LeBron James has started a non-profit organization, supported by a group of other prominent black athletes and entertainers. Titled "More Than a Vote," the initiative is aimed at getting African-Americans to register to vote and cast their ballot in November, the New York Times reports. It is also aimed towards combatting voter suppression across much of the country.

On Monday, James held a virtual press conference with fellow black athletes Jalen Rose, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Draymond Green, Udonis Haslem, and Alvin Kamara to announce the initiative. Kevin Hart is said to also have pledged to the cause.

More Than a Vote comes at a time when many people of color reported they had to stand in line for hours to vote in the primary elections earlier this week. A fact that James describes as "structurally racist." He said, “Yes, we want you to go out and vote, but we’re also going to give you the tutorial. We’re going to give you the background of how to vote and what they’re trying to do, the other side, to stop you from voting.”

As the country gears up for presidential elections, it's important to understand how black people and other minority groups are disenfranchised by voting systems.

What is voter suppression?

Voter suppression is a tactic used to influence the outcome of an election by discouraging or preventing specific groups of people from voting. It distinguishes itself from political campaigning in that campaigning attempts to change voting behavior, while voter suppression attempts to limit the number of people who would vote against a candidate or party.

What does it mean in practice?

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in the US, elections are administered locally, and forms of voter suppression vary among jurisdictions. While states have different measures to prevent eligible voters from exercising their right to vote many of them look as follows.

  1. Voter registration: Many minority communities report barriers to voter registration such as same-day voter registration, which requires voters to provide proof of residency (e.g., utility bills, pay stub) and identity. This can disenfranchise poorer black and Latino voters.
  2. Voter ID: Several states require photo identification, which low-income, black, and Latino voters are less likely than middle-class whites to have. In some extreme cases, the Department of Motor Vehicles' offices in minority neighborhoods were closed, making it more difficult for residents to obtain voter IDs.
  3. Early voting: Without early voting, voters who cannot make it to the polls on Election Day will not be able to vote. African-American voters are more likely to be hourly-wage workers and cannot always get to the polls on Election Day.
  4. Voting rights: State laws prohibit Americans with past convictions from voting. This disproportionately affects African-Americans who – due to systematic racism – are more likely to end up in the prison system.

What can you do?

Join the fight for more transparency and to reform voting laws by supporting organizations such as the ACLU and More Than a Vote, which engage in advocacy and litigation across the country to get rid of these harmful voter suppression strategies.

Join us in taking a stance against institutionalized racism. For more:

  1. Here’s how you can support protestors
  2. 10 anti-racism accounts to help you stay informed
  3. A simple guide to protesting safely

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