the school board, and voting for your members in the state legislature who approve the funding and the resources that are going to different counties. They are the ones who are moving that funding that they are receiving from the federal level. Every step of the way, it matters to vote” says Tanya Clay House, the executive vice president of campaigns and advocacy for Hip Hop Caucus. Since 2004, the national nonpartisan nonprofit has encouraged young people ages 14 to 40 to participate in democracy and work towards civil and human rights.
The results of the 2020 elections proved that when Black voters head to the polls and come together to push for change, change happens. But are younger voters, including the 1.2 million Black people who became newly eligible to cast a ballot in 2022, registered to vote on election day? And if they are registered, do they know what’s at stake in the 2022 midterm election so they’ll actually show up at the polls?
“A lot of disinformation and misinformation is being targeted at our communities. It’s done intentionally to try to discourage them from voting — to say ‘why should I vote, it doesn’t even matter?’” House says.
“Misinformation is given out to redirect voters so that they do not understand the policy and how it is working, Then they end up voting in the wrong way,” House says. “Those barriers affect voters, particularly in Gen Z, who may not be as familiar with our voting process, and how laws are made, and what they need to do to affect change.”
There are over 46 million Black folk in the U.S., and the median age for this group is 32-years-old. House says that’s why organizations such as Hip Hop Caucus are “moving expeditiously to make sure that we are educating our community — the BIPOC, millennial, Gen Z community that Hip Hop Caucus engages — in order to help them understand the importance of being civically engaged, being relevant, and participating in what is happening in their society.”
Throughout United States history, Black folk have been purposefully and intentionally kept from exercising their right to vote. House describes the 2020 election as a kind of revolution that brought “a new president and the Senate change in Georgia, and things flipped.” In response, those who seek to strip Black people of their power have now made it even more difficult for them to exercise their right to vote.
In addition to being targeted by disinformation and misinformation, House says that young Black voters are kept from early voting opportunities by ever-changing vote-by-mail regulations.
“They may want to engage and vote by mail, but all these different barriers are set up. If you don’t have the signature in the right place, or if you voted by mail in the last election you are not automatically registered to vote by mail,” she says. “They removed that in certain states, so you’re not getting your ballot in the mail — so you’re wondering, wait a minute what just happened? As a result, voters find themselves having to re-request a mail-in ballot or figure out how to vote in-person on election day.
Barriers — like not being allotted enough time off from work to vote and limited access to nearby polling places — keep people from being able to cast their ballot.
“Polling places can be eliminated within a week or two of election day,” House says. College students might have been counting on a campus polling place, only to to find out at the last minute that their new polling place is 20 miles away.”How do you get to that?” House asks. “You may not have your own car. Public transportation is not going to get you there in a timely way even if you do have two hours off to vote. Everybody is trying to get to that polling place, and now there’s a long line.”.”
Still, House says it is our duty as members of a democracy to continue to demand better despite these obstacles.
We want you to make a plan so that you are not caught off guard either during early voting or the day of the election, so you know what you need to do in order to protect your right.TANYA CLAY HOUSE
A July survey by Black to the Future Action Fund and Socioanalítica Research’s Temperature Check Polls found that one-third of Black voters said voting rights should be a top priority, and another 70% support Roe v. Wade, which the Supreme Court struck down in June.
These issues — and the myriad of other inequalities facing the Black community from bias-based policing, to education disparities make it crucial that people head to the polls.
“The lack of resources in Black and brown communities is real,” she explains. “If you care about the fact that your child wasn’t afforded the same resources in COVID or even right now, in order to get their education on track, then you need to get out and vote.
House says Hip Hop Caucus recently concluded their Homecoming Tour which brought cook-outs and music to five states — including North Carolina, Wisconsin, Georgia, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania — to foster civic engagement, help folks register to vote, and teach them about their voting rights. Now, the organization’s working on their Get Out the Vote Tour which will go back to these same states to help people develop a concrete voting plan.
“We want you to make a plan so that you are not caught off guard either during early voting or the day of the election, so you know what you need to do in order to protect your right,” House says.
House says one of the most impactful ways folks can mobilize their communities is by reaching out to their family and friends and making sure that they are registered.
“Talk to your family and make sure that they’re registered to vote. That’s very simple. If they’re not, engage them and say let’s talk about how we can make sure you’re registered to vote,” she says. “Find out what interests them, and then tell them to make sure they make sure they make a plan to get out and vote.”
House encourages people to access Respect My Vote, a voter information platform run by Hip Hop Caucus that makes it easy to check their registration status and get registered to vote if they still need to.
You can also get yourself ready to vote by completing this checklist:
- Find your polling place
- Make sure you are registered to vote at your designated polling place.
- Have a plan, and a backup plan, to make it to the polls on voting day before 7 p.m. As long as you are in line before the polls close, you have the right to cast your vote.
- Bring water and snacks to beat the heat and long lines.
- Memorize 1-866-OURVOTE. Trained professionals monitoring this hotline can assist you if you have any problem making it to the polls or being allowed to cast your vote.
Going into the 2022 midterm election, House says she hopes young Black voters will not become discouraged.
“Not all change is immediate,” House says.”Some change takes a while, but there are some small steps that have to be taken in order to get the monumental changes that we might want. It’s a process.”
Writer and content creator Nadira Jamerson is the Digital Editor for Word In Black. Her focus is to create space for Black individuals to express the complexities of their communities and identities through an honest and inspiring lens. More by Nadira Jamerson