Coalition of Black Leaders Announce
Roll to the Polls
Rights Paid for in Blood
|Clockwise from upper left: Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell; Rev.
Marcus Allen, pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church; Ingrid Rothe,
co-chair of the Voter ID Coalition; Bishop Harold Rayford, president
of the African American Council of Churches; Dr. Ruben Anthony
Jr., president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison;
Gregory Jones, NAACP Dane County Branch president
Rayford wants voting to be a family — and community — affair.
“Our goal ultimately is for the records to reflect that this was a record-breaking year, not just for a mid-term election, but also for elections in general where the
African American community in Dane County is concerned,” Rayford emphasized. “We’re asking everyone to provide transportation, not just for yourself, but for
others. I saw a great sign that said ‘Take a friend to vote.’ Don’t go to the polls by yourself. That’s why we’re saying this year, on November 6th; we’re going to roll to
Next up to the podium was Dr. Ruben Anthony, president/CEO of the Urban League. Anthony began where Rayford left off, almost like a tag team to motivate people to
“Our hash tag is #rolltothepolls,” Anthony said. “I want to thank all of you for coming here today. This is a great sign that you recognize the importance of getting
people out to vote, not just going yourself, but getting people out to vote. We are asking you to come out in record numbers for this mid-term election.”
Anthony noted the continuation of the historical attempts to suppress the Black vote.
“I was watching TV the last couple of days and you see all of this stuff that you used to see back in the 1950s and 1960s when all of these scare tactics and bombs
were being planted and negative national rhetoric,” Anthony said. “All of that are scare tactics to stop people from coming forward and expressing their civil rights.
Don’t let that stop you. #rolltothepolls. We need everybody, every family member — your nephews and your nieces — who may not have come out to vote in the past to
come out and vote. These are trying times. And we cannot let the hands of time be turned back. We watched the tactics that they are using. It appears that this is Jim
Crow 2.0. Many of the things that you see happening today are things that you saw happening in Black Mississippi. These are things that you saw happening in
Alabama. But now you see them happening in New York and Chicago and all of these other places. It’s time to step up. We’re not going to tell you who to vote for as a
non-profit. But we’re telling you that there are no excuses today. There is no way that you should sit back and not come out and vote.”
Anthony encouraged the approximately 30 people who attended the press conference as well as the community at large not to let the violence in America discourage
them from exercising tgheir rights paid for in blood by those who came before them.
“Don’t be discouraged,” Anthony emphasized. “As we look at the national scene and we see all of the divisiveness, we see that there is isolation and dividedness.
People are trying to divide us by race. People are trying to divide us by gender. They’re trying to isolate us from the rest of the world. And I wonder what is going to
happen to our democracy. But you decide that. If you decide to sit back and not do anything, you give up your democracy. We don’t want to give that up because that is
what makes America great. America is great because we have an opportunity to vote. And many people have risked their lives. They died for us to have these
opportunities. We definitely don’t want to be known as that generation that did nothing. We could sit back and we could sit on the sidelines and we could do nothing.
But this is not the time. There are too many critical issues being debated and too many things that are going on today that we need to know what you think. People
need to know what you think. And how you express your voice in how you think is getting out to the polls.”
Anthony noted once again Rayford’s theme of voting being a community responsibility.
“Please make a commitment to take someone else to the polls,” Anthony urged the crowd. “Educate someone about voting. Stress to your friends and neighbors that
we not only need you to vote, but also bring them along. Voting today not only impacts what we deal with, but it also protects future generations. When you get out to
vote, you’re not getting out for yourself. You’re also getting out for future generations. You’re getting out for your children. You’re getting out for your grandchildren. So
get out and vote. There are no excuses. We all need to get out and vote. If you don’t get out and vote and you see bad public policy outcomes, you gave up your right to
complain. There is no more time to complain. We need to hold each other accountable. We need to get out and vote. You have to express your civic responsibility and
get out and let your voice be heard. All of our non-profit friends and all of our partners won’t tell you who to vote for, but we tell you that it is important to vote.”
Gregory Jones, president of the NAACP Dane County Branch emphasized the importance of the Black vote in shaping the outcomes of Wisconsin’s elections in an
environment whjen the Euro-American vote is deeply divided between Democrat and Republican.
