Jesse Baum, 40, stopped into the Second to None Barbershop on North Florida Avenue to get a high and tight haircut on Tuesday, but he left also having registered to vote in November’s elections.
“I guess everything happens for a reason,” Baum said.
Tracy Stafford, advocate for social justice chairman of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority’s Omicron Kappa Omega chapter, partnered with Deva Simmons, Supervisor of Elections Office outreach specialist for National Voter Registration Day on Tuesday.
“We wanted to come to an area with low voter turnout,” Simmons said.
Alpha Kappa Alpha is working to increase the turnout of Black men in elections. According to the Polk County Supervisor of Elections office, 11 percent of voters in the 2021 Lakeland municipal election were Black, and only four percent of voters were Black men. According to the 2022 census numbers, Black residents make up 19.9 percent of the Lakeland population.
“It’s both the Hispanic and Black community,” Stafford said. “Part of it is voter apathy. A lot of people don’t feel that their vote counts.”
She called that “the greatest lie that’s ever been told — that’s misinformation.”
Stafford said they are hoping to target more areas with low voter turnout and registration. They want to set up their registration efforts at the two malls in Lakeland and at Friday night high school football games.
“Did you know that 16 and 17 year olds can pre-register to vote?” she asked.
Stafford commended Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards and her staff for making Tuesday’s event simple to coordinate. The elections staff will help any group of any ethnicity or political view.
“Working with them has been extremely easy — they’re very flexible,” Stafford said. “People asked how they can do the same thing with their churches and community centers. They have said, ‘Call us up and give us a time and location and we’ll make it happen.’ I can’t say enough about her and her team.”
Stafford said the sorority’s goal is the same as Edwards’: “Information, mobilization, education.”
City elections are coming up on Nov. 7.
Voters who wish to vote by mail MUST request a new ballot, even if they have voted by mail in the past. A new law passed by the Florida Legislature requires voters to request a mail-in ballot each election year. Go to the Supervisor of Elections website or call 863-534-5888 to request the form.
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