GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP)– One North Carolina group has dedicated itself to getting more people of color to the polls. Their goal is to create frequent and lifelong voters and not just in the big elections
As a non-partisan organization, the New North Carolina Project focuses on issues and not parties or candidates.
“Maybe we can’t agree on a party. Maybe we can’t agree on blue, red, independent whatever else, but we can agree that we want our children to receive a good education. We can agree that we want water that’s drinkable. We can agree that police shouldn’t be beating us,” said Kay Brown, organizing director of the NNCP.
This group uses problems to unite people and encourages them to solve those problems with their vote, especially communities of color.
“The New North Carolina Project is an organization founded to empower communities of color across the state of North Carolina, insure they get engaged in every election in our state and also to create lifelong voters,” said Aimy Steele, CEO of the NNCP.
While their goal is to make everyone a lifelong voter, communities of color are their biggest focus because that’s where voter turnout is the lowest.
The most recent US census voter turnout data shows Black, Hispanic and Asian people registered and voted in lower numbers than white people in 2020.
The number of voters in communities of color is even lower for local elections.
“That’s one of the things we do in engaging people around, especially the smaller elections, and letting them know that…you need to vote for president. The fact that you don’t like that the school was closed down the street is actually your school board. Let’s talk about why the school board made that decision and have you at that school board meeting to talk about it,” Brown said.
Empowering people to use elections to advocate for their communities takes lots of work not just during major election seasons.
“People don’t really care that deeply about elections. They care about what’s happening in their households and…the outside community. How it’s impacting them inside their houses. So we have to bring the issues to their front door from a political lens but also from a ‘we care about you lens,'” Steele said. “What makes our organization unique is that we’re in the communities 365 days a year. We just happen to have two elections that are mandated every year a primary and a general. But in the in-between time, we’re out working with other partner groups.”
To help manage some of that workload, they have a diverse staff, a range of community partners and contracted canvassers that help them reach communities in at least 18 north Carolina counties.
Signing up to be one of those canvassers is how Lisa McMillan got involved in local politics after spending most of her life removed from them.
“I was not raised in a politically active family. I was not engaged in school,” McMillan said. “Kay brown offered this opportunity because she saw how passionate I was about dealing with the issues in predominately communities of color.”
Stories like Lisa’s are the goal of the New North Carolina Project: taking people who are disengaged from politics and getting them activated and involved.
“How we look at it is it’s not just about this election. It’s about every election, every time. And elections are a tactic that we use to move us forward as a people in this country with tools, resources, access to what it is that we need,” Brown said.
Since they work several elections and host community events throughout the year, the NNCP is always looking for people to get involved. More information can be found here.