All eyes are on state and local elections as the country inches closer to the 2022 midterm election. Millions of voters are casting ballots in state primary races throughout the summer and will eventually determine which political party controls Congress over the next two years.
Although many policy issues are up for debate in this year’s election, voting rights has become an important topic for both candidates and voters. According to Brennan Center for Justice, 27 states have introduced or enacted 250 pieces of restrictive voting legislation, ranging from “limiting early or absentee balloting to implementing stricter voter identification requirements.” These types of legislation, along with unfair gerrymandering practices, restrict voting access and disproportionately affect marginalized communities that already face existing barriers to voting.
Although voter turnout across every racial and ethnic group rose in 2020, there has been a renewed sense of urgency among voting rights advocates for getting out the vote this year. Early voting turnout in Georgia’s primary elections “surged past previous milestones,” as the state remains one of the biggest battlegrounds in the national fight over voting rights.
H2: Be Woke.Vote and Smith’s Efforts in Increasing Voter Registration
As a civil rights advocate, Robert F. Smith is involved in multiple efforts to protect and expand voting access across the country. The son of two educators, Smith attended the 1963 March on Washington in his mother’s arms and has a long-standing history of supporting organizations committed to social justice and racial equity.
Smith is an Executive Producer for Be Woke.Vote, an initiative and creative platform dedicated to encouraging people of color and other marginalized groups to engage in the election process. The concept was created in 2018 by Smith, with film director Deon Taylor, film producer Roxanne Avent and creative director Darrick Angelone. Be Woke.Vote is geared toward millennials and Gen Z, and offers assistance with voter registration, whether in-person or by mail.
To mobilize voters around the 2020 presidential election, Be Woke.Vote launched an in-person tour across 10 cities in battleground states, including Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas and Georgia. The events featured DJs, free food and opportunities to register to vote.
In addition, Be Woke.Vote produces video and podcast series aimed to educate and entertain young voters of color. Two of Be Woke’s video podcasts, “The Messy Truth With Van Jones” and “Roland Martin Unfiltered”, received Webby Awards in 2019, and the overall initiative, Be Woke.Vote, won its first Webby in 2022. Additionally, Smith is Executive Producer of “Black History in Two Minutes (or so),” a video podcast series that highlights influential changemakers in Black history.
Learn more about Smith’s encouragement of Black voters to ”turn their outrage over miscarriages of justice into civic action by practicing their right to vote.”