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Community News: Southwest

SOUTHWEST : Voter Registration Push Surpasses Goals

October 16, 1994|ERIN J. AUBRY

The African American Vote Project, a statewide Democratic Party-assisted effort launched last month to boost the number of registered black voters, wrapped up the first phase of its project last weekend with an all-out push at several south Los Angeles churches.

After Tuesday's registration deadline for the Nov. 8 elections, project spokeswoman Darolyn Davis said the final tallies of new voters exceeded the goal of 25,000. Davis did not yet have exact figures, "but we've gone over (the goal)," she said. "We did what we intended to do, and that was to get people who had never registered, and those who had moved and needed to re-register."

First African Methodist Episcopal Church, Praises of Zion and Mt. Tabor Baptist Church formed the core of an interfaith effort to swell the ranks of black voters.

Dubbed "Revival for Survival," the churches held rallies and called upon members to spread the word about registering to vote. Rallies and speakers, which included the Rev. Jesse Jackson at Praises of Zion, were broadcast on radio for 14 hours from church locations, where workers took voter registration forms.

The project is shifting gears and is now encouraging registered voters to cast their ballots by mail.

Mail-in, or absentee ballots, have determined the fate of many an election, Davis said. After the mail-in deadline of Nov. 1 passes, project workers will start knocking on doors up to Election Day to ensure that black voters exercise their right, even if that means offering child care or transportation.

"We have to let people know that they can change things, that they have to participate now," said Davis, whose project has three offices in the Los Angeles area. "It's not even about Democratic or Republican issues anymore.

"It's been challenging and exciting at the same time. Everybody's been working around the clock."

The vote project is sponsored by the California Legislative Black Caucus, the state Democratic Party, the Rainbow Coalition, many politicians and a contingent of 500 clergy. It is the first time such a varied coalition has formed with the sole purpose of recruiting black voters.

Davis said the most gratifying experience of the campaign came last weekend when a group of gang members walked into the La Brea Avenue office in the Crenshaw area. They asked for voter registration forms and promised to get signatures from residents of the blocks they considered to be their turf.

"That was incredible," recalled Davis. "That's really what it's all about. If we're reaching people that disaffected politically, we're really doing our jobs."

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