The Mystery of Lower Voter Registration for Older Black Voters


The New York Times wrote a very interesting article earlier this month, about older African-Americans, voter registration and turnout. Did you know that older southern black voters (i.e. reached voting age before the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965) are much less likely to be registered to vote compared to white and younger black Americans?

The Times author's original thinking was that this was because of the lasting effects of Jim Crow laws. Voting is a habit. If discriminatory laws prevented people from developing the habit when they were young, it would make sense why older African Americans are less likely to be registered even today.

However some new data shows that older African Americans are less likely to be registered to vote, whether they live in the South or not.

The New York Times doesn't have the answers figured out, but this much I know: our rates of voter registration and turnout are not high enough, and we need to work harder to make sure all – young and old – participate in the voting process.

I stand by the efforts of the African American Voter Registration, Education, and Participation Project to register and turn out African American and urban voters across California. We need to make it easier for all voters, especially under-represented voters, to be a part of our representative form of government, and have their voices heard. It is wrong when the Supreme Court makes it harder for people of color to exercise their basic right in this country to vote. But the main way to make progress against the forces holding our country back is to exercise our right to vote, and vote for better leaders in all levels of government.

I hope you take the opportunity to exercise your vote on Tuesday in the local elections. And please take a friend or family member with you. Together we can boost turnout in a local way, and work to change the laws on a national level.

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