JANS – Since its launch a few weeks ago, People For the American Way’s nonpartisan Defend the Black Vote campaign has been picking up steam in five states — Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Ohio. The launch follows People For’s successful Defend the Black Vote campaigns in the 2020 national elections and 2022 midterms. The campaign targets infrequent Black voters with text messages that encourage them to vote and that provide them with information about voting laws and polling places. Defend the Black Vote campaigns in 2020 and 2022 showed that direct outreach via text has a measurable impact on getting these voters – often overlooked in GOTV efforts – to the polls.
“The Black voters we are reaching have been called ‘low-propensity’ voters, but really they are ‘low-investment’ voters,” said Roger Vann, Chief Strategy Officer at People For the American Way. “These are voters that get-out-the-vote campaigns ignore and don’t invest in. And we need these voters to participate in our democracy if we want it to represent everyone and work for everyone. We are very excited that we’ve found an effective way to reach these voters, and we are honing that effectiveness with every new iteration of this campaign.”
“Black voters are up against a tsunami of voter suppression, misinformation, and disinformation – and to make matters worse, a percentage of these voters get written off by campaigns as unreachable and unmotivated. That’s wrong,” said Svante Myrick, President of People For the American Way. “We know these voters can be motivated by the right message at the right time, and that’s what Defend the Black Vote is all about. We’re using direct outreach to defeat the forces of voter suppression and make sure that people who have a right to vote, exercise that right – and have their votes counted.”
This year’s Defend the Black Vote campaign expands the target audience of voters over the pool of voters targeted in past campaigns. In past years, the campaign focused exclusively on Black male voters ages 18-60 who had voted in only one or none of the last three national elections. This fall, the campaign will reach out to these voters and also to Black women in the same age group. States chosen for this year’s nonpartisan Defend the Black Vote campaign are five of the six states with critical statewide elections or ballot initiatives where African American voters compose a significant portion of the electorate.
The texting component of the campaign will send over one million text messages to individual voters. The messages will emphasize voters’ responsibility to their community to use their right to vote. Past iterations of the Defend the Black Vote campaign have shown the effectiveness of this motivational messaging over other messaging. People For will collaborate with the Analyst Institute to study the results of this year’s campaign and further refine it for 2024.
“This is about making a difference in these races in 2023, but it’s also all about being ready for the critical national races in 2024,” said Vann.
In 2022, People For’s Defend the Black Vote campaign encompassed 15 states in the general election and expanded to Georgia for the Senate runoff. In the general election, the campaign targeted one million voters for texts and expanded to radio and digital ads. In 2020, the original Defend the Black Vote campaign targeted Black male voters ages 18-35 in 15 states.
People For the American Way believes that to make our democracy stronger, it is critically important to include voting communities that have been most heavily targeted for exclusion. The Brennan Center reports that in 2023, at least 11 states enacted 13 restrictive laws aimed at voter suppression. In 2022, the last year for which they have full data, the Brennan Center reports that at least 408 restrictive bills were considered by lawmakers in 39 states. Learn more: http://www.pfaw.org.