SPLC to invest $30M into voter outreach programs

SPLC to invest $30M into voter outreach programs

By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Southern Poverty Law Center will be investing $30 million into voter outreach organizations in five southern states to increase voter registration and fight voter suppression.

The “Vote Your Voice” campaign will be giving funding to organizations lead by people of color in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi to promote voter participation through the 2022 election cycle.

“The United States has a long history of denying voting rights to its citizens, especially black and brown people, returning citizens and young people,” said SPLC President and Chief Executive Office Margaret Huang said in a press release.

“While we have seen gains in voting rights and access in recent decades, since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, there has been a resurgence of state-sponsored voter suppression through actions such as purging voter rolls, blocking rights restoration efforts, eliminating polling places, scaling back early voting, instituting onerous voter ID laws, limiting access to voting by mail, and other measures.”

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill has previously countered SPLC’s statements of voter suppression by pointing to increases in voter registration and turnout.

The first round of grants will be awarded in July with the second round coming later in the summer. Organizations that work with communities of color have been invited to submit grant applications as part of the first round and the second round will be conducted through open Requests for Proposals process.

“One of our goals is to help empower communities of color which traditionally face the brunt of voter suppression efforts and our activities here are non-partisan,” Seth Levi, SPLC’s chief strategy officer, told Alabama Daily News. “We’re not doing this to win elections, we’re doing this to help increase turnout amongst those communities so that their voice is heard as loud as anybody else.”

The program is in partnership with the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, which will administer the grants for nonprofit and nonpartisan activities through 2022 as organizations navigate their outreach efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.

Levi said he expects to still see organizations do outreach through digital and online work, as well as phone banking and direct mail.