OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

NAACP: Reclaiming the Power of Voice and Vote

Voting is the turnkey from repressive policies and legislation, yet the right to vote is usurped & the power of democracy must be reclaimed.

Photo of Lynda
2 3

Written by

As the millennial generation comes of age, America’s voting electorate is becoming increasingly diverse and progressive. When we look at the drivers of climate change, the state of policing, mass incarceration, education, healthcare, economic parity, immigration, housing all of these and other policy matters hinge on the right to vote, with a fierce protection and expansion of the franchise,  and Americans’ excitement and engagement in the voting process. Over the course of its existence, the NAACP has gained a well-earned reputation for being the standard bearer in the fight for democracy in America.  The NAACP is committed to moving our legacy of civil rights advocacy into 21st century action. We must continue to ensure that the recipe for success includes forceful legislation, vigorous litigation, direct action, and the creation of broad-based coalitions.

Within the last 10 years, the NAACP again witnessed an extraordinary and coordinated attack on access to the ballot box where legislators decide who votes in our country.  Since our inception, the NAACP has historically pursued the right to vote and deem it as the core of our democracy. Our work also involves key program priorities to benefit our constituency, including environmental justice, education, economic parity and criminal justice that we conscientiously strive toward. Voting is the turnkey out of repressive policies and legislation. Therefore, the protection and fulfillment of voting rights is identified as the core of our proposed solution marrying the concerns we all have about our work across program priorities, with our expertise and experience.

Explain your idea

Voter protection is at a critical impasse as national demographics change and electorate grows increasingly diverse. The NAACP’s work has demonstrated the need for an enlightened and empowered citizenry with the right to vote. This right, and the power it gives, has not come to all citizens equally. Notwithstanding our country’s foundational documents stating liberty and justice for all, both women and people of color achieved the right to vote later and after much struggle. Successes in gaining the franchise for all have been met with setbacks. Individuals who can vote without restriction not only affects the national conversation, which is key, but ensures their local communities thrive – hence, the prospect of clean water is more likely when citizens determine who runs the provision of utilities. The NAACP has experienced success, although it has been episodic and all too often reactive. We need a sustained effort, not tethered to elections but designed to embed the right to vote as a lever for change for all citizens. We have a 2017 and beyond strategy, which is a multi-year effort that will prepare us for the upcoming decade. As a part of this endeavor, we are examining how we can ensure that African-Americans and other people of color can fully participate in the next census. Our efforts to make sure these groups are well-represented in the 2020 census count will enable the NAACP and others to advocate for equity in the drawing of election districts at the state level during the 2022 redistricting process. These new political districts will define the degree of representation people of color will have for the next decade. There are two key pieces of voting rights legislation currently pending in Congress that we will scaffold in support on national, state and local levels. Voter Empowerment Act: expands access to and modernizes voting processes, and protects voters from suppression, deception, and other forms of disenfranchisement. Voting Rights Advancement Act: modernize the preclearance formula to cover states with an historical pattern of discrimination; protect from the types of voting changes most likely to discriminate against people of color and language minorities; expand the effective Federal Observer Program; and, improve Voting Rights protections for Native Americans and Alaska Natives. Constitutional amendment: In addition to these two pieces of voting rights legislation we are also developing a call for a constitutional amendment that would affirm the right to vote. The NAACP voter protection campaign will be nationally and locally implemented utilizing state conference infrastructures, stakeholder partners and legal teams. The NAACP will attack this challenge at the state level, through our network of engaged multigenerational, multiracial NAACP leaders, as well in coalitions. We will work closely with our state leaders to ensure that their civic engagement leads to healthier and better-educated communities.

Who Benefits?

The NAACP historically has been a multi-issue, national, civil rights organization that responds to immediate local, regional and national crisis as well as furthering national social justice policy and advocacy work. Our purpose is to benefit voters and potential voters who have been excluded from the electorate. Our solution will help to expand the electorate and help to ensure that the right to vote will continue to be an important tool for change. The NAACP organizational framework, legacy and credibility make us suited as the appropriate entity to undertake this endeavor. As we make voting easier and communities become educated and involved, Americans can take full advantage of their power to address substantive national and local issues.

