The National Black Church Initiative is ramping up to lead 34,000 churches and their congregations to the voting booth this year.

Ramping up a new initiative to combat new and strengthened restrictive voting laws, the National Black Church Initiative (NBCI) has set out to make sure every minority voter gets to the polls and has their vote counted in this year’s general and presidential election.

“We will not rubber stamp every Democratic candidate,” said Rev. Anthony Evans, president of the NBCI. “We need jobs, access to healthcare, more educational opportunities and if a Republican wants to have a dialogue we are open to it.”

Not even President Obama has a guaranteed win in the NBCI book, said Evans, who believes that the minority, middle, and lower class communities are often victims of the politics that keep change from occurring. Religious leaders across the country for 16 years have served these same communities through the organization.

The NBCI has already put into action plans that will have a significant effect on the outcome of the next election. The churches involved with NBCI are sponsoring early registration drives, encourage early voting where offered, and provide shuttle services to and from voting centers on election day.

The NBCI is also taking a stand against strict new voter ID laws that will be in effect in the 2012 election. Currently 31 states have some form of voter identification law. Eight states require a photo ID at the time a ballot is cast, with provisional ballots offered to those without proper ID. Seven states have voting laws that allow an affidavit stating the voter is providing correct identification to stand in for a physical ID card, and 16 states allow a current utility bill or bank statement with voter information to serve as proof of identification.

To offset the number of citizens turned away because of inadequate identification, the NBCI is informing voters about the new laws, and ensuring that everyone has the proper documents to vote.

“The whole point of a democracy is to give people the right to vote,” said Rev. Evans. “To limit that vote in anyway is un-American and undemocratic.”

According to the Pew Center for Research, a national research and polling company, minorities turned out to cast their vote in record breaking numbers in 2008. A total of 131 million people voted in the general election, with African-Americans making up 12.1 percent of that number. The 2008 black voter turnout increased 4.9 percent in 2008. With help from the NBCI, that number will continue to grow in a positive direction for the 2012 election.

Aside from combating voter apathy, the NBCI also focuses on financial health, physical and mental wellness. The foreclosure program the organization offers has been a vital source of information and assistance for those affected by the housing market crash.

The NBCI network includes churches of every denomination from Church of God In Christ (COGIC) to The Union of Black Episcopalians.

For more information on the National Black Church Initiative visit www.natlblackchurch.com

For more information on voter laws visit www.ncsl.org/legislatures-elections/elections/voter-id-state-requirements.aspx

 

Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer