There is a lot at stake for the future of the United States of America and the 2012 presidential election is a very important one. Recent polls are projecting that this will be a close race and every vote will count. One’s vote is their voice. In an effort to make sure that every voice is heard, the Pittsburgh branch, along with the state and national NAACP is in the midst of a major voter’s registration drive, not only to get individuals registered to vote, but also to educate them about the new Voter ID bill and assist in getting them one of the acceptable forms of identification.
“It is critical that African-Americans are relevant. And I think if we don’t vote, then we are considered irrelevant” and so are our issues, said Celeste Taylor, NAACP of Pennsylvania local civic engagement coordinator and consultant. “Voting is connected too every aspect of our life. Our ancestors recognized its importance and invested their sweat, blood and tears.”
Taylor said her goal is to get 3,000 people registered to vote by Aug. 16. Her plan is to have 30 teams with a goal of 100 sign-ups each, but said she has only 20 teams in various stages of getting their 100. “We still need 10 more teams. We will be at various community events, such as the Black Family Reunion and Northside Oldtimers event, and we are at several churches. People are at bus stops and asking their neighbors, it is pretty intense.”
Along with more volunteers, Taylor said she also needs more resources, assistance with materials and much more.
Along with their goal to get people registered to vote, the NAACP’s drive also is about making sure previously registered voters are prepared for the new Pennsylvania Voter ID law, which requires a voter to have identification to cast their ballot.
Acceptable forms of photo ID are a Pennsylvania issued driver’s license or non-driver photo ID, a U.S. passport, a U.S. military ID, a U.S. government issued ID, an accredited college or university ID and a Pennsylvania nursing/ personal care facility ID. All IDs must have an expiration date.
For individuals who do not have one of the acceptable forms, one can get a free non-driver ID from PennDot, by providing an official Social Security card, along with a birth certificate, valid U.S. passport, or a certificate of U.S. citizenship and naturalization; and two proofs of residency, such as a lease agreement, current utility bills, a W-2 form, tax records, mortgage documents and a current gun permit.
According to Taylor there are 99,000 registered voters in Allegheny County that do not have a state issued driver’s license or non-driver photo.
“We will continue to grow and reach as many of the 99,000 as we can.”
On July 24, at the State Capitol in Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania NAACP held a “Rally for Justice” to protest the Commonwealth’s new voter ID legislation that was signed by Gov. Tom Corbett in March. Advocates believe the new law disenfranchises minorities, the elderly, senior citizen and the poor from voting, because these are groups that are less likely to have the photo IDs. There are currently two lawsuits against the legislation, with one by the American Civil Liberties Union to start this week.
“The protest on July 24 is a way for advocates to get together and strategize,” said Taylor. The NAACP’s rally will also be joined by several local organizations.
Taylor said everyone has a vested interest in the upcoming election because not only will it set the tone for which “direction our country will be led in,” but the major issues being debated, such as education, health care, etc., affect us all.
Volunteers interested in joining the registration drive can call the Pittsburgh branch NAACP office at 412-471-1024 and individuals with questions about the voter ID requirements can call the hotline at 11-866-OUR-VOTE.