The Color of Change political action committee (PAC) has launched #VotingWhileBlack, a program to engage black voters in races that may have the strongest impact on their communities.
PAC Director Arisha Hatch says elected officials often pursue black voters then forget about black communities once they take office. So the program is designed to hold politicians accountable for promises made on the campaign trail.
“The hashtag is based off of the popular phrase ‘driving while black,’ which of course describes how difficult it can be for black people to do just the most basic things in this country,” Hatch says. “We know that there have been obstacles put in place - cuts to early voting, long lines, voter I.D. requirements, all sorts of things - to make it harder for black people and other poor people to vote.”
Color of Change is an online racial justice organization with more than a million members. Volunteers are sending text messages, making calls, and buying digital advertising to urge voters who may have felt disenfranchised in the past not to sit this election out. They’re holding #VotingWhileBlack text-a-thons around the country to recruit and train more volunteers, and they’re focusing on a variety of races like the Senate and local district attorneys.
“We're reaching out to black voters in a number of different swing states, asking them about whether they're planning to vote, encouraging them to vote for candidates that we think are most beneficial for black folks and making sure that they have a plan to vote on Election Day,” Hatch says.
After the election, Color of Change members plan to take their concerns to policymakers – like improving health care and education, and restoring portions of the Voting Rights Act that were overturned in recent years. Hatch says reforming criminal justice is a priority. “We need to see a plan that begins to work toward a more progressive vision of what this mass incarceration pipeline should look like.”