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SPLC’s new bilingual voter engagement campaign launches across Alabama

Southern Poverty Law Center

A Montgomery nonprofit is offering a bilingual voter engagement campaign geared toward young constituents in Alabama. The South’s Got Now / Decidimos is being put on by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

The advocacy organization says the goal of the program is to emphasize the importance of local and national elections while getting more young voters to the polls. The campaign is exploring the issues and messages that matter most to young voters of color in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi ahead of the 2024 elections.

Tafeni English-Relf is the director of the SPLC’s Alabama State Office. She explained the nonprofit is making an effort to hold workshops and voter registration drives as they learn more about what young people are thinking about the voting process.

“SPLC wanted to really think about a campaign that was geared toward increasing voter engagement and education among young voters, young voters of color. That led us to The South’s Got Now campaign,” she said.

English-Relf explained there was a focus group done to learn what young people think about the voting process and their role in democracy. The SPLC discovered the need to address the lack of faith young voters had in the political process, specifically in Alabama.

“So in the Deep South, we can talk about the recent passing of different ways of voting that are creating barriers to the ballot box. Specifically, the closing of polling places in predominantly Black communities. So, the time that people would have to travel, or the length of time that people have to stand in line, people are not able to distribute water to people if they're standing in long lines in some states,” English-Relf said.

The SPLC says the key aspect of the campaign is to inform young voters of barriers that are happening within the state that are sometimes overlooked.

“We have the SB1 [Senate Bill 1] that was recently passed in Alabama that will make it a felony if you assist someone with an absentee ballot who is not next of kin to you. We know a lot of folks in our rural communities, specifically elderly and disabled [and] also people of color, depend a lot on those absentee ballots,” English-Relf said.

The South’s Got Now / Decidimos campaign offers initiatives to empower young voters of color through personalized communication and workshops on misinformation, as well as to educate young people about their roles and responsibilities in the political process.

“I think it's important for people to understand how policies impact them, and not only at the national level, but also at the local level,” English-Relf said. “Access to health care, public safety, education and economic development. All of those things that impact us in our day to day lives,” English-Relf said.

The South’s Got Now / Decidimos campaign wants young voters to understand how the political process impacts them at the local level as well as why they should get out and vote.

“Oftentimes we miss that point, that local elections are just as important as those national elections. So, we really want to speak to why it's important for individuals to get out and vote, making sure that they understand their role in democracy,” English-Relf explained.

She also said it’s important for young voters of color to have representation of candidates running for office.

‘We can look at the Supreme Court decision around the 2nd Congressional District, and how the Supreme Court also ruled that representation is important…to have the opportunity to have representation across the board, specifically for young voters of color, it is very important. It is something that we should strive for,” English-Relf said.

The campaign launch coincides with several voter registration drives in multiple parts of Alabama and the South. Learn more about The South’s Got Now / Decidimos at the links attached.

Jolencia Jones is a graduate assistant at Alabama Public Radio. She joined APR in 2022. She graduated from The University of Alabama with a bachelor's degree in public relations. Over the past year, Jolencia has written a range of stories covering events throughout the state. When she's not working at APR, she's writing for 1956 Magazine and The Crimson White.

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