On Sept. 24, the NAACP, educational institutions, the League of Women Voters and scores of other organizations will host events across the nation to register new voters vote. It is part of a National Voter Registration Day effort to ensure that everyone who is eligible can cast ballots in November.
Off-year election years typically aren't as sexy as presidential campaign cycles and, as a result, turnout tends to be low. In 2008, for example, voters headed to the polls in record numbers, in large part to show their support for then Sen. Barack Obama.
Four years later, they did it again, and in 2012, Black voter turnout was for the first time higher than any other demographic group, despite efforts by Republican-led state legislatures to make it more difficult by passing voter ID laws, shortening early voting periods and other measures.
“We must register to vote and participate in local, state and federal elections to send a message that we will not move backward and be silenced; voting is our voice and our power," said Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project.
In 2013, more than 1,000 elections will take place at the state and local level, several featuring African-American candidates. The most famous of them is Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who is running for a seat in the U.S. Senate.
"If we have better turnout, we can see positive voting reforms," said Katherine Culliton-González, the Advancement Project's director of voter protection.
Citing as an example Virginia, a state that has implemented a voter ID law and doesn't have an early voting period, she added, "If people get out to vote now and change the political composition of the state, then we'll have more access to the ballot. So it's very important that people turn out for these state-level issues about voting rights and really about every right."
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(Photo: Matt Stamey/Staff photographer/Gainesville Sun /Landov)