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A Real Get Out The Vote Campaign

It has really been interesting to note how many organizations in the Black community are dedicating significant amounts of time and money to voter registration campaigns. Of course these efforts have been partisan in nature or leaning because of Black leadership's relationship with the Democratic Party and the donors who fund much of the Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) campaigns. But while these efforts do good in getting some Blacks involved in the electoral process; they still haven't been successful in getting large amounts of Blacks, particularly youth, into the voting booth.

That could all change if Black organizations and leaders with or without attachment to the Democratic Party would promote Same Day Voter Registration (SDVR) which allows for individuals to vote and register on the same day.

Currently five states, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Idaho, Wyoming and New Hampshire allow election day registration and each of these states has witnessed a significant increase in their levels of voter turnout. In the presidential election of 1992, states with SDVR had an average voter turnout rate of close to 70 percent while the national average was 55.1 percent. And these same five states had the highest voter turnouts in the 1996 elections with Maine delivering a whopping 72% turnout.

If Minnesota had not had SDVR it is doubtful that Jesse Ventura would have become the Governor of that state in 1998. This is largely because of the Governor's appeal to young voters who are not yet in their thirties. In fact, half of the people who registered and voted in Minnesota on election day in November of 1998, were under the age of 29.

Of course the two-party system is not in favor of SDVR because it would increase voter turnout among the young who lean toward independent voting status. Both Republicans and Democrats have seen the handwriting on the wall: same-day voter registration has the potential to undermine their stranglehold on America's political system.

It also would allow people to get around the draconian voter registration deadlines that come nearly 30 days before the election date and when people are only beginning to get interested into the campaign season and issues.

A few members of the Congressional Black Caucus do support H.R. 2864- legislation offered in the US House that would amend the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 to require states to permit individuals to register to vote in an election for federal office on the date of the election.

If the Black Electorate and Black leaders and organizations are serious about stamping out voter apathy and improving GOTV efforts, it must seriously consider a powerful tool in SDVR.

Cedric Muhammad

Tuesday, October 24, 2000

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The views and opinions expressed herein by the author do not necessarily represent the opinions or position of or Black Electorate Communications.

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