TUNE IN, TURN OUT:
In 2004, the anticipated surge in voting among traditionally Democratic constituencies–the young, minorities, low-income families–never materialized. Turnout among black and Hispanic voters trailed that of whites by at least 7 percent; people earning more than $50,000 outvoted those making less than $20,000 by 34 percent; and 72 percent of Americans 55 and older showed up at the polls, compared with only 47 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds.
But activists are optimistic that 2008 will be different. “We didn’t have to go hunting for people this year,” said
‘s state director in Ohio. “People come up to us saying, ‘You bet I want to vote. This election is historic.'” ACORN and
have partnered to sign up 1.3 million new, mostly low-income voters, including 153,898 in Pennsylvania, 151,812 in Florida and 247,335 in Ohio, all important swing states.
Rock the Vote
has accumulated an additional 2.5 million new registrations.
Smaller, more targeted efforts have also been successful. A sixty-day registration drive in eleven states organized by the
National Coalition on Black Civic Participation
signed up 60,000 new voters. Student PIRGs have helped to register 110,000 voters on college campuses;
has registered 57,000 people just at concerts; and the
Hip Hop Caucus
has signed up 50,000 18- to 29-year-olds without a college degree, a group deeply underrepresented at the polls. Now, says Gall, “it’s our job to make people understand: you are registered, you can vote.” LUCAS MANN
THE CONNERLY CON:
Judging by recent polls, voters in Colorado and Nebraska seem likely to pass anti-affirmative action ballot initiatives on November 4. Behind these measures lurks
, the former University of California regent who has made a career of opposing affirmative action to redress inequalities in college admissions, hiring and the awarding of state contracts. Connerly, who has lobbied successfully for similar initiatives in California, Michigan and Washington, has appeared on radio ads and televised debates supporting the measures in Colorado and Nebraska.
, executive director of the
Ballot Initiative Strategy Center
, argues that the popularity of the measures–both are polling at better than 60 percent–is largely due to their misleading wording on state ballots. “These measures are cloaked in deception,” she says, noting that they promise to end discrimination or preferential treatment for “any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.” The BISC is working to educate voters about the potential impact of the ballot measures, and has run ads drawing attention to how Connerly has benefited from his racist work. Between 1997 and 2006, Connerly paid himself $7.6 million through the two tax-exempt nonprofit organizations he runs–the