On Thursday, Sept. 24, outside of a “Vote” mural by artist Ndubisi Okoye on the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan headquarters in Detroit, the organization’s Executive Director Dave Noble addressed the crowd at a socially distanced press conference event.
“Prior to 2018, voting in Michigan could be complicated. You couldn’t vote early without an excuse, you couldn’t register to vote on election day, and this system made it harder for everyone to participate. So the ACLU, with partners across the state, launched Proposal 3, the promote the vote initiative, to change that. Thanks to the overwhelming support of the voters in Michigan, now voting is simple and accessible to all,” Noble said. “You can vote by mail, you can vote at your polling place on election day and, starting today, you can vote early in person at your clerk’s office or local satellite location.”
This press conference was held in partnership with the Secretary of State and the MichiganVoting.Org Coalition and marked the official announcement of Michigan’s 40-day period to cast a ballot for the November presidential election. Additionally, it focused on the importance of creating opportunities to increase the votes of historically disenfranchised communities like African American voters.
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson addressed the crowd second, citing the record numbers of voters anticipated to participate not only in-person on election day but through early methods.
“I’m proud to stand here as a Detroit resident, as a Detroit voter in celebration of the work that the community has done to ensure that every voice is heard and every vote is counted this year. We’re in one of the most remarkable moments in the history of our democracy,” Benson said. “In the midst of a global pandemic, we anticipate record numbers of citizens, perhaps more than ever before in our state and in our city, will be casting their ballots in the next 40 days. And we know many of them, in fact 2.4 million have already signed up for this, will be getting their ballots through the mail and will be either returning them through the mail, at a local dropbox or in person at their clerk’s office.”
She emphasized the importance of spreading voter awareness about their rights with partners across the state over the next 40 days because of a “historic level of efforts to misinform them about those very same rights.”
The Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit Branch NAACP, then took the podium. He cited the significance of the number 40 in religious texts as a test and trial period, like when Jesus had to fast for 40 days in the wilderness or Noah had to withstand a period of rain, stating that, “If they could do all that in 40 years and 40 days, we can certainly go to the polls in this 40.”
“I’m pleased to join with my colleagues in an effort to remind every Michigander — and particularly those in the city of Detroit — that it’s time to take your souls to the polls and vote. Forty days prior to a national election, the likes of which we have never, ever seen. And missed attempts by the president of this nation and his effort to suppress our Constitutional franchise by eliminating the Postal Service and falsely declaring absentee or mail-in ballotting is rigged or conspired by illegitimate sources,” Anthony said. “We must vote.”
Anthony then went on to say that the NAACP is assembling a “cadre of lawyers in the spirit of justices Thurgood Marshall and Ruth Bader Ginsburg to make certain that our election process is protected and respected.”
“They will be on duty on Election Day through the time period in which the vote is finally counted. There must not be any obstacles or impediments placed on the voting electorate by any negative forces on the day of the election. If they are designed to intimidate, threaten or even prevent people from voting, we will take you to court and prosecute you,” he said. “If you really believe in justice for Breonna Taylor, justice for George Floyd, justice for Ahmaud Arbery and justice for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, then you must vote.”
Anthony’s statements were echoed by Hassan Jaber, the president and CEO of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services. He stated that through November, ACCESS has pledged to make 50,000 calls to voters to reach marginalized immigrant communities. Rhonda Saxton, area director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters Education Fund then took the microphone to encourage Michiganders to sign up as poll workers. Executive Director of LGBT Detroit Curtis Lipscomb was the last of the speakers to address the crowd. He encouraged those interested to become poll workers, reminding the audience that while most people are eligible to work the polls those who have committed a felony cannot. Lastly, he cited LGBT Detroit’s LGBTQ-specific PRIDE Decides 2020: Out and Voting campaign and left with a final plea to get Michiganders to the polls.
“We encourage everyone to exercise their right to vote early. Now. Between now and Nov. 2, you can vote early in Michigan,” he said. “Details are available at MichiganVoting.org.”
For those who are interested in voting but unsure of which candidate to choose, mivoterguide.com contains a ZIP code-specific guide of each politician’s endorsements who is running in Michigan.