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Black voters stay home

Some said they were unfamiliar with both the candidates and the issues

D. Kevin McNeir | 11/7/2013, 9 a.m.
In 2012 and 2008, Black voter turnout exceeded the white turnout rate — something that had never occurred in U.S. ...

Two professors from Florida Memorial University, Dr. Olivia Jackson, associate professor for political science/public administration and Dr. William Jong-Ebot, associate professor for mass communications, shared their perspective about why Blacks are not fully engaging in the political process.

“Off season, off presidential elections are not a focal point for many voters and then many simply aren’t well informed about the candidates or issues because not a lot of advertising goes on — surely not as much you will see during a presidential election,” Jackson said. “As for those who do vote during midterm or special elections, the voters tend to be higher income or higher educated. In the Black community, generally speaking, residents still don’t realize that it’s local policies that actually impact their lives the most — trash pickup, tax increases, etc. If we’re going to see better voting percentages, we have to find a way to persuade local communities that they will be significantly impacted by the results of the vote.”

“So many people are disillusioned by what they see on both the national and local levels — candidates and elected politicians aren’t carrying themselves very well,” Jong-Ebot said. “People are tired of the smear tactics and the fighting. We have done a lot here at Florida Memorial to get our students registered to vote but I think it’s still our task to inform them about the issues and the candidates and remind them that their vote does matter — even in a midterm or special election.

When I first came to the U.S., I was shocked to see how few people vote. In most European countries, voter turnout is 80 and 90 percent. In the U.S., we’re lucky if the number reaches 40 percent. I tell my students you have to vote each and every time. Because if you’re not at the table, then you are probably on the menu.”