With the Fall Elections Around the Corner “Voter Turn Out” Will be Critical

Reggie Fullwood

As I think about the challenge of the day – why voter turn out continues to be a major issue this election cycle – It reminds me of the movie, Groundhog’s Day.
In the movie, a weatherman played by Bill Murray is doomed to repeat the same day over and over again.
I feel like we all keep waking up and dealing with the same issue every other election cycle. How do we motivate people to do the right thing, the obvious thing, the most fundamental thing – vote.

African American and women had to fight for decades to secure the right to be treated as true citizens in this country and for so many people to decide not to vote it’s an insult to the Civil Rights and Women’s Suffrage movements.
Unfortunately, history has a way of repeating itself. Once African Americans didn’t have a political voice in this country and today that voice continues to become watered down because people simply are not voting.

Here’s what doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe some of my more educated readers can help me. With early voting being an option now at so many regional locations and of course absentee voting being a well established method as well – why aren’t people voting? More specific, why aren’t blacks voting?

Nonprofits, candidates and churches even offer rides to the polls, so what’s the excuse? If blacks don’t get re-energized about voting and participating in politics we shouldn’t be complaining about Rick Scott, Donald Trump, David Dukeor anyone else.

There have been elections that African Americans have shown up in massive numbers – especially in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected. But imagine if blacks had that same effort in every election cycle? You could in essence harvest that energy and effort into changing major policies and electing more politicians that have an appreciation for minority issues.

As far back as the 1870s, Frederick Douglas talked about the importance of black unity. He stated, “Remember that our cause is one and that we must help each other if we would succeed.”

Unfortunately, in our great country the guaranteed right to vote by the U.S. Constitution has not always been easy. Throughout history, the insuring the equal rights of women and minorities has been a challenge in America.

In 2010, the Republican led Florida Legislature passed voting laws that set the state back because that legislation restricted access to the polls. Democrats fought against those changes, but the voting reform bill passed anyway.

The bill placed onerous restrictions on voter registration and reduced available days for early voting. These were moves clearly aimed at limiting Democratic turn out. Less than two years later, after long lines at the polls during the 2012 elections and more national embarrassment for the state, the legislature reversed the changes from the prior session.

This was a small victory for voting rights, but it pales in comparison to the sacrifices made by those who have fought for civil rights.
It’s hard to imagine that in the year 2016, we are even having a discussion about a citizen’s right to vote or the fact that blacks are not voting at higher rates.
The numbers are being tallied every day, and Republicans are out voting Democrats in early voting and absentee ballots. What is even more alarming is that the turn out amongst blacks continues to be very low.

Though midterm turnout goes down among all groups, it drops more for blacks, Hispanics and young voters — key demographic groups that usually vote Democratic
We know from the 2010 Governor’s race, African Americans could have essentially won the election for the Democratic candidate if we turned out in higher numbers.
Think about this fact. Some 90,000 black voters in Broward County who went to the polls in the last two presidential elections didn’t vote in the 2010 governor’s race. Scott won by 61,550 votes, which is a prime example of what happens when people stay home and don’t vote.

So the challenge for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders is getting black folk to turn out in high numbers without Obama being on the ballot. Of course, I am making the assumption that most African Americans will vote for the eventual Democratic candidate.

In the mid 1800s, Nancy Neuman wrote, “Lower voter participation is a silent threat to our democracy…It under-represents young people, the poor, the disabled, those with little education, minorities and you and me.”

I can’t say it enough: vote, vote, vote! The stakes are too high for us not too.

Signing off from the Duval County Supervisor of Elections Office,

Reggie Fullwood

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