D. Alexander Bullock, a renowned minister, activist and educator, is an accomplished and much-respected figure in Detroit’s political arena. The ardent advocate with a number of significant political and social victories to his credit, acknowledges grassroots organizing is key and will be critical in determining the outcome of this historic presidential election. “Every person must choose between shaping the world or submitting to it,” is Bullock’s frequent refrain and it may be more appropriate in this 2012 election than ever before.
The state of Michigan coordinator for the Rainbow Push Coalition and president of the Highland Park Branch of the NAACP is mobilizing spoke with rolling out between travels to discuss Detroit’s Get Out the Vote campaign and the fight against disenfranchisement. –roz edward
What is the plan for getting Detroit residents to the polls for Nov. 6?
We are doing a major voter registration next week and voter activation. Here in Michigan what that means is that we don’t have early voting, but you can vote in person absentee, if you expect to be … unable to get to the polls on Nov. 6, you can vote either at the clerk’s office or the Northwestern or Eastern campus of Wayne County Community College. We are working with the faith community in Detroit to do Super Saturdays and Super Wednesdays where churches will use their vans to shuttle seniors, students and other folks to these location [to] vote in person before Nov. 6.
Why is this election and this action necessary?
There are 18 ballot initiatives … in addition to the presidential campaign and the Congress, state representatives and the judges [races]. … These initiatives are very complex and will be a barrier for intelligent voter engagement, and will probably create long lines on Nov. 6 ultimately discouraging voters from going to the polls. … So we are going to give them more time and stimulate voter turnout before the election. …The voter activation will also be accompanied by education sessions which will take people through the proposals and the ballot initiatives.
What are the primary issues voters should pay close attention to?
The emergency manager proposal is number one. A constitutional amendment proposal to protect collective bargaining is number two. Three is renewable energy and four is a home health care proposal. … There are also Detroit city charter changes, so there’s a lot on this ballot.
Why are you taking such extreme measures to get voters out?
In 2010, even though it was an internal election, there was only [a] 10 percent voter turnout. There are roughly 600,000 registered voters in Detroit and only 50,000 voted. That is a horrible number. There is a large degree of voter apathy or as I call it I call it “voter grief,” … we want to pre-emptively strike against the undertow of voter apathy. Secondly, this is such a complicated ballot. I asked Congressman John Conyers if he’d ever seen a ballot with 18 ballot initiatives, and he said he had not in his entire time in office. So when you are talking about a city with potentially 54 percent functional illiteracy in terms of its citizens, we really have to do some voter education. … There are pivotal questions to be decided. Will the first black incumbent president get a second chance or will he be a Jimmy Carter.
What will emergency management look like if it happens to Detroit?
… It will be the same thing you’ve seen in Benton Harbor and Flint. You will see city assets liquidated and public lands being [turned over] to private developers … Belle isle is a foregone conclusion.how do voter ids
What about the controversial voter ID laws?
I am happy that a federal judge struck down the need for a citizenship box to be checked when you go into a voting precinct in Michigan. I am also happy that in Ohio and in Pennsylvania we’re seeing it rolled back or halted. It is a shame that in 2012 after African Americans fought for the right to vote and for the expansion of democracy that there is a national agenda to exclude people from the democratic process. In my opinion it is an attempt to shave points to influence the outcome of the election and give the Republican Party and Mitt Romney the upper hand.