Lavora Barnes released the following remarks in light of the recent events surrounding the death of George Floyd.
I have spent years working in politics. Much of it in communications. For years, I counseled elected officials and candidates to stay away from drama, stay on message, don’t be driven by the headlines. This formula worked well. My job today would be to say: what you are witnessing is a formulative and contrived plan to suppress the Black vote. It is going to continue and evolve into more regional strategies based on what they believe they need to do to incite unrest. To fight it, we need to vote. We all need to vote.I don’t want to talk about that right now. The time for silence is over. It is time to challenge, time to have uncomfortable conversations with people that are not ready to have them. It is time to risk some friendships, time to make waves at work, time to recognize that we are past politics now. I do the work I do to make the world a better place for my kids. This does not seem to be working.If you support Donald Trump, you are a racist. Here is where it gets tricky and uncomfortable. Donald Trump is a racist, and if being a racist is not a dealbreaker for you, you are the reason Black people are being murdered for being Black.We have arrived at the turning point, where silence is not an option. I hope we can all see the difference between protesting and rioting. There is so much anger, I am angry also, but I am not moved by pleas for understanding. Here is what I want to see: I want the economic oppression of Black communities to stop, including holding the oppressors accountable. I want meaningful criminal justice reform. And I want law enforcement to actually do their jobs and prosecute hate crimes, and when law enforcement participates in racist conduct I want them held accountable — not by the prosecutors and colleagues they work with every day, but by an independent body, that they hold no sway over.Demand these things of your elected officials, they do have the power to make those changes. Here is what they hope for, that we get tired and go away. Go off message so to speak. We must sustain the message and do this hard work, for our kids that are following us, and to honor the work of the generations that fought before us. Go along to get along is over.The time for silence is over.Be Well & Stay Safe- This moment is filled with unprecedented uncertainty and widening inequity. Police brutality, pandemic, hunger, and economic disparity are interconnected forces that put us all at risk, some more than others. Democrats believe that Black Lives Matter and condemn systemic racism in all its forms; our local MDP units are mobilizing all over the state to support this movement. We’ve all read about protests in the larger communities of Detroit, Lansing, and Grand Rapids, but small towns across Michigan — ones you may never hear about — are also protesting in solidarity. Hundreds showed up Owosso, Bad Axe, Jackson, Howell, Caro, and Iron Mountain to demand reform. These are towns with deeply conservative politics, and the protests will likely have far-reaching effects not only on laws and policies about racial justice and police-community relations, but also on the 2020 elections, up and down the ballot. They should give all of us the boost we need to stay motivated and active through November. Our Project 83 organizers recruited local candidates all over the state who will bring sustained change in these small communities and we are continuing our webinar series to make sure those running for office and organizing locally have the tools and resources they need to be successful. We offer trainings in fundraising, finance, voter protection, media relations, designing literature, local campaigning, data, and more. Sign up for our June webinar series here.Thank you to everyone who participated in the district-level remote election of our delegates to the national convention and endorsement of our Michigan Supreme Court candidates. Results are available here.Even though we’re all still staying home as much as possible, and we’re still calling our meetings to order over Zoom, the world is starting to feel much smaller — for all the right reasons. Voting in August and NovemberEvery registered voter in Michigan can vote by mail in the August 4 primary and the November 3 general election. That’s because everyone can get an absentee ballot, no questions asked. Even better, every registered voter will have an absentee ballot application form mailed to them, either by their local clerk or by the state. Many voters have already received their application. If you haven’t received yours by mid-June, call your city or township clerk. Or print the application from our website: michigandems.com/absentee. Even if you’re on the permanent absentee voter list, you still have to return the application to get your ballot! Important: make sure to check the box to get your ballot for both August and November. That way you won’t have to apply again for your November ballot — it will automatically be sent to you in September. The box will look something like this: Return the application as soon as possible. You can mail it to your clerk, take a photo of it and email it to your clerk, or drop it off at your clerk’s office. Track your application and ballot online at the Michigan Voter Information Center, michigan.gov/vote.If you have any questions about voting, call the MDP Voter Assistance Hotline at 1-833-MI-VOTES.Online Absentee Ballot Application Tool Coming SoonMore good news! The Bureau of Elections announced on June 5 that it will soon launch a tool that voters can use to submit their absentee ballot applications electronically through the Michigan Voter Information Center. Initially this will be available only for voters with a Michigan driver’s license or state ID, but the Bureau is working on solutions for voters who don’t have one of those documents.Debunking Disinformation about Voting by MailWe’ve seen an alarming increase in lies and disinformation about the security of absentee voting. Here are a few talking points to counter that disinformation. The Voter Protection team’s monthly webinar on June 25 will be devoted to this subject. Sign up here.Absentee voter fraud is incredibly rare—a voter is more likely to be struck by lightning in their lifetime (.006%) than to commit voter fraud. Over a 20-year period in Oregon, where the voting process is entirely absentee, just 495 cases of proven fraud have occurred since 2000, while over 100 million ballots were cast (0.0000001%).Only registered voters can request an absentee ballot, and the request must be in writing and signed. The local clerk checks the signature against the signature on file before issuing a ballot. The absentee ballot return envelope must also be signed, and the local clerk again checks the signature. The voter registration process includes verification of the voter’s identity and residency in the place where they are registering.Absentee ballots are tabulated publicly just as normal ballots are, and volunteer observers appointed by both political parties are permitted in counting rooms to make sure all proper procedures are followed. DATA: Democrats around the state surpassed 1 Million contact attempts for the cycle in May. Yes, million. 1,644,702 attempts to be exact.ANALYTICS: Absentee ballot return rates vary substantially by age. Voters over the age of 50 returned 97% of their ballots in 2018, while 18 to 34 year olds had a return rate of only 86%. Remind your friends to return their AV ballots regardless of age, but give an extra reminder to younger friends and family. TECHNOLOGY: With a wannabe authoritarian as President and nation-state backed hackers trying to interfere with U.S. elections, you should make sure that you and your intended recipient are the only ones reading your text messages. Signal and Wickr are both free messaging services that encrypt your communications from the time it leaves your device to the time it lands on your recipient’s device. Consider setting message expiration times too for extra security.