The More Than a Vote coalition started by LeBron James released an open letter addressing Black voter suppression during the COVID-19 pandemic and a call to action in fighting it.
The open letter published Monday at The Undefeated is the first in-depth detail about the group’s mission, specifically in the 2020 election. It also for the first time listed all 47 founding members, most of which are professional athletes.
2020 election: More Than A Vote’s mission
The More Than a Vote group is not looking to be “politicians or policy leaders” and as a group it will not be partisan (though individuals may speak out specific policies or candidates). It will focus on Black voter suppression during the COVID-19 crisis.
“The most important thing you all need to know is Black voters matter more than ever. The biggest cities in the most critical states in this election have incredible, vibrant Black communities. Detroit, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Miami, Milwaukee, Atlanta. Not surprisingly, because these Black voters have so much influence, they will be more aggressively targeted by forces of suppression. Many in power who oppose our fight for change believe it is easier to cancel one of our votes than to find a new vote of their own. You need to know this and understand how it works.”
Nearly three times more Black Americans will be infected by the COVID-19 virus than white Americans, per a study by the National Urban League that reinforces reports from the last few months. That is having an outsized impact on the upcoming 2020 election.
Three threats to voting for Black Americans
The first threat More Than a Vote details is having safe, socially distanced voting precincts since death rates from the coronavirus for Black Americans are higher than that for white Americans. The group has already started working with stadiums and arenas to open their sites for voting this fall.
The Atlanta Hawks have turned State Farm Arena into Georgia’s largest voting precinct. The Detroit Pistons also joined with the help of Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, who is part of More Than a Vote’s bipartisan group of election experts. Other teams and stadiums are doing so as well while sports are on hiatus or playing in bubble sites in Florida.
The second is the “systematic abuse of political power to make voting more difficult.” The group cites the long lines in Georgia for the primaries, which is what initially spurred James to found More Than a Vote. This issue includes underfunding the USPS ahead of massive mail-in voting numbers and disenfranchisement laws. Last month, More Than A Vote announced a donation to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition to help ex-felons vote.
The third is “deliberately lying to and misinforming Black voters,” the group wrote.
More Than a Vote asks for community help
Beyond registering and actually going out to vote, the More Than a Vote coalition asked fans to help their mission through volunteer and educational work.
Young and healthy individuals can volunteer to work the polls on Election Day to keep older, more at-risk workers at home. Time and money can be given to groups helping fight voter suppression. And the correct information can be spread through social media.
The letter is signed by nearly 50 individuals in professional sports and entertainment, including Odell Beckham Jr., Allyson Felix, Damian Lillard, Patrick Mahomes and Sloane Stephens.
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