From Sojourner Truth, to Shirley Chisholm to First Lady Michelle Obama, Black women have been fighting over voting rights for many, many years. Sadly, this willingness to fight is crucial even in 2012.
Black women had the highest voter turnout of any group in 2008, when some 69% of Black women who were eligible to vote did so. Thus, sisters are an essential component to an Obama victory again this year. Unsurprisingly, Black women are also among those groups more likely to be impacted by voter ID laws in the battleground states this year. There are a number of community groups across the country taking on the important role of navigator to assist people with the new laws which might scare potential voters away this year. These groups, along with aggressive registration efforts by Obama for America (who have made the female voter a top priority), will surely be given a great deal of credit if President Obama wins a second term.
The latest battleground state polls show that President Obama continues to hold a small but consistent lead over his challenger Mitt Romney, a fact that won’t necessarily make Team Obama less anxious. Good polling data for the president may end up having a negative effect on turnout, with voters thinking a second term is in the bag, thus deeming their votes unnecessary.
That’s why voter registration and turnout efforts like those being spearheaded by the campaign directly and by organizations like the National Coalition of Civic Participation and the NAACP are so important; It’s important to get the message out to the community that the only polling that matters is the one on election day and this election is in no way guaranteed to go Obama’s way.
With voter registration deadlines fast approaching, there is a real sense of urgency among Obama supporters to register as many people as possible to set up the turnout operation in a little over a month from now.
Black women are a part of a deep and rich history of fighting for basic human rights, one that extends over generations. This year, like so many before it, they are on the frontlines to protect and exercise their fundamental rights in the face of opposition. First Lady Michelle Obama went so far as to use her speech at this year’s Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Foundation Awards Dinner to emphasize the historic narrative to motivate future participation, in a call to action that Black women nationwide will hopefully hear.
This election is one of the most important in a generation, with women’s rights, healthcare, and economic policy on the line, directly impacting the future of Black women and their families. Beyond simply fighting for the basic right that is voting, Black women must also keep in mind the crucial additional rights, like affordable childcare, an even more robust version of Obamacare, and increased access to career and educational opportunities, that hang in the balance between the sitting president and Mitt Romney.
It’s all connected to the right to vote, not just in a presidential year, but as the First Lady said over the weekend, voting “every year in every election,” on the local, state, and national level as engaged citizens working to change their own futures.