In an effort to increase the number of registered Black and Latino voters in Louisiana ahead of the upcoming statewide election, six civic and social justice organizations partnered to host the 2023 Louisiana Black and Brown Voter Registration Day on Saturday, September 16.
“Our goal is to make sure that we get everyone registered to vote, and to share with them all of the tools that we have to help them and support them in actually casting their vote,” said Ashley Shelton, the president and CEO of the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, a group of organizations that work on civic engagement.
The Power Coalition was among several groups that conducted voter mobilization work during the 2019 gubernatorial election. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards won re-election against businessman Eddie Rispone by only 40,000 votes, in one of the state’s closest gubernatorial elections in recent years. About half of registered Black voters cast ballots in that election, helping to secure a victory for Edwards, a Democrat, in an increasingly conservative state.
The 2023 Louisiana gubernatorial primary election is less than a month away on Oct. 14. An August 2023 gubernatorial election poll by WWL-TV found that Louisiana voters were most concerned about crime and violence, followed by education and economic growth. Even though these are important issues to minority communities, the 2019 success may not be replicated. Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican, is leading in the polls.
And congressional district maps have also diluted the Black vote, Shelton said.
Despite the fact that about one-third of the state’s population is Black, five out of its six congressional districts have majority white populations, and Republicans hold all five of those seats. After the Louisiana state Legislature refused to add a second majority Black district during redistricting last year, a federal judge ruled that the gerrymandered map discriminated against Black voters, “packing Black voters into a single district.” But the U.S. Supreme Court paused that ruling pending the outcome of a related Alabama case. Earlier this year, after finding that Alabama had discriminatorily drawn its districts, the Supreme Court allowed the Louisiana case to move forward. Federal courts will begin to consider options for redrawing the map next month.
On Saturday, the Power Coalition will join the Urban League of Louisiana, Southern Poverty Law Center, Black Voters Matter, Voice of the Experienced and League of Women Voters Louisiana, to hold voter registration events in Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles, New Orleans, Monroe and Shreveport. The goal of the event is to not only register Black and brown voters, but also to educate residents on the importance of voting and encourage them to go to the polls on election day.
Shelton said the organizations will also help get registered voters to the polls by offering transportation assistance.
“‘Yes, we’re gonna get you registered,’” Shelton said. “But we’re going to support you all the way through this process.”
In looking at the national political landscape — the U.S. Supreme Court overturning affirmative action in college admissions and the elimination of Black history courses in some schools — LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, said that there is “massive white backlash” to racial progress.
“I think that we are at a turning point in this nation. I think that these old systems that have catered to supporting white supremacy are crumbling,” Brown said. “But I also think we’re seeing some of the best Black organizing that we have had in 50, 60 years.”
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