LaTosha Brown, the co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund, discussed the dangers and sources of voter suppression at a panel discussion hosted Monday by Harvard’s Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History.
At the event, Brown — whose organization encourages Black Americans to vote to enact social justice — spoke with moderator Jordan T. Camp of Columbia University and Harvard Professor of History Tiya A. Miles ’92 about the long struggle to ensure that Black Americans have full voting rights and are engaged in the political process.
Brown said her organization has lately been going to early voting sites across the country, particularly in the South, to make certain that Black voters can safely cast ballots in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and hours-long voting lines in certain counties.
Brown pointed to potential voter suppression in Georgia as an area of concern for her organization. According to a report released by the Georgia American Civil Liberties Union last month, the state of Georgia likely removed nearly 200,000 citizens from the state’s voter rolls without proper cause. According to Brown, the state needed a license to remove voters’ registrations due to address changes or other reasons.
“The challenge with that is that those 200,000 people, we’re not even certain, if they know that they were dropped from the list. And if they did not register before October the fifth, they will not be able to vote in this election cycle,” Brown said.
The discussion also touched on the increase in mail-in ballots this fall and its potential implications for discrimination in the voting process.
Camp cited an NPR report which found that 550,000 mail-in ballots have been rejected in the 2020 presidential primaries, significantly more than the number rejected in the 2016 general election.
“Needless to say, the 2020 election is a decisive one, which may well turn out to be one of the most significant in US history,” Camp said.
Brown also commended the high Black voter turnout so far, despite the various barriers her organization is working to combat.
“Black voters are so determined,” Brown said.
Many of the Black voters Brown has spoken to have emphasized that they do not intend to be prevented in their attempt to vote.
“I think we’re going to see a remarkable turnout,” Brown said. “I think we’re going to have some upset down ballot races as well this election cycle,”
In the midst of the pandemic, the Black Voters Matter Fund — which was founded in 2016 — has been forced to shift its organizing tactics. While the group normally engages in door-to-door canvassing, Brown said the group has recently been deploying food trucks to feed voters, as well as using caravans to encourage voters to turn out.
Brown highlighted the power of grassroots action in helping tackle the current challenges facing the United States.
“There's something very powerful when people rise up, when there’s energy and intention behind it.” Brown said. “That's how movements happen.”