Get out the vote

This year, workers may register voters in jail

By LINDSAY WHITEHURST

lindsay.whitehurst@heraldbulletin.com



Anderson’s NAACP members are determined to get more black people into the voting booth.

“There’s no way to blame Democrats or Republicans or white people if you don’t do it yourself,” NAACP President James Burgess said. “Get out the black vote.”

Only about 20 percent of the black community votes, he said, and that’s not enough. But increasing those numbers won’t be easy.

With the primaries coming up on May 2, the chapter launched its Get out the Vote effort Tuesday. The non-partisan movement doesn’t promote any party or agenda, but instead educates people to get others to the polls.

Besides narrowing down the list of candidates for the November elections, the May races will also determine candidates for Anderson Community Schools board. There are no black board members. Danny McGee, Shirley Weatherly and Bishop Rob Scott are running from the black community.

Inside the NAACP headquarters, a group of about 15 people threw out ideas and considered techniques to overcome a series of hurdles to black voters, from new voting machines to incarceration.

This year, the group is trying some new things, including tapping the men and women who’ve been on the wrong side of the law.

They’re planning registration events at churches, schools and possibly even jail.

If someone is in jail awaiting trial, Burgess said, that person is considered innocent until proved guilty and is still eligible to vote.

If someone has broken the law, served his or her time and has been released from jail and probation, that person is also eligible to vote in Indiana.

“We’ve got to find a date to get in there to register and a date to get in there to get them the ballots,” County Councilman John Bostic, D-3rd District, said.

Another obstacle to voting can be the government ID required at the polls.

“Some of our young black males don’t have a government ID,” Burgess said.

To overcome it, the group is pushing absentee voting, which doesn’t require people to show an ID.

Still another obstacle can be the learning curve on the new voting machines. Mandated by the federal government, the new machines will go into use this year.

Adair Gibbs is the Get out the Vote head in Madison County.

“We’ve got to make sure we get the whole community, county and city, involved.”

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