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Democrats Say African American Voters Key to November Election

Volunteers get organized as they work to get out the vote in Balitmore, MD, Oct 2010
Volunteers get organized as they work to get out the vote in Balitmore, MD, Oct 2010

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Recent public opinion polls of likely U.S. voters suggest the Republican Party will replace the Democratic Party as the majority party in both houses of Congress following the mid-term election on 2 Nov. Republicans also expect major gains in state and local elections.

In an attempt to avoid defeat, Democratic Party candidates are trying to rally their supporters, including a loyal base of African American voters. Volunteers are on a mission to get African American voters to the polls in Baltimore, Maryland. They are canvassing this neighborhood and others across the mid-Atlantic state of Maryland during the early voting period ahead of the actual election day.

Keith Haynes is running for his third term as a Maryland state lawmaker. Besides campaigning, he wants people to get excited about the election. "We are actually encouraging people to get out and vote now. So if he's in town he can take advantage of early voting today."

Haynes also said, "During the primary election a few weeks ago, we had one of the lowest voter turnouts that we have had in the state of Maryland and we are trying to boost those number up for the general election."

Organizers says these 'get out the vote' drives are important because studies indicate that turnout among black voters for midterm elections is often a third lower than in presidential election years. Melanie Campbell is president of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and she said, "I think it takes all of us getting involved and it takes the voter. It takes the community to realize this is a very important election and staying at home is not a good option."  

As head of the party, President Barack Obama is trying to help Democrats win on election day and prevent opposition Republicans from capturing enough seats to take control of Congress. "Don't ever let anybody tell you this fight isn't worth it."

David Bositis is an analyst with The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington. He said high black voter turnout in key races, especially in southern states, could make it difficult for Republicans to win a majority of seats needed to regain control of Congress.

"If black voters turn out, the Democrats' prospects are going to be a lot better than if African Americans do not turn out," said Bositis. "When there's little or no gap between black or white turnout, it usually bodes well for the Democratic Party. When there is a large gap between black and white turnout, it usually bodes well for the Republican Party."

In order to counter Republican challenges, the Democrats are spending more than $2 million on mobilizing black voters across the country. Keith Haynes says he is targeting those who have not voted in several years.  "We want to try to get those individuals who are registered and have a history of voting, but who may have not voted in the last few elections, to energize them to get that energy behind them to go out and cast their vote. But we are emphasizing that their vote does count."

The Census Bureau says black voter turnout in 2008 was slightly larger than white turnout for the first time ever. Fearing a sharp drop off this year, these volunteers say they will keep up their efforts to get blacks to the polls.  



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