WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Despite record numbers of voters who turned out during the presidential primaries last spring, eight million African-Americans are still not registered to vote.
This according to Rick Wade, African-American vote director for the Obama for America presidential campaign.
"Our principle focus has been a 50-state voter registration initiative. I think we all appreciate that if we increase the number of African-American registered voters and then increase turnout and get people to the polls on Nov. 4, then Sen. Obama will be the next president of the United States," Wade says.
Wade explains that the eight million unregistered Black voters accounts for 32 percent of eligible Black voting population nationwide.
"In 2004, African-Americans made up approximately 11 percent of the overall vote nationwide. If the percentage of African-Americans was a mere two-and-a-half percent higher at 13-and-a-half percent, Democrats would currently be running for re-election at this time," he said. "For example in the state of Ohio in 2004, we lost by two percent or 100,000 votes. There were 270,000 unregistered African-Americans. I use that as an illustration to show how the African-American vote can make the difference in a state and across this country. So the African-American vote can absolutely make the difference in this election.''
But, the Democrats are not alone in going after the Black vote. Republicans, who barely get a tenth of Black voters in presidential elections, say they are not giving up.
''The [Republican National Convention] is working to turn out voters of all races to support Sen. John McCain and all of our Republican candidates, by focusing on using a strong grassroots program that relies on neighbor to neighbor interactions, putting out surrogates on a daily basis, and registering and mobilizing voters," says RNC spokesman Sean Conner. "Chairman Duncan has visited 38 states in the last 16 months, and our Party's nominee has participated in important African-American national events such as the NAACP conference and the National Urban League Convention. We're looking forward to increased support from the African-American community, and will compete for each vote within the various ethnic communities of our country.''
As both parties prepare for grassroots mobilization efforts at their back to back conventions (Democrats, last week of August and Republican, first week of September), non-partisan groups have intensified their efforts with grassroots campaigns year round.
Melanie Campbell, executive director of the non-partisan National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, says because of the intensity of voter registration efforts, there's a great possibility to take voter registration to a whole new level, particularly in the Black community, by intensifying voter education and focusing on issues.
"The potential is that you will create a whole new expanded electorate. It's something that we've been trying to have happen for a lot of years," Campbell says. "Because traditionally, there's been about 15 million people not voting in the general election. So, this has potential for that number to go down tremendously…If the trend continues, because it's so competitive, it's going to drive the turn out and that's going to be across all demographics."
The intensity of the current election and get-out-to-vote efforts have caught fire from coast to coast and doesn't begin and end with the presidential election.
"There's elections from the school board to the presidency that impacts your life," Campbell says. "We know the presidency is a big deal. But, it is one of many elections that's taking place on Nov. 4."