The national NAACP is mounting a drive to register thousands of blacks to vote in the November Presidential election. It’s part of a national push to unseat President Donald Trump. The NAACP is under the mistaken notion that increased African-American registration will mean increased African-American participation in the election.
The problem is not that African-Americans are not registered to vote, the problem is that we have not voted to our maximum capacity.
Trump won the presidency because he barely won 11 key states with large numbers of electoral votes. One of those states was Pennsylvania. In that state, Blacks did not turn out to support Hillary Clinton and by default allowed Trump to win.
After the election, Trump met with a mostly white crowd in Pennsylvania and said, “They didn’t come out to vote for Hillary. They didn’t come out. And that was big — so thank you to the African American community.”
If African-American voters in just the state of Pennsylvania had turned out for Clinton the way they turned out for Obama in 2012, Clinton, not Trump would have been President.
That phenomenon seems to be universal and many white politicians calculate election strategies anticipating low turnouts among African-Americans. It appears that blacks only vote in large numbers when they are excited about a candidate or issue or when they hate or are afraid of a candidate. Shrewd white politicians now wage campaigns that do not stir emotions of hate or fear in black voters, thereby insuring that we will not vote more than 20 percent.
We saw it clear last year. John Bel Edwards was doomed to lose his re-election bid as governor of our state because he could not stir his support among Black voters to rally for him. However, when President Donald Trump came to Monroe and campaigned for Edwards’ opponent a sleeping tiger was aroused. Our disgust with Donald Trump, prompted blacks to double our participation in Edwards’ election, enough for him to win. Still, even then we only voted at 40 percent.
In the recent mayoral election in Monroe, despite having an overwhelming majority of the city’s vote, African-Americans only voted at 20 percent, prompting an upset victory for Friday Ellis. Ellis only gathered 15 percent of the Black vote, but received 88% of the white vote. The incumbent, Jamie Mayo was unable to make the run-off as most of his base predictably stayed at home.
Even worse, last week the city council election between Jesse Smith and Corday Marshal was decided by only 521 people, which represented 9.9 percent of the registered voters in the district.
The local NAACP, following its national leadership, has set up three registration sites throughout the city to attempt to register as many Blacks as possible before October. What is not being observed is the low voter turnout among those who are already registered, and the thousands who are routinely removed from the voting rolls by the registrar of voters.
Last week the Ouachita Parish Registrar of voters posted nine pages of names in the Ouachita Citizen whose voting eligibility is being challenged. Thousands of people will probably be removed from the rolls if they don’t verify their addresses according to law.
The law requires that persons who move to a different address must also change their registration; if not they will be dropped from the roles.
Among those thousands that are being challenged, are several hundred African-Americans.
What good does it do to register 100 new voters if only 20 of them will vote in any election, and the rest run the risk of being removed because they don’t care.
Elections have consequences.
To counter this trend toward non-participation in elections, there must be an increased emphasis on voter education.
Unlike their grandparents, this generation has not had to fight, march, sue, or otherwise protest to get the right to vote. It is handed to persons easily. Registration cards are available nearly everywhere, from the motor vehicles office or food stamp office. Citizens can register to vote by filling out a postcard-like document given to them in registration drives. Some are registered to vote but have no idea that they are registered to vote.
Regular voter education is needed. It should be ongoing, to informed the public about issues, votes of officials, public meetings, and explanations of how issues affect them.
Only when we are informed on the issues will we connect the dots between our vote and our quality of life.
Until our electorate becomes politically educated, we will continue to have 3,000 people registered to vote at a precinct and only 600 or less cast ballots.