First Lady's Planned CBC Address Underscores Women's Role In Voting Rights
8 months ago
Black voter turnout seen as crucial to reelection of nation's first African-American president
Michelle Obama is expected to fire up the African-American voting base during a speech Saturday at the closing dinner of this year’s Congressional Black Caucus conference.
Record turnout among black voters was crucial to President Barack Obama’s win in 2008. However, that same turnout could be severely impacted by new voter ID laws in states throughout the nation, a topic that generated much discussion during the conference.
The first lady will likely echo calls made by a number of activists this week that there be an aggressive push toward civic engagement among black voters.
"We are certain that her remarks will be…thought provoking…and most importantly, inspire our audience," said Elsie L. Scott, president and chief executive officer for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.
The three-day conference, held in Washington, D.C., featured panels and breakout sessions surrounding the theme, “Inspiring Leaders, Building Generations.” Actress and activist Sheryl Lee Ralph kicked off the event Wednesday with a session on black women and the vote – perhaps warming up participants up for Mrs. Obama's keynote address.
“We have forgotten [voting-rights activist] Fannie Lou Hamer who said, ‘I am sick and tired of being sick and tired,’” Ralph said at the “Power of the Sister Vote in 2012” panel. “We’ve forgotten when our mothers went to three jobs, picked us up from school, put the macaroni and cheese on the table, and got up and registered someone to vote.”
In 2008, about 69 percent of eligible black female voters went to the polls, an increase of 5.1 percentage points over 2004, according to a review of Census data by the Pew Hispanic Center. By comparison, a little more than 66 percent of white women voted in 2008, The Associated Press reported.
In 34 states, laws make voting more difficult for people without specific forms of ID. A study released last week by the University of Chicago estimates 700,000 minority voters could be kept from voting in November because of the legislation.
Michelle Obama is to deliver her remarks during the conference’s closing awards banquet at 6 p.m. ET. The Phoenix Award will be given to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Rep. Corrine Brown of Florida. Both have led fights against changes to voting rules and registration roll purging in Florida and in other critical election battleground states.
George Lucas, director of the Tuskegee Airman feature film “Red Tails,” and Harvey Gantt, the first black mayor of Charlotte, N.C., will also receive awards.