Huntsville area residents gain civic engagement website

Long-time friends and Sparkman High School alums have made it their mission to assure Huntsville

Long-time friends and Sparkman High School alums have made it their mission to assure Huntsville area residents no longer need to sift through a pile of confusion to understand issues on their local ballots. The millennial quartet of Willie Brazile, William “Skip” Garrett, Edward Grimble, and Matt Reed aspire to achieve this mission and much more with their new civic engagement website, TheConnect256.com.

We caught up with the cross-functional team to talk about their endeavor and how it will help eligible Huntsville Metro voters. This conversation is shown below with the team agreeing to speak as one voice.

What inspired the creation of TheConnect256.com?

We created TheConnect256.com primarily to drive civic engagement among young citizens in Madison County and help anyone who is willing and able to vote get safely to the polls on Election Day.

Following the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor and the resultant widespread social unrest, Willie and Matt — classmates from elementary school through college — met to have a casual conversation about race in America and discuss what could be done to take action to address racial inequalities in our community.

Willie and Matt then brought others into their discussions, creating a larger group of like-minded individuals of different racial and social backgrounds to have open dialog. The myriad of topics included politics and systemic racism, two issues at the forefront of our country. Ultimately, the decision was made to focus on the November 3rd election and the 2020 Census after seeing data that showed a concerning lack of voter engagement and Census participation in our communities. For example, only 52.7 percent of Madison County registered voters exercised their right during the 2018 midterm elections. That means almost half the voting population did not participate. That’s alarming.

We believe this election, which is taking place during perilous times, is extremely important. So we created TheConnect256 to remove as many barriers as possible for voters to get safely to the polls and be counted in the 2020 Census.

How will TheConnect256.com help remove civic engagement barriers?

TheConnect256 is a central hub for election information and resources that make it easy for citizens in Madison County to register to vote, check their voter registration status, apply to vote by mail, sign up for a ride to the polls, and order a free Voter Safety Kit. All of this can be done in one, central place on TheConnect256.com.

We will also reach people directly offline through a series of Pop Ups throughout the Huntsville and Madison areas where we’ll be safely registering people to vote and helping them complete the census through highly-efficient, contactless methods.

What are long-term plans for the website beyond 2020?

National elections every four years get all of the attention, but midterm elections and local elections, which happen more regularly, are just as important. We want to progressively close the gap between eligible voters and those that don’t and create more enlightened and engaged citizens who willingly participate in their local civic process. We will do this by publicizing and leveraging data from each election to keep driving turn out.

The long-term vision of The Connect256 is to serve as a platform for the civically-engaged that provides updates on local law and policy changes, as well as a place where petitions for new local and state initiatives, laws, and policies can be initiated and facilitated. The Connect256 will also be a tool for holding elected officials accountable for implementing effective policy on the local and state levels.

What can readers do to spread the word about TheConnect256.com?

We’re asking everyone to share the website on their social media pages and within their family and friend groups. We’re asking folks to share the website and the importance of voting in this election with their fraternity and sorority organizations, throughout the business community, among the congregation at church and more.

We further encourage everyone to get involved by utilizing the tools on the site to help family members get registered to vote and counted in the census. If each person can reach another and help them become more engaged in the civic process we all win.

We also encourage feedback and input on how to make TheConnect256 the best it can be for our community.

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