How is your idea unique?

For over a century, the NAACP continues stalwart in fighting against life threatening voter intimidation and suppression tactics. The NAACP has been a leader on both non-partisan civic participation and civil rights advocacy with an incomparable historic reputation as a leader locally, nationally, and internationally in the area of protection and enhancement of voting rights as well as civic engagement. The NAACP continues to advocate for unfettered access to the ballot box for all Americans. In 1920, the Association petitioned a congressional investigation of disenfranchisement during that Presidential election and in response to Shelby vs. Holder, launched a 1,000 mile march from Selma to Washington DC to refocus importance of protecting voting rights. The NAACP vows to continue to battle voter suppression state by state across this country. The NAACP unwaveringly continues to believe and advocate that the right to vote is civically sacrosanct and at the core of our democracy.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Full-scale roll-out: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the users I am trying to reach with my idea. I am ready to expand the pilot significantly.

Tell us more about you

NAACP’s historic power advancing civil rights has been transformative. Our leadership has led to passage of Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1964, 1968, and 1965 Voting Rights Act. NAACP efforts to expand voting rights is legendary, from Medgar Evers organizing Mississippi’s disenfranchised farmers, to lawsuits removing legal poll taxes. Recent data indicates new NAACP voters accounted for 15% American electorate growth, and through litigation and organizing the NAACP successfully ended voter suppression legislation in 15 states. The NAACP continues to mobilize thousands in support of voting rights, poised to continue as the vanguard in making American democracy a reality for all citizens. As a national grassroots organization, the NAACP has over 2200 branches, including 38 state and state/area conferences within seven regions including youth/college, international and prison chapters. The Association’s regional offices are in the West, South, Southwest, and Midwest, as well as Bureaus in Washington, DC and Hollywood. The Washington Bureau is instrumental on Capitol Hill while national program directors bring important expertise in substantive areas. Our Legal department brings important civil rights litigation in support of r strategic priorities. NAACP digital reach is over 2.2 million social media followers exceeding other civil rights organizations. The NAACP continues to encourage strategic partnerships with other organizations. As a national and influential organization, the NAACP has maintained long-term relationships with policy makers, elected officials and government. We use our national prominence to make necessary calls with influential policy makers, bi-partisan elected officials, governors and news media to draw attention to tremendous work happening at the grassroots. We continue to nurture relationships with local, state and federal institutions that share an interest in improving the lives of families and low-income communities. The NAACP would maximize and leverage coalition partnerships with many of its strongest allies including but not limited to the Democracy Initiative, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. We are also a member of a national anchor partnership coalition that can assist in propelling a strategic narrative coupled with a considerable boots-on-the-ground network of constituents. Working in tandem with the NAACP infrastructure and coalition partners, we believe the time is now to develop a robust policy change apparatus that combines the development of a strong narrative, while simultaneously mobilizing at the grassroots level for policy changes. By expanding the electorate, we diversify and deepen democracy. In so doing, we make it possible for the full range of transformative reform: from criminal justice reform to reducing income inequality to environmental climate justice and many more aspects toward a healthy society.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

2 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Alvar Bramble
Team

Lynda, although focusing on voting is exemplary, action research I have carried out indicates that constituent-legislator communication is crucial. If constituents, even if they do not vote for any reason, do not keep correspondence with their legislators, they run the chance of being victims of "virtual representation." The term originated when British parliamentarians assured American Colonists that their representation was virtual, and they did not need direct representation because all Members of Parliament would look after the interests of American Colonists. The result was the cry of "No Taxation Without Representation," with the rest being well documented. So, one thing I believe all citizens need is continuous correspondence with their legislators so that any legislator will not appeal to the "virtual" representation concept and claim they represent all their constituents in a virtual manner. You must remember that Adam Smith wrote, "It is not out of benevolence that the butcher gives a steak to his customer. It is for his own interest."

Photo of Lynda
Team

Alvar,
Thank you for your thoughtful response.