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Jamyia Jordan waits while her aunt Tiffany Suggs casts her vote at Leopold Elementary School in 2016. 

Madison area churches, nonprofits, college students and others are joining forces to make sure that voters of color can get to the polls armed with the documents they need to vote on Nov. 6.

“It’s a critical time for our country,” said Ruben Anthony, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison. “This is a time that everyone needs to come out and vote.”

Anthony and leaders from about 15 different organizations are kicking off a campaign Thursday to motivate people to vote and commit to bringing a friend or family member. And if someone has a problem getting to the polls, they’ll provide a ride.

The coalition plans to publicize the effort at a press conference on Thursday at 1 p.m. at the Urban League, 2222 S. Park St.

The “Roll to the Polls” effort is being spearheaded by the Urban League and the African American Council of Churches, which is organizing rides to the polls on Nov. 6. The NAACP, 100 Black Men of Madison and several black Greek organizations are also involved in the effort.

To arrange a ride, voters can call the Urban League at (608) 729-1200 or the Rev. Harold Rayford with the Council of Churches at (608) 834-8855.

But it’s not just about getting people to the voting booth, but also making sure they have the documentation required to register.

“Sometimes people don’t know what to bring,” Anthony said. “A lot of times people are afraid they don’t have the right credentials to take to the polls and so we want to help them with that.”

The organizers stress that their efforts are not partisan.

“We are not endorsing any candidate, we are not endorsing any political party, we are not endorsing any referendum,” Rayford said. “We understand our communities are not a monolith. We just want everybody to participate and make their voices heard.”

Rayford said the council has been providing rides to polling places for several elections.

“We make sure that the members of our congregations have transportation,” he said. “What’s different this time is we’re making sure that the community knows that they can call on our churches as well, even if they’re not members.”

The churches are also urging members to get family members who are eligible to vote out to the polls as well. And they’re reaching out to the Latino community, too.

“We’re asking our congregants to make themselves voting committees and encourage their family members who normally don’t vote,” he said. “Our goal is to create a record turnout from within the African American community and the communities of color in general.”

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In recent years, the state has tightened voting restrictions with measures like photo ID requirements and voter roll purges. Critics say those measures unfairly impact minority voters, but Rayford said they haven’t caused problems if voters are equipped with the necessary documentation to register and vote.

“I don’t think it’s made it more difficult,” he said. “I think the perception is that it’s more difficult, and people might feel like they’re going to be turned away. Our approach is to make sure that everyone is informed.”

Area black churches, he said, have invited speakers to let congregants know what counts as proper documentation. They’re also making sure people know what’s on the ballot in terms of candidates and referenda.

“We’re really just trying to encourage people to not only vote but to be an educated voter from the beginning to the end of the process,” he said.

Unregistered voters who want to vote on Election Day need to bring documentation showing their complete name and address. That can include:

  • A current Wisconsin driver’s license or ID card.
  • Any other official Wisconsin ID or license issue by a state government entity.
  • An employee ID card with a photograph.
  • A property tax bill or receipt for the current or preceding year.
  • A residential lease.
  • A college or technical college ID with a photo, along with a fee receipt dated within the last nine months.
  • A utility bill for a period within 90 days.
  • A bank statement.
  • A paycheck.
  • A check or other document issued by a governmental agency.
  • An affidavit on social service letterhead attesting that the voter is homeless and establishing a residence for voting purposes.

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

Steven Elbow joined The Capital Times in 1999 and has covered law enforcement in addition to city, county and state government. He has also worked for the Portage Daily Register and has written for the Isthmus weekly newspaper in Madison.