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Hope Springs from Field PAC started canvassing in the Black Belt of Georgia on June 12th, 2021, with a special emphasis on helping voters without the newly required photo IDs to obtain them.  When investigating the kinds of IDs that a voter could use, our intrepid organizers from Albany State University saw this, “An ID card can be issued at any county registrar’s office.”  For voters without a photo ID, this seemed like an obvious place to go get one.  Driver Services offices were notoriously crowded (at least in the Black Belt), everyone knows stories of rude or even offensive employees, and no one thought it a good idea to put voters who didn’t already have that identification through that.  In fact, these kids believed that the biggest reason people in the African-American community wouldn’t have the proper ID was the embarrassment factor.  Paperwork is also an issue, we’ve learned as we started finding voters who need to obtain ID.

The Georgia Voter ID card became a special emphasis and we married our canvassing with our work with Black Churches in the state around it.  On February 27th, congregants in 863 Black Churches in Georgia were asked to hold up their photo ID cards in church as a reminder of the necessity of having them to vote in this year’s elections.  And that practice continued until now.  But it is also a reminder that we were continuing to organize special days in which we are accompanying those without the needed Voter ID cards to get on from their local Registrar’s office in 21 counties in southern Georgia.  That effort has now concluded.

We completed 56 Voter ID days in the last 15 months and helped 18,478 voters get photo ID cards so they can vote.  918 voters were turned away because the local Registrar’s office ran out of card stock and 2,374 voters were denied Voter ID cards because they were unable provide all the needed documents in order to qualify.  Some of these, though, did return and receive their Georgia Voter ID card.

The offer of a free photo ID that would qualify voters to vote (in person or to request an absentee ballot) is used prominently to defend this new legislation in court.  We had anticipated resistance to our efforts to qualify mostly African-American Georgians to vote but, despite the fact that Registrar’s offices were not all adequately supplied, they made dramatic improvements as we continued these Voter ID Days.  Our numbers of participants increased as well so it says something that no voter who qualified was denied a photo ID in our last 8 attempts.

Part of this was no doubt because they didn’t really believe that we could turn out the numbers of voters we told Registrar’s office to expect in the beginning.  But our strategy was to organize in mass from the beginning.  Some of the organizers are old to enough to remember that segregationists would try to isolate African-Americans who wanted to register to vote in the 50s and 60s.  And the prospect of intimidation was a big fear when we asked people why they didn’t have the (now) required photo identification.  But every Registrar’s Office we went to had Black employees and every office was eager to help voters get what was needed.  It was simply a question of stock and (possibly) confidence that we could bring in the numbers of voters we advised them we would be bringing.

Not that there weren’t hick-ups.  On day, a (white) voter who was at the Registrar’s Office when the bus first arrived wondered loudly why there were so many African-Americans there (in a less respectful term) but left when an organizer pulled out an Incident Report form and asked the man his name.  On another day, we were greeted by 4 Republicans who claimed they were there to observe the proceedings.  You guessed it, more Incident Reports were filled out with lots of witnesses (too many to mention) and the group left after an hour of observing without causing much more trouble after one of them asked what we would be doing with the paper they had filled out.  At another office, we were forewarned that they had been called about the next time we scheduled an “Albany Day” (in some areas, where Albany State organizers lead the efforts, they have been called Albany Days) but they said they declined to give out the information.

Hope Springs from Field PAC has been knocking on doors in a grassroots-led effort to increase awareness of the fact that Democrats care about our voters and are working to protect their rights.  We are thinking about how to mitigate Voter Suppression efforts, get around them and make sure we have “super compliance,” both informing and helping our voters meet the requirements and get out and vote.  We are taking those efforts to the doors of the communities most effected (the intended targets or victims) of these new voter suppression laws.

Obviously, we rely on grassroots support, so if you support field/grassroots organizing and our efforts to protect our voters, we would certainly appreciate your support:

https://secure.actblue.com/donate/hopevoterprotect

Hope Springs from Field PAC was started by former Obama Field Organizers because field was the cornerstone of our success.  The approach we adopted was focused on listening, on connecting voters and their story to the candidate and our cause.  Repeated face to face interactions are critical.  And we are among those who believe that Democrats didn’t do as well in the 2020 Congressional races as expected because we didn’t knock on doors.  We are returning to the old school basics: repeated contacts, repeated efforts to remind them of protocols, meeting them were they are.  Mentoring those who need it (like first time and newly registered voters).  Reminding, reminding, reminding, and then chasing down those voters whose ballots need to be cured.

About a third of the people who have participated in these Voter ID efforts were found at their door.  Most were found by the repeated efforts at Black Churches who we have helped (mostly by matching their membership lists with the Voter file so they would know who among them were unregistered).  And every county was different; some where primarily organized by Hope Springs from Field PAC volunteers while others were predominantly organized by clergy.  In two counties, our participation after the initial recruitment and organization was limited to bringing out Incident Report forms and answering questions about our Voter Protection Project in the fall.  It didn’t matter to use who got the credit so long as the work was getting done.

But everywhere we canvassed, we informed voters of the new voter laws and requirements, making sure they were aware of the promise that these photo ID cards would be available at the registrar’s office.  We continued to find dozens of voters who admit they didn’t have the needed ID.  Members of the Divine Nine sororities in the county were also central to this effort to build up support to help make it easy for those without the required ID to feel comfortable in getting them.  “We’re asking for them.  They don’t need to ask for themselves.  They just need to get in line.”

As our lists grew, we made sure that the employees from the Registrar’s office were kept abreast of developments.  In the end, this guaranteed that enough card stock was available to make the photo IDs.  And they accepted that our purpose was not to pressure them, but to pressure the Secretary of State’s office and the legislative promise that these free Voter cards would be available, as was promised.  None of these counties’ Registrars offices had the resources to provide the free photo ID without the help of the state (which had mandated them).

I want to reiterate that this action is a result of the thinking about the consequences of the new Georgia elections law by students at the Historically Black College and University Albany State University.  They thought of this test and put the troops on the ground in these counties.  Our canvassing in Georgia is an outgrowth of these volunteers, who seem extraordinarily committed to keeping Rev Warnock in the U.S. Senate.  And these (mostly female) African-American women were just amazing at getting people to knock on doors in their Black Belt counties.  But they keep asking, can we do more?  Those who will be returning to Albany State in the fall are expecting to do more!

We can all do more.  Of course, the easiest thing that any of us can do is to contribute.  We realize not everyone can, just as not everyone has the patience, knowledge and skillset to walk people through the process of obtaining a photo id.  But if you support our grassroots efforts to protect the vote, especially in minority communities, I hope you do.

If you are able to support our efforts to protect Democratic voters, especially in minority communities, expand the electorate, and believe in grassroots efforts to increase voter participation and election protection, please donate:

https://secure.actblue.com/donate/hopevoteprotect

Thank you for your support!  This work depends on you!

This content was originally published here.

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