News Release

Republican Lock on Southern Electoral Votes Questioned

Last weekend, more than 75 activists from nine Southern states met at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta to discuss ways to strengthen African-American participation in the political process.

KEITH JENNINGS
Jennings was the coordinator of last weekend’s conference and is the president of the African-American Human Rights Foundation. He said today: “We have to transform the South again. Whether we’re talking about the permanent disenfranchisement of ex-felons, or problems with voting equipment, our focus is to dismantle barriers to African-Americans exercising their right to vote and to have their votes counted. The groups that met under the theme ‘Count Every Vote’ ranged from the NAACP to the National Society of Black Engineers.”

WILLIAM BOONE
Boone is a professor of political science at Clark Atlanta University. He said today: “The idea of a solidly Republican South is a myth that needs to be dispelled. Certainly there have been unprecedented gains by Republicans in the past decade largely due to white flight from the Democratic Party but when one looks at the Southern legislatures, most are still dominated by Democrats. There are Southern battleground states. The idea that Bush is expected to receive close to 150 electoral votes without much of a fight makes no sense politically when African-Americans have been the most loyal voting block for the Democratic Party in the past and close to 60 percent of the black voting-age population is located in this region. The number of unregistered black voters in key Southern states can be the difference in a win or loss. For example, 47 percent of African-Americans in Florida and 34 percent in Georgia remain unregistered. The Democrats could win Louisiana and Arkansas and make the Republican Party work hard in North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia. And, African-Americans could be the margin of victory again in Florida. Registration coupled with a high turnout of the African-American vote can make a major statement and be a force in the 2004 elections.”

LATOSHA BROWN
Brown is the executive director of the Center for Citizen Participation. She said today: “At this conference, we decided to offer training sessions in each of the Southern states to citizens and community groups on getting out the vote, but also on how to monitor elections. Election monitoring gives us a self-help tool to offer those voters who have grown apathetic because they are uncertain whether or not their vote will count.”