Despite being home bound for the most part, we had an exciting month of virtual experiences using ZOOM for our weekly meetings and attending a Virtual Couch Party online thru the When We All Vote website.
We welcomed several new members and a number of guest speakers to our meetings including: Meredith Ragains, former Sylvanian and currently Executive Director of Georgia Lawyers for the Arts in Atlanta. She is active in Democratic politics.
Alexis Johnson, Campaign Manager for Teresa Tomlinson's US Senate campaign.
Teresa Tomlinson, former two term mayor of Columbus, Ga. and Democratic candidate running for the US Senate seat now held by David Perdue.
Andrea Miller, a Democratic political consultant affiliated with VAN/VoteBuilder, the NEW GEORGIA PROJECT and PEOPLE DEMANDING ACTION.
Francys Johnson, another former Screven Countian, past Southeastern Regional Director of the NAACP, past Executive Director of the GA State Conference of the NAACP and presently affiliated with the NEW GEORGIA PROJECT.
We also were joined at a meeting by Cedric Rhodes, chairman of the Screven Co. Democratic Committee.
Each speaker brought us important information and gave us their insights and suggested resources we might use in the voter registration and voting process.
We adopted a Mission Statement which is as follows: SCREVEN FORWARD is committed to positive, progressive change in our community, state and country and to ensuring that all of our citizens have access to voting rights and will exercise that vital freedom. We will work to elect leaders that we believe share the best qualities of humanity: compassion, respect for all and a moral desire to improve the lives of others. Our organization will provide support to those who are underrepresented and to each person who feels that our country has a brighter future when all humans are treated fairly and equitably.
We extensively explored ways that we might access and use information from VAN and Vote Builder, data bases that store voter lists primarily used by campaigns. We were able to obtain a VAN manual and had indications from several of our guest speakers that they could make this resource available to us.
We committed to a postcard campaign designed to target inactive voters. We obtained a list of 852 inactive voters in Screven County and have begun our card writing.
We are also planning a yard sign campaign to encourage voter registration for those not registered and voting for those who are. We also explored the possibilities of having voter registration drives at federally funded organizations such as the high school, jail and nursing home where they would be allowed and also at community events such as the Sylvania Sampler. VIBE, an organization we learned about, is made up of barber shop and salon owners. They allow registration forms to be distributed in their shops, people fill them out, we pick them up, check them for accuracy and submit them. We want to have "card table registration" events in front of businesses as soon as it is advisable to do so.
We launched a website, ScrevenForward.org. On the day Francys Johnson spoke to us we discussed the costs involved and the specifics of what a website would entail. After Francys left, but before our meeting concluded, we received an email from him saying he had paid for our website. THANK YOU, Francys Johnson for your help and thank you Lovey S. for all your work in making this happen for us! Stephen Kirkland will primarily be maintaining the website.
We now have an awesome online calendar designed by members Dave P. and Patti B. with all the registration deadline dates, election dates as well as our goals and aims for each month through the end of the year. Thanks!
Here are some other topics we discussed during our April meetings: The Screven Co. Election Board and how it works. Methods of voter suppression in Georgia. Sadly, Georgia leads the nation in purging voters. Voter registration training to enable us to help others register to vote. Data and demographics from the Sec. of State's office according to the US Census Bureau for our area. Absentee Ballot request forms, who received them and how we could make sure all are returned and all receive the absentee ballot as requested. We also learned that the ACLU has a lawsuit in regards to the state requiring postage on the request forms. They want postage paid envelopes for any voting materials that must be returned by mail. We named a treasurer. We will have a phone # and voice mail soon. We have a post office box. We have received and distributed Teresa Tomlinson yard signs.
Because of COVID-19 we are unable to get out to do the things we long to do and are passionate about doing in regards to voter registration and voting rights. It can be frustrating! Two of our members
encouraged all of us with these word during the month: "We are laying the foundation for action when action is again advisable." And this quote from Arthur Ashe: "Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can."