Students at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) across the nation are joining together in the grand effort to protect people of color from voter intimidation. Launched by Howard University doctoral student Gabrielle Gray, the 2016 Presidential General Election Voter Protection Project is a response to Republican nominee Donald Trump’s call for his supporters to “watch” polls to prevent “voter fraud.”
“The rhetoric Trump is saying is what my grandparents went through so my reason for organizing is to make sure blacks continue to be protected and their rights are protected,” Gray, president of the Howard University Graduate Political Science Association (HUGSPA), told The Root.
As election day draws close by, HUGSPA is registering students to vote while informing them about voter suppression in collaboration with the National Coalition for Black Civic Participation and the Black Youth Vote! Network. The partnership comes ahead of student trips to Ohio, Maryland and northern Virginia, where they plan to monitor polls on Election Day and conduct exit polling.
“From Howard, we’re doing training on how to interact with people and how to avoid confrontation,” Gray continued, adding that a command center will be in place for students, faculty and lawyers to take calls reporting voter suppression.
Like Howard, other civil rights groups are also taking precautionary measures ahead of election day. The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) has joined hands with the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) to establish bilingual call centers (888-VE-Y-VOTA) where people can ask questions about the voting process and report problems directly from the polls.
“In case they see voter intimidation happening or if they see supporters from whichever party screaming at voters or telling them to go back home to their country, we want to make sure our voters feel protected and safe,” said Sindy Benavides, LULAC Civic Engagement & Community Mobilization Director. “One of the other things we are concerned with are long lines, especially for our community that’s very hardworking who might have to work far away [from the polls].”
On behalf of the Latino community, the NALEO has reportedly written a letter to the Department of Justice to take “urgent action” to monitor polls in the wake of Donald Trump’s comments.