After 17 years of serving Orange and Chatham county constituents as a state senator, and unsuccessfully opposing sweeping changes to state election laws, Ellie Kinnaird says she can and will accomplish more for North Carolina voters as a private citizen.
The Chapel Hill Democrat today resigned her seat and stated her intention to work with diverse community-based nonprofits, churches, sororities and fraternities to ensure that individuals across the state obtain mandated voter identification cards.
"This is a personal, neighborhood effort, and that's where nonprofits really have impact," says Kinnaird, 81, who was taking calls at her legislative office before leaving elected life. "I feel that an organized, grassroots effort will make a difference. Whereas, if I came back next session, there is no influence I could have on changing anything."
Kinnaird already is working on establishing connections across the state in black and white churches, as well as campus-based organizations that will reach out to students, some of whom will be casting their first ballots in fall elections. She aims to deploy a campaign similar to President Obama's Organizing for America, which sent volunteers into under-represented communities to ensure that citizens were informed about issues that affect them.
"This would be local people canvassing their own neighborhood to find out if someone needs an ID to vote," Kinnaird says. "Beyond that, we want to make sure that they know where their precinct is. This last bill requires that if they don't come to their right precinct, their vote won't count. If we can't get it changed through the courts, we need to inform as many as people as possible and help them be prepared so their vote will count."
Kinnaird is interested in hearing from nonprofits and community-based organizations interested in joining her efforts. She may be contacted at Ekinnaird2@gmail.com.