An organization that works to increase civic engagement and power building in predominantly Black communities will get $500,000 for its efforts in Alabama and Georgia, the Southern Poverty Law Center announced on Tuesday.
Black Voters Matter is one of 12 organizations that will receive a total of $5.5 million in a first round of funding distributed across five Deep South states. The money will help the group register, educate and mobilize Black voters in 17 counties in Alabama and 24 in Georgia. It will be administered as mini-grants to grassroots groups and used to conduct outreach via texting and other digital and social media strategies, according to the SPLC.
The grants are part of a $30-million voter mobilization initiative called Vote Your Voice that seeks to aid Black- and brown-led outreach efforts in communities of color in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Margaret Huang, SPLC president and CEO, said in a statement that the selected organizations had proven track records.
“In addition to facing the legacy of systemic racism, communities of color face disproportionate harm from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Huang said. “Today’s announcement ensures more eligible voters of color in the Deep South will have a say in the direction of our country as we deal with the pandemic fall-out and reckon with lasting injustices.”
Beyond voter registration, Black Voters Matter advocates for policies that expand voting rights and access, including expanded early voting, resisting voter ID laws, re-entry restoration of rights and strengthening the Voting Rights Act. It also develops organizational infrastructure where little or none exists, including training staff and developing candidates and a general network, and sometimes funds activities related to specific elections.
The organization works in nine southern states — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia — and expanded into two northern states — Michigan and Pennsylvania — last year.
The Vote Your Voice campaign was announced last month. It is a partnership between the SPLC and the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta (Community Foundation) to invest up to $30 million through 2022 from the SPLC’s endowment.
It focuses on Black and brown-led organizations because they are often ignored by traditional funders, the SPLC said. The campaign also aims to support and prototype effective voter engagement strategies and re-enfranchise citizens returning from incarceration despite bureaucratic challenges it called intentional.
Applications for the second round of grants are due by Aug. 14.
“During recent election cycles, and even in primaries just this year, voters in Georgia and across the South have experienced purging of voter rolls, long lines at polling stations and inoperable equipment, often in majority Black communities,” said Clare S. Richie, public policy specialist at the Community Foundation. “These grants will lift up organizations working at the ground level, and those maximizing mobile technology and social media in this time of social distancing, to overcome long-standing policies and practices that have stifled the voice and vote of Black and brown communities.”
The $5.5 million for this round of grants was distributed to organizations in the other states as follows: $2,010,000 in Florida, $1,575,000 in Georgia, $800,000 in Louisiana and $550,000 in Mississippi.