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Our votes have real power to create change. When it comes to fighting against voter restrictions that keep us from making our voices heard, educating and mobilizing communities is essential. Preston Love Jr., Executive Director of Black Votes Matter Institute of Community Engagement, shares his thoughts.

I am keeping an eye on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. These bills are highly, highly needed to dismantle voter restrictions that we are fighting against. It is very key. I see those bills as a necessity and see the need for the work that we have to do to educate people on them. Voter suppression is not something far away to watch on TV. It's something that will affect our situations right here. Whatever we need to do here, we will do.

The idea that we're fighting right now is the attempt to change the Nebraska constitution to require voter ID. We have work to do in trying to get people across the state not to sign the petition. And then later if the petition is successful, we need to get people to go out and vote against it. This is happening right now. It has implications for things down the road. If that's successful then I think the state will use the same technique to shove other restrictions down our throat. This is a conversation we need to have across the state.

I'm speaking on my community, communities of color. One of the challenges we have, that we continue to have, in terms of getting people out to vote in any kind of good numbers, is a lack of understanding of the issues or the candidates. It's not because they're not smart or any of that, but they're in communities that have other challenges. They just don't have the time or see the relationships between candidates, issues, and their own lives. If we leave that alone, we lose a large percentage of those people when voting because they feel that they don't know enough and they don't feel comfortable going to the polls. So what does that mean? That means that a big part of our challenge is to work year-round on educating and increasing the knowledge of our voter base, which will increase their awareness, which will then increase their participation as voters and volunteers. My tactic for getting people engaged, besides speeches that I make and articles that I write, is a series of townhall meetings I’ve started for them to see people who are in leadership positions and learn about relevant issues that are on table. 

If you're a community worker and in my case, a community leader, a community elder, you cannot be interested in the things that will help and are good for the community without that being personal. You can't really separate that. I'm interested in the development in every way of my community and that's personal to me. It is important that my community be involved in every way, that it receives its due in terms of community resources that develop the community and are important for my community members. It’s personal.

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