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Clack the Vote Educates Queer Voters Amidst Anti-LGBTQ+ Legislation

A nonbipartisan movement with the initiative to get people to the polls

a photo of Clack the Vote representatives holding fans
Clack the Vote hand fans. (Courtesy of CLCC)

To “clack a fan,” the term for snapping a hand fan hard enough to make a clapping (or clacking) sound, can mean many things depending on the intended effect. The action can be one of resistance, joy, or alarm. 

It can drown out the hate of bigots at Pride parades or send support to a drag queen during their performance.

A clack of a fan can be celebratory or it can be part of protest,” explained Cameron Pruette, the Freedom Center for Social Justice’s Director of Intersectional Initiatives. 

Now Pruette and his team are asking for supporters, be they LGBTQIA+ community members or their allies, to Clack the Vote. 

A collaboration between Carolinas LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce, The Freedom Center for Social Justice and Charlotte Pride, Clack the Vote is an initiative dedicated to mobilizing and educating queer voters in the wake of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and rhetoric.

Organizers like Pruette are partnering with drag performers, the queer ballroom scene and supportive faith organizations to spread awareness and engage new or veteran voters.

The Clack the Vote initiative is nonpartisan, with the only goal to get folks out there and vote, according to Bethany Corrigan, a board member of Carolinas LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce.  

“We’re nonpartisan, we’re not going to go out there and endorse one candidate over the other,” they said. “But we are endorsing voting … Clack the Vote represents unity and solidarity, not in a partisan way, but in a way that makes people feel safe and affirmed in their decision to vote and participate in the electoral season.” 

Pruette said Clack the Vote is meant to get queer people to vote regardless of their affiliation. The initiative was formed to educate voters on candidates and ensure they know their rights at the polls because it does not subscribe to the belief that only a certain side cares about LGBTQ+ rights, Pruette said.

CLCC members at their Rooftop Soiree in Charlotte
At the last Rooftop Soiree (Courtesy of CLCC)

Queer people are everywhere. They are in every workplace, faith community and university. All of these places are queer spaces inherently because queer people exist there, Pruette said. 

“Our human rights and queer rights should be nonpartisan,” he said.

Clack the Vote will be present at multiple events throughout Pride Month and in August, when Charlotte Pride holds its local festival and parade, to spread information on candidates, check people’s voter registration and provide resources necessary to queer voters.

There are existing resources and guides for the dos and don’ts once you get to the polls, but that’s the privilege of assuming you fit the standard representation of who those guides were created for, Corrigan said.

Human Rights Campaign North Carolina in collaboration with the Freedom Center created a trans voter guide to help transgender and nonbinary voters who may be going through transition or name changes that do not align with their voter ID confidently navigate the polls.

The power of local votes

In November 2023, the Monroe mayoral race winner came down to a coin flip. Former Monroe Mayor Robert Burns and opponent Bob Yanacsek tied with 970 votes and both men waived the chance to recount, as reported by WBTV. 

Burns, who won the election on account of that coin flip, has been vocal in his opposition to LGBTQ+ rights. During a protest of the drag performance “Hello Daddy” outside of Monroe’s Dowd Theatre, Burns told WCNC that conservative values are under attack in America and compared the moral failure of owning a slave to allowing a child to enter the show.

“Just because you can do something, still doesn’t mean that it’s right,” he said.

The fact that Union County came so close to electing someone who supports the queer community was a feat in and of itself, Pruette said, but it would have taken just one more vote to make it a reality.

“We get so disillusioned because of what’s going on nationally that we forget that your vote has so much power at the local level,” he said. “They’re gonna spend $2 billion dollars telling you who to vote for for president, but we really want to talk to you about these other 20 things that are going to be on your ballot.”

With North Carolina emerging as one of the country’s most critical swing states in the 2024 election, encouraging queer folks to go to the polls and vote could be the determining factor in an election, Corrigan said.

CLCC members participating in an event with colors balloons in the background
At the last Rooftop Soiree (Courtesy of CLCC)

Pruette told Queen City Nerve that the Freedom Center’s national partners have sounded the alarms, saying LGBTQ+ voters may choose not to vote this year despite voting in 2020.

