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Blacks Surge In Early Voting

Blackvoicenews.com, News Report, Chris Levister Posted: Oct 30, 2008

Inland Counties report unprecedented turnout, few hiccups

Two months ago Sen. Barack Obama's Democratic Nomination acceptance speech at Denver's Mile High Stadium drew more than 80,000 people. Sunday a rambunctious sea of well over 100,000 people packed the city's Civic Center Park. The Obama campaign sees early voting now underway in most states as kind of a secret weapon harnessing the enthusiasm of these jaw dropping crowds.

"How many people have early voted?" The crowd roared. "That's what I'm talking about," Obama responded. "No point in waiting in lines if you don't have to. You know who you're going to vote for. Go to the polls!"

Apparently people are getting the message. As the presidential campaign reaches it frenzied last days, record numbers of voters across the nation are casting ballots early to ease the strain on Nov 4. About a third of voters nationwide are expected to cast ballots before Election Day.

A surprise is the makeup of the early voters. In past campaign seasons, white Republicans have used early voting to their advantage. Yet a look at the stream of voters casting ballots at the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters Office in San Bernardino this weekend suggests a disproportionate number of Black Democratic voters are showing up in what appears to be a promising sign for Barack Obama.

Kathy Austin did a little dance after casting her ballot. "I'm leaving nothing to chance. People are engaged and excited. That's why you see me dancing," said Austin. Native Jamaican K. Parsons says a win for Obama is a win for global change. "If Obama can go to Europe and draw 200,000 people, he's gonna change the way the world looks at America."
African-Americans make up 6 percent of California's electorate, according to October 1 figures. Nationwide, they cast 25% of the total votes during the presidential election four years ago. The high

African-American turnout comes as the state's early voting program is scrambling to bank as many voters before what some predict as a turnout of tsunami proportions.
86-year-old pastor Willie Allen sat patiently Saturday clutching his mail-in ballot while wife Joyce completed pre voting forms. "I never thought I'd live to see this. Back then not many of us could vote. It was tough."

In San Bernardino County, election officers recorded their largest ever number of early ballots. More than 400 on Friday, Registrar of Voters Kari Verjil said.

"We have not seen this type of turn out." She says lines began forming before doors opened Saturday. San Bernardino is one of a handful of counties using paper ballots following a statewide de-certification issue.

Verjil said voters have made a smooth transition back to paper ballots. Touch screen voting is available during early voting.

Come to the polls prepared

Verjil is urging voters to come prepared. "Study your sample ballot and complete it ahead of time. Verjil says during early voting it's taking voters about 10 minutes to get through the lengthy ballot. "What that means is expect longer waits and long lines on Election Day. The more people who vote early, the more ballots will be ready to be scanned when voting stops at 8 p.m. Nov. 4 said Verjil.

Early voter Reginald Morris of Redlands says he hopes more people will heed the registrar's advice and vote early. "No one wants to see a repeat of 2000. That was un-American."

Highland small business owners and first time voters Lavonna and Von Johnson both 40 expressed a mix of anticipation, hope and inclusion.

"He's asking every American to sacrifice. That's powerful. For those who have sat on the sidelines uninterested Obama's call to action is electrifying. I wouldn't miss this opportunity for anything," explained Von.

"This election is not just about a Black man running for president. For the first time many people of color feel their vote can bring about change. That's why we came early." said Lavonna.
In traditionally Republican Riverside County brisk early voting also mirrored a larger percentage of Democrats and Black voters.

Lois Irvin, a 76 year old retiree, voted early and then returned to wait in line two days later with her brother Wade an ex-felon and first time voter. Irvin, who is Black, noted the historic nature of voting for a Black presidential candidate.

"Unthinkable just 5 years ago, Obama is change you can believe in. For our children and their children," said Irvin.

I'm not unnerved by the trend, said GOP voter Steve Bixby. "The Obama campaign is spending ridiculous sums of money and resources to turn out every vote they can - and can't," referring to the Alcorn voter registration scandal. He views the election as a toss up. "People are running victory laps before the race, it's not over until it's over," he said.

Locals including African-American voters are also voting by mail in record breaking numbers. More than 30,000 ballots have been mailed to SB County voters. Registrar Verjil said those worried that their vote could get caught up in a postal backlog can hand deliver their ballots to a polling place or the Registrar's Office at 777 East Rialto Ave. San Bernardino.

Related Articles:

Black Relatives of McCain are Voting for Obama

U.S. Latino Media Overwhelmingly Favor Obama

How the GOP Will Suppress Minority Votes on November 4Legally

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