TALLAHASSEE — The wives of Democratic candidates Barack Obama and Joe Biden drew a jam-packed crowd estimated at 8,000 to the Florida A & M University campus on Saturday, the end of the campaign's two-week voter registration push aimed at turning out underrepresented voters in unprecedented numbers.
Michelle Obama promised to call the student who registered the most voters. The campaign reported signing up more than 250 new voters. And FAMU officials bragged that nearly 100 percent of the student body has been registered to vote.
But one question persists: Will the new registrants, young voters and blacks, show up to vote?
Ann Tucker, a 63-year-old Tallahassee resident, has voted in every election since she was 21 and is not convinced that even the historic nature of Obama's presidency will be enough to encourage some blacks to show up on Election Day.
''It may be a few more than it was the last time because it's so historic,'' she said as she stood in FAMU quad awaiting Obama. "But there are many people who believe that even if Obama wins the vote, it will be stolen — just like it was for Al Gore. They think that something will go wrong.''
Wash Anderson, 46, also of Tallahassee, said he hears similar frustrations from his black friends and acquaintances. "People always say, 'Well, my vote isn't going to count,' but I tell them your vote does count -- but only if you vote.''
For decades, African Americans, and voters ages 18-24, have shown up to vote in presidential elections at lower rates than the rest of the public. While a massive Democratic outreach reversed that trend for African Americans in most of the nation, it didn't work in Florida. Their participation rate in Florida dropped from 15 percent of the electorate in 2000 to 12 percent in 2004.
Now the Obama camp is hoping to change that. About 12 percent of the Florida electorate is black and, with poll numbers showing them favoring Obama over McCain by a 9 to 1 margin, they are determined to get as many blacks to the polls as possible.
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