“It’s important because in 2017, a UW-Madison study found that nearly 17,000 registered voters in Dane and Milwaukee counties may have been deterred from voting
in the 2016 election simply because of voter ID requirements,” Jones stated. “In addition, previous reports found that Wisconsin had the second biggest downturn in
voting turnout than any other state in the union in 2016. Some of the biggest declines occurred in Milwaukee where we have a significant Black population. NAACP
President Derrick Johnson stated, ‘In order to become a potent political force, the Black community must build a political infrastructure that will vote in both
presidential and non-presidential elections at all times.’ This should be the beginning of building that infrastructure to make voting a mindset for all of our Black folk
generations old, generations Millennial and those that are yet to come. NAACP Vice-President of Civic Engagement Jamal Watkins said, ‘This initiative expects to
achieve success through the use and intersection of four major strategies: the use of database targeting of infrequent voters and eligible voters who are unregistered
and creativity in relational organizing.”
Jones also noted that there are candidates who are now not providing their position information to the League of Women Voters, a non-partisan election group.
Instead, they seek to spin their policy positions whichever way they want through massive television and social media advertising, regardless of the truth of their
“A recent television editorial stated the following: ‘The always valuable and helpful election guide by the League of Women Voters of Dane County is in the current
Isthmus magazine,’” Jones said. “’And it is a stunning indictment of candidate apathy and disrespect of citizens.’ It goes on to say, ‘With lone exception of Secretary of
State Candidate Jay Schroeder, not one Republican candidate for statewide office responded to the League’s candidate’s survey. Governor Scott Walker,
By Jonathan Gramling
African Americans have always been important to electoral outcomes throughout their history in
the United States. Even as Africans who were enslaved, in the U.S. Constitution, even though
they were prohibited from voting, by being counted as three-fifths of a person, they guaranteed a
certain level of political power in the South by allowing for more white representatives from the
South in the U.S. Congress than their numbers would otherwise indicate.
And when African Americans received the right to vote after the Civil War, they helped elect two
U.S. Senators and 13-14 Representatives to the U.S. Congress before repressive forces
embodied in the Ku Klux Klan eliminated their effective electoral participation. After the Voting
Rights Act of 1965 was passed, African Americans once more exercised their right to vote and
helped to propel hundreds of African Americans into public office.
When Barack Obama was elected President of the United States in 2008, it was Wisconsin and
especially the historic turnout of African American voters in Southeast Wisconsin that put Obama
over the top. And once more regressive forces tried to eliminate the impact that African
American voters had in electing public leaders.
Recognizing the impact of African American voters on Wisconsin elections, the African American
Council of Churches in Dane County (AACC), the Urban League of Greater Madison, the NAACP
Dane County Branch and the Voter ID Coalition held a press conference and non-partisan “Get
Out the Vote” rally on October 25th at the Urban League offices.
“We’re calling it Roll to the Polls,” said Bishop Harold Rayford, president of AACC. “The AACC
consists of approximately 20 African American congregations based here in greater Madison.
Our churches are deeply concerned and committed to the voting process here. We are
encouraging our congregations and their families to be engaged in this political process like
never before. Our efforts include the following: We’re offering transportation to and from the
polls. Anyone needing transportation to and from the polls simply need to contact one of our
churches. We’re encouraging our members to challenge their family members to vote. We all
know people and have family and friends who may have decided that they are not going to vote
or that their vote doesn’t matter. Our message to our congregants as well as to our friends is our
votes do matter. And they only don’t matter when we don’t use them.”
Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, Attorney
General Brad Schimmel and State Treasurer
Candidate Travis Hartwig all refused to answer the
questions posed by the non-partisan citizen
participation organization League of Women Voters.
That ought to get each and every one of us citizens —
we learned about citizenship in our early grades —
concerned. The editorial concludes by saying, ‘Pick up
the guide. Find it online. Read it. See the kind of
questions that were being asked. And ask yourself,
‘Why didn’t they respond?’”
It is important for the African American and other
communities of color to show up in record numbers at
the polls to show politicians of all persuasions that
Black Votes Matter. A new era begins when every
voter steps up to be counted.
Visit myvote.wi.gov to look up your voter registration
info, learn where you vote, see what’s on the ballot,
and much more. Contact the Dane County Voter ID
Coalition if you have any questions about your
eligibility to vote, acceptable forms of ID, and much
more. (608) 266-2261 or voteridwisconsin.org.
Contact The Faith Place Church (608 834 8855), Mt.
Zion Church (608 255 5270), or nearly any of the other
Black Churches in Dane County if you need a FREE
ride to the polls on Election Day. Likewise, Union Cab
will be providing free rides to the poll on election day
by calling (608) 242-2000.