Voter Registration Drives and Black Voting in the South
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The author examines a random sample of 3,000 black and white registered voters in Houston who registered during three specific time periods in 1976. Group A includes those registered as of 31 May 1976, group B those who registered during an intensive black voter registration drive in the summer of 1976 (1 June-31 August), and group C those individuals who registered after the drive but before the election in November of 1976. The actual voting records of these registrants were checked to see if they voted in the immediate presidential election of 1976 and the subsequent presidential election of 1980. Using the white voters as a comparison/control group, the author finds that the 1976 turnout level for black voters in the registration drive group is lower than that for blacks registered at the other two times but that the turnout level for the black B group is not excessively low. The author also finds that while there is substantial attrition in the 1980 voting for those group B blacks who voted in 1976, this attrition is no greater than that evidenced by group C blacks and group B and C whites. The author concludes that registration drives remain a useful strategy for black political action but that the results of such drives have relatively short-term electoral payoffs; this indicates that the drives must be viewed as a continuing activity and that overall electoral success will be heightened if priority efforts on increasing turnout among “old” and “new” registrants are also employed. © 1985, Southern Political Science Association. All rights reserved.
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