Presidential Primaries and Minority Voters

Did you know that in the 2000 Presidential Election more than one million citizens of color over the age of 18 in Florida did not vote in an election that Florida officials claimed was decided by a mere 527 votes? That’s right! The number of Floridians of color that did not participate in the election is over 2000 times greater than the margin of victory claimed by the winner!

The election was decided not just by who voted; but by who was wrongfully turned away from the polls and by who did not vote! And that was just in Florida.

Migration to the United States is dramatically changing the demographic profile of the American electorate. More than 1 in 5 adults was born in another country, and nearly one-third of all Americans are of non-white and non-European descent. To observers of elections, the impact of minorities and immigrant voters on democratic politics should be of particular interest. The enormous influx of new Americans has been disproportionately large in states that are important electorally and currently have large concentration of African-American residents—California, New York, Florida, Texas, and Illinois.

Looking at the 2000 Presidential election on a state by state basis, you will find that the winner in more than 50 percent of the states and the District of Columbia won by fewer votes than the number of African American and Latino voting age citizens who did not or could not participate in the election, for example:

• In Florida, Bush beat Gore by 537 votes and there were approximately 1,127,000 African American and Latino citizens of voting age who did not vote.

• In California, Gore beat bush by 1,293, 774 votes and there were approximately

2, 615,000 African American and Latino citizens of voting age who did not vote.

• In Texas, Bush beat Gore by 1,365, 893 votes and there were approximately 2,436,000 African American and Latino citizens of voting age who did not vote.

• In South Carolina, Bush beat Gore by 220,376 votes and there were approximately 294,000 African American and Latino citizens of voting age who did not vote.

• In Pennsylvania, Gore beat Bush by 204,840 votes and there were approximately 266,000 African American and Latino citizens of voting age who did not vote.

On January 22, Congress passed fiscal year 2004 omnibus appropriations bill. $2.8 billion has been appropriated of the $3.6 billion that was authorized under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). While $3 billion in funds have been appropriated, only 20 percent of funds have made it out to the states.

The 2004 elections will be full of important tests for HAVA.