Pruette believes this attitude is caused by burnout in the community. After the 2020 and 2022 elections, there was a sense of relief among queer North Carolinians. They had a governor who was willing to veto anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and believed North Carolina was headed in a good direction.

But after Democrat Tricia Cotham, who ran on a platform that included support for LGBTQ+ rights, announced her switch to the Republican Party, giving conservatives a supermajority in the North Carolina legislature, Republicans overrode governor Roy Cooper’s veto of three anti-LGBTQ+ bills. SB49, HB808 and HB574 were all passed in the 2023-2024 session, targeting LGBTQ+ youth in schools and health care settings.

A trend Corrigan has seen in the past couple of years is an omnibus tactic; either cramming too much information into one bill making it difficult for people to understand or utilizing the quantity effect of introducing multiple bills in a short period of time.

“If you have 50 darts getting thrown at the wall, even if you’re the worst shot in the world, one of them has got to stick,” they said. “It’s advocacy fatigue, right? How many bills can you fight against at once?”

The American Civil Liberties Union has tracked six anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in the 2024 legislative session so far, including health care age restrictions, school sports bans, forced outings in schools, and religious exemptions for medical practitioners. 

Anti-LGBTQ+ legislative attacks are typically not filed from a research or scientific perspective, Corrigan said. 

Data is sparse on the necessity of these bills from a health and safety perspective, yet the impact of simply filing them has shown to not only create a spike in workplace discrimination and gender-based violence but also negatively impact the economy, according to Corrigan.

They noted that legislative attacks against the LGBTQ+ community have caused North Carolina nearly $3.3 billion in lost revenue and tourism dollars in the past, particularly after the infamous House Bill 2 was passed in 2016, a bill targeting transgender bathroom use.

A number of cities and states, including Washington, California, New York City and more, all banned tax-payer-funded travel to North Carolina in protest of the bill. The bill was repealed in 2020.

“I always tell people, even if you don’t care about queer people, you should care about your own finances,” Corrigan said. “Because [equality] impacts everyone regardless of what side of the aisle you stand on.”

A rather conservative estimate of how many LGBTQ+ folks live in North Carolina is about 4%. Though an underrepresented and outdated number, it’s the most recent one available, Corrigan said.

a photo of event goers smiling at the Carolina LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce's candidate fair
Carolinas LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce holds a nonpartisan candidate fair annually. (Courtesy of CLCC)

That 4% of queer folks represents nearly $19 billion in employee generated revenue. 

Carolinas LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce empowers and supports LGBTQ and allied businesses, enterprises and corporation professionals in both Carolinas. In that way, all spaces must be safe spaces, Corrigan said.

“The intention [of the Chamber] is to shape legislation and policy in such a way that the economic benefits and prosperity are really touching the LGBTQ community and beyond,” they said. “Because in the economy, if one community is suffering, that’s not a healthy economy.”

Finding support and community

When anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is filed, the detrimental impact on the affected community goes beyond the consequences of the bill. 

The mere introduction of anti-trans and queer legislation causes constant social media trauma hitting the community and reminds them that their identity is politicized and used as a bargaining chip in an election, Corrigan said.

“I get frustrated when LGBTQ … identity is featured in the press [and it’s] always the doom and gloom,” they said. “On one hand, we cannot have issues in the dark, they do need to be highlighted … but what I want to see is joy and celebration.”

The LGBT+ Chamber and The Freedom Center will host several events throughout Pride season that will spotlight Clack the Vote.

The Friends in Diversity: Rooftop Soiree on June 25 at the Skyline Terrace will combine a number of businesses and individual professionals for the opportunity to network and celebrate the culture of diversity in Charlotte’s business community.

The new Rainbow Ball hosted by Resident Culture on July 27 will commemorate the love, joy and authenticity of the queer experience. Clack the Vote will partner with local drag performers to help folks check if they’re registered to vote and talk about important issues in the community with the slogan “Drag Me to the Polls.”

For those wanting to mix politics and partying, the Chamber is also holding its eighth nonpartisan candidate fair on Aug. 14 at Resident Culture’s South End location. The fair is held every election year to provide an educational space for LGBTQ+ and allied voters.

“Queer people are not a monolith,” Corrigan said. “We don’t all think the same. We might not even all vote the same. But, at the end of the day, there’s a very powerful … sense of identity that’s sacred that we have between us.” 

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