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Covington-area fraternity alumni work to encourage voter participation
JB Brockman
Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc, Conyers-Covington Alumni Chapter hosted a voter registration drive recently at Newton High School. The chapter is working to increase public awareness of the importance of engaging in the democratic process. Shown are chapter members Jeffrey Johnson and JB Brockman, chairman of its Political Civic & Action Committee. - photo by Special Photo

COVINGTON, Ga — Conyers-Covington Alumni Chapter (CCAC) of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. has been working to increase awareness about the importance of exercising the right to vote this year.

The CCAC recently hosted a voter registration drive at Newton High School.  

Rockdale and Newton residents also gathered at Eastside High School recently for the CCAC's Kappa Koffeehouse Town Hall Forum Series to hear county Board of Elections representatives and other nonprofit panelists explain the impact of Georgia's Election Integrity Act of 2021 law.

"We are actively involved with the community with voter registration education. We want to increase the awareness within the community about the importance of engaging in our democratic process," said Minister JB Brockman, chairman of the CCAC's Political Action & Civic Committee.

The audience at the Eastside event included numerous county elected officials who were present to listen to and interact with those in attendance.

Presentations and perspectives were shared by Phil Johnson, chairman of the Newton County Board of Elections; Cynthia Willingham, supervisor of the Rockdale County Board of Elections & Voter Registration Office; and Hillary Holley, organizing director of Fair Fight Action, during the event presented by the Conyers-Covington Alumni Chapter (CCAC) of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.

Johnson said Newton County has 85,000 registered voters and 22 precincts.

“Elections are the bedrock of our democracy, and it is important that we have as great a participation in the voting process as we can … 2020 was an example of when we got enormous voter participation," he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant role in the 2020 elections participation and the creation of the law, which was created by Senate Bill 202. That impact was identified in detail by Willingham.

“How did we actually get to SB 202? With COVID in 2020, starting with the March Presidential Primary (which was postponed twice to June 9, 2020), because of the rise in COVID cases, our secretary of state on April 20, 2020, decided to send out 6.9 million absentee applications to our voters.

"They realized that it would be a health risk to have 6.9 million people coming in and voting early, in person with the rise in our COVID cases … so this was instrumental for us to protect our workers.

"For Rockdale County, typically we would issue no more than 2,000 (absentee) ballots, however for June of 2020 we issued 14,000 mail ballots," Willingham said.

Without grant funding many Rockdale voters would not have received their ballots, she said. Under the new law, counties no longer can receive private funding.

"The private grant funds allowed us to bring in additional help to help(Rockdale) to process those requests,” she said.

The Election Integrity Act of 2021 was born in such an environment by Georgia Republican legislators and signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp on March 25, 2021.

Johnson said, “The greatest impact (of the Election Integrity Act of 2021) on voters were the changes to the absentee ballot. It reduced the number of days in which you can apply for an absentee ballot, eliminated the sending of an application to every registered voter in the state, eliminated ability of nonprofits to send out applications for absentee ballots…people are going to have to be more proactive earlier in the process.”

Holley said, “We have to educate people on every single opportunity, every method of voting that is available. People can’t start thinking of voting (and) when they are going to vote, the day before election day; you have to start thinking about it now.

"I think having community events like this, that highlight the voter education rather than the negative impacts, that’s how we keep people participating in this process.”

Dr. Robert Hughes, president of CCAC, said, “As residents are preparing for the upcoming primary election season, it is important to address any outstanding voter concerns that may need clarity in understanding current voting and elections processes. Tonight’s forum provides our community with direct access to professionals who are working to ensure fair and efficient voting experiences at the polls and beyond.”

Brockman closed the evening by inviting residents to the next Kappa Koffeehouse Town Hall scheduled for June. 

Kappa voting program
Cynthia Willingham of the Rockdale County Board of Elections & Voter Registration Office, Phil Johnson of the Newton County Board of Elections, and Hillary Holley of Fair Fight Action participate in the recent forum event presented by the Conyers-Covington Alumni Chapter (CCAC) of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. at Eastside High School. - photo by Special Photo