Voter Education Key to Voter Turnout
By Dr. Dorsey C. Miller Jr.
Imagine the outcome of the 2016 presidential election if a majority of Black voters living in South Florida who didn’t vote had actually gone to the polls. Elections do have consequences.
An estimated 78,027 registered Black voters in Broward County decided to sit the election out. They and a comparable number of apathetic voters in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties either didn’t see the importance of voting, or somehow, figured their individual vote wouldn’t make much of a difference.
President Trump won Florida by a razor-thin margin of 112,911 votes. Sure, a number of factors go into analyzing election results, including the messaging to inspire voters, campaign spending to get ads out to the public and voting turnout.
While other groups of voters may have lagged in going to the polls in 2016, it’s clear that a glaring number of Black voters did, and the results are telling. If Florida, with its 27 electoral votes had gone to Hillary Clinton, she’d now be president.
Voter education remains an issue in the United States in general and in Black America particularly. It is why I founded the Florida Mobilization Project (FVMP), a nonpartisan organization with a mission to enhance voter participation. We are dedicated to increasing civic engagement and reducing voter apathy in the Black community.
The organization is fortunate to have a widespread network of support, particularly in Broward County, that includes many church leaders, civic and community groups, entrepreneurs, fraternities and sororities. The idea is to spread the word: vote!
South Florida’s two Black members of Congress are working with us – U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings and Fredricka Wilson.
Some of our county’s most prominent Black ministers are involved with FVMP. Dr. Marcus Davidson, Bishop C.E. Glover, Dr. Wiley Howard, Dr. Derrick Hughes, Rev. Eric Jones, Rev. Wayne Lomax, Rev. Eddie Moise, and Dr. W.F. Washington – to name just a few.
Representatives from our black Greek organizations have given our organization energy and volunteers. Our thanks to the fraternities Alpha Phi Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Phi Beta Sigma, Omega Psi Phi, and the sororities Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Sigma Gamma Rho and Zeta Phi Beta.
We can’t forget the Fort Lauderdale Chapter of the NAACP, The Links and the Charmettes. They, like the above-mentioned organizations, see the importance of making Black voters a-ware of their power and responsibility in this election.
We are grateful for the input of these fine individuals and upstanding community organizations. But, it shouldn’t stop there. We need more civic and community participation.
Just recently, the Center for America Progress released a damning study that justifies the need for our efforts.
The study, “Increasing Voter Participation in America: Policies to Drive Participation and Make Voting more Convenient,” revealed that Florida isn’t making it easy for many Floridians to vote.
Of eight recognized policies state governments could enact that actually maximize voter turnout, Florida only has four. What’s missing is obvious: automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, at-home voting, and restoring voting rights to felons who have served their time in prison.
The report details how these reforms would benefit voter turnout and why increased turnout is better for democracy. But, the authors conclude that these polices aren’t enough.
“Strong civics education and integrated voter engagement programs can help to address widespread alienation by connecting voting to the issues that affect people’s lives, by demystifying government, and by educating people on the electoral process and inviting them to participate,” they write.
Dr. Dorsey C. Miller Jr. is chairman of the Florida Voter Mobilization Project.