November 2, 2020 | Blog by Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, President, Skinner Leadership Institute, Co-Convener, National African American Clergy Network
Why We Can Celebrate Even Before the Results Are Reported.
There are so many reasons for Black voters to celebrate during this 2020 election season even before winners are declared. Young voters have moved from #proteststopolls and have registered and voted early in record numbers. They understand that their vote is their voice and they must raise it loudly for justice denied to Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and far too many others. Though still underperforming in states like Florida, the Black voter turnout rate is higher in most states than in the 2016 election.
The outcome in one of three battleground states is dependent on the African American vote, raising the national influence of Black voters. White suburban women are projected to vote in the spirit of the #METOO Movement's quest for gender equality and reject racist messages stoking fear over people of color "invading" the suburbs. An increased number of African American candidates are running strong statewide races in Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas. Additionally, Young Senior Pastors have responded enthusiastically to the call of Turnout Sunday/Lawyers & Collars Voter Protection Campaign for 1000 young pastors to serve as poll chaplains at polling sites of vulnerable voters in key states.
These promising trends signify increased citizenship commitment to participating in voting as the foundation of our democracy.
What Should Concern Us? The Challenges.
Despite many reasons for optimism this election season, there is still a real possibility of a winner being declared too early when millions of absentee votes have not been counted, causing massive confusion about the results. Far worse is fear that the current President will, as he has said, refuse to accept the results if he loses, creating national chaos and lack of confidence in the results of the election. That is why over 700 African American Clergy and allies are in the remaining days of a 40 day fast for free, fair, and safe elections. It is also why so many in the faith community are making prayer a high priority given national anxiety over a peaceful transition of power should the current President lose the election.
For Black voters, there is the persistent failure to hold candidates accountable whose victory depends on the Black vote. Typically, once candidates are elected, they are responsive primarily to those who fund their campaigns. They are also responsive to voters who make themselves visible following their election, remind them of their campaign promises, build a relationship with the new leader's staff team, and monitor how they are keeping their campaign promises. Remember, those who hold public office work for the public. Your taxes pay their salary, health benefits, and staff. Therefore, they work for you!
What is Next? Holding the Winning Candidates Accountable.
Google the job responsibilities of the leadership role the candidate is seeking plus any resources available to citizens within their leadership role.
List at least two issues or resources that would benefit you and your community.
Identify others in your network who share your interests, for example, in your workplace, sorority, fraternity, professional association, church, or house of worship.
Meet with those in your circle to clarify what you collectively want the elected leader to do for your community—focus, especially on campaign promises from their website.
Meet with the candidate with a small group of like-minded colleagues, and share what you want them to do. Start with a campaign promise they made; share your communities' needs with stories of how real people are impacted. Statistics about the number of people impacted are good but should be tied to compelling human impact stories.
Whether you voted for an elected leader in a national, state, or local office, your approach for obtaining accountability is the same. You and your community matter because you make them matter to elected officials who respond best to those who refuse to be ignored. You must commit to holding elected officials accountable as an ongoing part of your life and a high priority for your organization. This accountability process is how democracy works. Remember, you and those you represent are either at the table where decisions are made, or you are on the menu with your hopes and dreams carved up and tossed into the sea of neglect. Your and your community’s interests are much too important to allow those seeking office to check in with you only when they are seeking re-election. Not only in the 2020 election but state and local elections, learn to continually ask the question, “I voted, now what?”