PALMETTO -- Manatee County will be part of a "My Vote, My Voice" state-wide voter registration drive on Saturday that aims to educate and empower minority voters.
"Florida has blatantly attacked the voting rights of millions of its residents," said Adora Obi Nweze, president of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, in a statement. "Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called voting the 'foundation stone for political action.' We have seen that foundation weakened due to voter suppression and intimidation tactics. The NAACP believes that everyone with the right to vote in (Florida) should have the ability to exercise that right."
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. are partnering to lead the registration efforts and will be supported by local Greek and community organizations. The drive in Manatee County will take place at the Palmetto Youth Center from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., said Susie Copeland, president of the Manatee County Branch of the NAACP.
"We want people registered to exercise their right to vote, that's the objective here," Copeland said. "We want people to get out and vote."
In the August primary elections only 13 percent of the African American population of Manatee County showed up at the polls, Copeland said. Information will be provided Saturday about proposed amendments to the state constitution that will appear on the Nov. 6 general election ballot, said Copeland.
"We want people to vote by mail because the ballot is going to be eight pages long so it'll be very time consuming," Copeland said. If voters get the ballots at home they will not have to present a photo identification to cast their vote and will have the chance to review the questions and not be rushed voting, said Copeland.
"We are committed to the communities where we live and work," said in a statement Linnes Finney, Southern Province Polemarch of Kappa Alpha Psi, Fraternity Inc. "As mentors, role models, and community leaders, we must protect the rights of minority voters, and make sure that all of our voices are heard."
Angelia Gilley, president of the Bradenton Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and about 10 other sorority members will be issuing information and registering people Saturday at the Palmetto location.
"Everyone has a voice and everyone has a vote, but in order for your voice to be truly heard and your vote to be counted you have to be educated on what the issues are," Gilley said.
About 206,000 Manatee County residents had registered to vote as of Friday afternoon.
Sarasota, Orlando and Miami are among the other cities participating in the voter registration efforts Saturday.
The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 6 election is Oct. 9.
The Palmetto Youth Center is located at 501 17th St. W.