Millions to Vote in Historic Election: African-Americans Expected to Lead the Way


Caption: Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama, vice presidential nominee Joseph Biden, their wives Michelle and Jill and Obama children Mahalia and Natasha. Credit: Courtesy/DNC
Caption: Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama, vice presidential nominee Joseph Biden, their wives Michelle and Jill and Obama children Mahalia and Natasha. Credit: Courtesy/DNC

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – For the first time in American history, millions of voters will cast their ballots on Tuesday in an election in which an African-American is the nominee of a major political party, fulfilling the long-held dreams of civil rights veterans.

“I’ve always hoped so and I’ve also worked for this idea,” says 96-year-old Dr. Dorothy Height, president emeritus of the National Council of Negro Women. “I think this will help the whole country, people of all backgrounds… I know historically, African-Americans will feel good about it, but, I think everybody across the country will have the realization that there are people in all groups who have the capability to be president.”

That hope, birthed in the race between Democratic Sen. Barack Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain has translated into massive voter registration numbers nationwide in the contentious and historic race.

“We’re seeing that voting is becoming a true family affair, a true community affair all over this country,” says Melanie Campbell, executive director and CEO of the National Coalition for Black Civic Participation. ”We want the people to enjoy the process of making history.”

Campbell says while a 60 percent turnout has been considered good in the past, this year, a record-breaking 70 to 80 percent is expected in some communities. “And African-Americans are going to be leading the way,” she said. “People feel like they are a part of the process. This is part of the definition of what a movement is. People are taking their neighbors to go vote. This movement for a change is also a change in removing apathy and we’ll have to build on that.”

In the close race, election officials are also hopeful that few glitches will occur.

“We really are confident that this is going to be a good election,” says Donetta Davidson, vice chair of the Federal Election Assistance Commission. ”The election community has really been working very hard, and the election officials, to make sure that this election runs as smoothly as possible,” Davidson says. “Will there be a hick up some place? Possibly. That’s because there’s a human factor in programming this equipment and testing it. Testing is the valuable point. If they do their testing right, they will catch any kind of program they have before Election Day.”

Volunteer poll workers are still badly needed, says Davidson.

“On election day, the biggest thing that you get prepared for that length of time and celebrate it,” says Campbell.

Davidson says she has one concluding message to voters for Tuesday: “Knowledge is power. If they know what their rights are. Then they have far more power.”

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