The head of the state NAACP told a gathering in Elizabeth City Saturday night that one important reason to vote this year is to fight back against efforts to suppress voter turnout.
“We will not stand for any attempt to intimidate our vote,” the Rev. William Barber II, president of the N.C. State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said during his speech at a Get Out the Vote rally at New Calvary Missionary Baptist Church on Third Street.
Where there is any attempt to intimidate voters, the NAACP will challenge it “with every moral and legal tool that we have,” Barber said. “We’ve come too far to turn back now.”
Much of the crowd at Saturday’s was clad in yellow T-shirts featuring the message, “If we ever needed to vote ... we sure need to vote now.”
Rob Stephens of the state NAACP office said some groups are targeting minority voting precincts and will be trying to intimidate voters at those precincts. Stevens urged people to turn out at those precincts and simply stand there in the yellow T-shirts.
“We are going to intimidate the intimidators,” Stevens said.
There were about 50 people at the rally, and more than a third were students from Elizabeth City State University.
Montravias King, president of the Elizabeth City State University chapter of the NAACP, encouraged the ECSU students who were at the rally to attend the “Vikings to the Polls” rally at the campus promenade on Nov. 6. The event will begin at 3 p.m. The Rev. Curtis Gatewoood will speak, and a march to the K.E. White Center to vote will follow the rally.
Asked afterwards about the level of enthusiasm for voting this year among ECSU students, King said debate watch parties, candidate forums and other election events have been well-attended.
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm on the campus,” King said.
During his message at the rally, Barber talked about his struggle several years ago with a life-threatening illness, relating that battle to the battle for voting rights.
“I’m a witness that if you fight back, God will fight with you,” Barber said. “If ever there has been a time that we need to say we are not going to be defeated in our politics or in any area of our lives, that time is right now. If we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote right now.”
Barber said the NAACP and its coalition partners defeated voter ID legislation in the state and “we stopped those who wanted to roll back same-day registration.”
In the wake of those victories, Barber said, “we need to vote.”
“This election is about the heart of this nation,” Barber said. “If the heart is in trouble, the whole nation is in trouble.”
Barber urged those at the rally to consider where candidates stand regarding the poor and those on the margins of society. He also encouraged people to ask where candidates stand on issues related to voting rights.
Pasquotank NAACP President Keith Rivers said the NAACP is looking for volunteers to drive voters to early voting.
“What we want to do this week is target taking people to the polls,” Rivers said. “It’s going to take a commitment from every single one of us. Take someone to the polls.”