From Tue Dec 23 12:45:07 2003
Date: Tue, 23 Dec 2003 09:34:06 -0800 (PST)
From: j w <>
Subject: [BRC-NEWS] Black Voters Ready to Get Even for 2000 Fiasco

Black Voters Ready to ‘Get Even’ for 2000 Fiasco

By Hazel Trice Edney, National Newspaper Publishers Association, Washington Correspondent, [23 December 2003]

WASHINGTON (NNPA)—One popular saying in politics recommends: Don’t get mad, get even. Many African-Americans are still mad at how the Black vote was undermined in 2000 —and they want to get even.

I think there is still a lot of anger out there after what happened in Election 2000, people’s votes not getting counted, observes Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition for Black Civic Participation (NCBCP) a non-profit group of more than 80 organizations, which encourages civic activism in the Black community. This is the very first presidential election that we’ll be faced with. We’re going to do a media launch right at the top of the New Year.

NCBVP is working with the nation’s nine major Black fraternities and sororities on a string of voter registration projects and with UniverSoul Circus, a traveling Black production, to urge voter registration and turnout to their audiences. The Washington-D.C.-based NCBVP is also on the verge of launching its Unity ‘04 project, a coalition of a dozen Black organizations that will use their collective strength to implement a series of voter initiatives leading up to the November election.

With the election slightly less than a year away, some groups are already active.

Voting and registration ought not be centered around election time, but it ought to be continuous, says Rev. Arnold W. Howard of Baltimore, chairman of the African-American Ministers Leadership Council (AAMLC), a non-partisan arm of People for the American Way.

His group, approximately 100 ministers from around the country, has launched a voter registration drive in seven states. The program, called Sanctified Seven, is aimed at making a strong impact in states where statewide races are normally tightly contested.

The group is also paying special attention to states where the Black voting-age population is high enough to mean the difference between victory and defeat. The ministers are encouraging individual parishioners to register at least seven people every few days and equally important, get them to show up at the polls.

The states, with their 2000 Black turnout rates in parenthesis, are: Florida, with a Black voting age population (BVAP) of 76.2 percent (43.2 percent); Illinois with a BVAP of 66.8 percent (67 percent); Michigan, with a BVAP of 67.6 percent (60.9 percent); Missouri with a BVAP of 67.9 percent, (68.2 percent); Ohio, with a BVAP of 67.4, (53.7 percent); Pennsylvania, with a BVAP of 68.1 percent (61.3 percent); and Wisconsin, with a BVAP of 70.8 percent (62 percent). In just one month, the group has already registered more than 2,000 new voters in Cleveland, according to Rev. Romal J. Tune of Washington, the national field organizer for the ministers program.

People are very energized. People are interested in the issues, Tune says.

Ministers groups and congregations have been doing registration at malls, shopping centers, grocery stores. They do what we call walks around the community in a seven-block radius of the church. We call them Jericho walks, knocking on doors, Tune says. And then we have people in the pews who have influence in their workplace. They start with registering the entire congregation. And then the congregation goes out into other places. One lady said, ‘I went to my bowling league and I registered 20 people.’

The Sanctified Seven campaign is reminiscent of Arrive with Five! the 2000 campaign that encouraged Black voters in Florida to carry five people with them to the polls, bolstering the Black vote by 15 percent in that state.

Still, the U. S. Supreme Court halted a recount of discarded voting ballots in Florida, effectively giving the state’s 25 electoral votes to George W. Bush.

I think it clearly showed the need for people —especially African-Americans - to get out and vote and how even a couple of thousand votes can make a difference in the presidential election, says Cheryl Cooper, executive director of the National Council of Negro Women, an organization that held a town hall meeting last week at its annual convention with the theme, Help America Vote Again.

Nearly 200,000 votes in Florida alone were lost because of faulty voting machines and ballots, voter intimidation and confused poll workers, according to the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights. The commission also reported that Black voters in Florida were nearly 10 times more likely than non-Black voters to have their ballots rejected.

Nationally, an estimated 4 million to 6 million votes were lost in 2000 because of voting foul-ups, according to the

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Intent on avoiding such problems next year, groups are not only registering and educating early, but planning major get out to vote and voter protection campaigns, including lawyers as watchdogs at the polls, Campbell says.

The Black youth vote will also be key in next year’s election, says Jehmu Greene, president of Rock the Vote, a Los Angeles-based organization which works to inspire young adults to register and vote.

Especially with young people, it’s about the issues, Greene says. Our task is to connect the issues with a young person’s daily life. How the decisions of the candidates or the elected officials affect the young people.

High-profile issues, such as the war in Iraq, the economy and affirmative action appear to be escalating youth interest in voting, Greene says.

Your peers are out there on the front line. They are the ones fighting that war because they were looking at using higher education, which would put them in a better position to get jobs, she says. And, especially with this generation, tolerance and diversity is important, anything dealing with civil rights.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 51.3 percent of the 3.8 million Black youth ages 18-24 were not registered to vote in 2000. And of the 1.8 million who were registered, 65.8 percent did not vote.

White youths in the same age bracket also had the lowest voter registration and turnout among their race. A slightly higher 51.7 percent of the 17.2 million White youths ages 18-24 were not registered. Of the 8.9 million registered, 62.8 percent did not vote, slightly lower than the Black youth rate.

Black Youth Vote aims to form a street team consisting of 25,000 registrars around the country, especially trained to register and educate Black youth, Greene says. Already, the group has electronic voter registration forms set up on the website of Black Entertainment Television and is planning a bus tour with registrars traveling from Los Angeles to Florida between June and November, registering youth to vote at historically Black colleges and universities, concerts, shows and anywhere young people hang out.

The early drives are also aimed to educate people on national issues affecting them at the local level so they can make informed decisions in Democratic primaries to begin in January, activists say.

Cooper of the National Council of Negro Women observes:

When you look at the potential assaults on affirmative action, on women’s rights and when you look at the judicial nominees that are currently being put forth with this administration, there are some real concerns about turning back the clock, eroding some of the significant gains that people of color and that women have made in the past decade.