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Nov. 4 Elections A Missed Opportunity For Black Folks
11/12/2014 4:30:18 PM

By Barney Blakeney

Black folks still don’t get it. One of the ways Black folks will achieve equality in this discriminating society is through the vote. It’s a powerful tool. Votes determine who sets the policies and makes the rules. Black folks had an opportunity last week to really make a difference in who does that, but chose to stay away from the polls.

Some 49,000 voters cast ballots in Charleston County, fewer than half the county’s registered voters. According to Charleston County Board of Elections and Registration Director Joe Debney, only about 38 percent of the county’s eligible voters cast ballots. One unofficial report says only about 12 percent of eligible Black voters cast ballots. I haven’t yet been able to substantiate that info, but if the usual stats hold true for voting as most things Black, that number may not be far off the mark.

I’m always enraged at the low number of Blacks who choose to participate in the election process. I can’t understand why more Blacks don’t make it a point to participate. A lot of folks made serious sacrifices so we could vote. A lot of people died and gave up unimaginable opportunities. And voting is so easy now days. You don’t even have to leave home to vote absentee!

I think it’s important that people know why they should vote. I always say those who made such a big stink over voter registration didn’t realize they only focused on half the task - voter education is just as important as voter registration.

I mean, look at what’s happening. What have we done if we register voters who don’t vote and don’t know why they should vote?

We are the first Blacks in this country who have the uninhibited ability to vote in elections. Yeah we were given the right to vote with the abolition of slavery, but white folks inhibited our ability to implement that right with Jim Crow laws and other obstacles. Some of those obstacles still exist. But for the most part, if a Black person wants to vote, he can. Despite all that opportunity, most of us sat out the Nov. 4 general election. I get angry when I think of what could have been accomplished if Black folks had voted.

We blew a golden opportunity because see, most white folks also don’t know how important their votes are. They also sat at home Nov. 4. That was our opportunity to run the table. You don’t like Nikki Haley as governor? Haley won by some 200,000 votes. Only half the state’s eligible voters cast ballots in the election. Most white folks don’t like her either, so they didn’t vote. Had we gone to the polls in great numbers, we could have caught them napping.

That scenario played itself out in nearly every statewide election. Black folks Nov. 4 could have elected the state’s first Black Lt. Governor, superintendent of education and for all of you who don’t like Tim Scott could have booted him out. Personally, I don’t have too much of a problem with Tim. But if we voted in stronger numbers, he’d have to take the heat or get out of the kitchen. Voters dictate the positions politicians take.

Closer to home, Black voters could have turned most elections upside down with the write-in ballot. I am so proud and amazed at those folks in the McClellanville area who used write-in ballots to seat three constituent school board members. Those folks put three incumbent candidates who had neglected to get on the ballot with write-in votes - 1,775 write-in votes! That’s unprecedented. It shows what Black communities can do when they act in unison.

I take away a couple of things from that lesson. One is, Black folks still have a lot of work to do when it comes to developing and supporting conscientious political representation. How do you forget to put your name on the ballot when all you have to do is go sign up? The other thing is, we can use the write-in ballot to our advantage.

I’m dismayed that Black folks still are encumbered by career politicians who have insulated themselves in safe single member districts. Write-in ballots may help put new faces in those elections. We have failed to groom and develop new leadership so the same old fogeys go back in every election cycle unopposed.

It’s to their advantage that Black voters are not better politically educated. This registration without education dynamic works in their behalf. Otherwise, they’d be grooming young Blacks to fill their slots. And don’t let them fool you with that seniority bullcrap. Black and white voters are being hoodwinked with that game. The very nature of the seniority game makes it self-serving.

I’ll tell you what. Black folks slept the 2014 general election, but we’d better not sleep through the 2016 general elections. We need to begin now the education process to prepare Black voters to make informed choices in 2016. All the marbles again will be on the table, but a lot more other folks will be up for the game. We won’t catch them sleeping then.

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