Due to ongoing racial disparities in felony charges and convictions, Black and brown Americans are more likely than white Americans to be disenfranchised because of a felony record. According to the ACLU of Oklahoma, if convicted of a felony, election participation is allowed upon full completion of one’s sentence – meaning the fulfillment of incarceration, probation, and parole. If convicted of a misdemeanor, individuals can still vote. Even if currently serving time, you have the right to vote by absentee ballot. However, this critical information is often not communicated, thus creating additional barriers to voting and contributing to a continued lack of participation for the demographic.
The CCSJ Department completed its first election cycle this fall, covering the November 3, 2020, Presidential Election cycle. Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the Urban League partnered with Perry Publishing and Broadcasting to host a series of outside remote events that allowed voters to register on-site, sign up for absentee ballots, and receive sample ballots and information on early voting and poll locations. We then replicated these outside events in partnership with the Oklahoma City Thunder, bringing their Thunder Vote initiative to the Urban League Campus for a drive-through voter registration event. Finally, we partnered with various Northeast Oklahoma City business owners hosting voter registration events at the Ice Events Center and outside community-based businesses along the Northeast 23rd business corridor. We were the only organization hosting a series of virtual forums for the upcoming February 9th School Board Primary Chairman race. To extend the reach of our voter registration and mobilization efforts, we partnered with Scissortail Community Development Corporation, adding translators to our online candidate forums and attracting additional viewership in the Latino community. We had 514 views for our first School Board Virtual Candidate Forum on January 12th, 2021.
2020 Voter Education and Mobilization Efforts
We hosted three community outreach events during the fall 2020 elections:
• On September 18, 2020, in partnership with the Oklahoma City Thunder, we hosted a live radio event at Perry Publishing and Broadcasting radio station located on northeast 23rdStreet in Oklahoma City.
• We hosted an on-air outside radio voter registration event on October 4, 2020, at the Urban League in partnership with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Perry Publishing and Broadcasting.
• In partnership with the Ice Event Center, we hosted a voter registration night on October 30, 2020.
2020 Voter Outreach Efforts
During the fall 2020 elections, we contacted our clients via telephone, email, and information campaigns through our Urban League learning centers. We were able to help our clients access voter registration, absentee ballot applications, provide critical information on the early voting process, and helped them locate poll locations. Additionally:
• We connected with 2,530 of our Urban League clients via telephone before voter registration and absentee ballot application deadlines. We assisted clients with questions on both the voter registration application and the absentee ballot process. Also, we provided them with information on early voting and how to locate their polling place on election day.
• We reached over 600 of our clients through our constant contact email system focusing on critical voter deadlines. We also sent our clients information on how to register to vote, locate absentee ballot applications, and polling locations for early and election day voting.
• In coordination with staff at the Oklahoma City Urban League’s Hope Centers and child learning sites, we sent 114 parents voter registration applications, absentee ballot information, and key dates for voting during the fall election cycle via the program’s weekend food distribution program.
• We assisted 150 people with questions on polling locations and dates on early voting during our voter registration event at the Ice Events Center. Also, we handed out sample ballots and helped voters access information on candidates and state questions.
• During the Thunder Voting Registration Event, we helped over 60 people register to vote, assisted them with questions on the absentee ballot, and provided important dates for early voting.
2020 Election Outcomes
According to Presidential Election Data for Senate District 48 Polling locations, a key CCSJ focus area, the Urban League saw an increase of an additional 1,200 voters participate in the 2020 election.
2021 Voter Education and Mobilization Efforts
During the 2021 local election cycle, we are focusing on Oklahoma City School Board races. Candidates for those races include: