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Fewer Than Half of Eligible Minority and Low-Income Americans Voted in 2006, Report Shows

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Project Vote released a report today, “Representational Bias in the 2006 Electorate,” by Douglass Hess that finds a continuing problem with the U.S. electorate: those who are registered and vote are not representative of the overall U.S. population eligible to vote. The proportion of the U.S. population that registers to vote and that does vote is highly skewed towards Whites, the educated and the wealthy. Furthermore, young eligible Americans, particularly young minority males, and those who have recently moved, are disproportionately represented among those who do not participate in the U.S. electorate.

“This review of the survey data strongly points to the need for civic organizations and government officials (at all levels of government) to continue to expand access to voter registration,” says Hess. “For their part, governments should view bias in the electorate as a call to embrace voter registration as an affirmative responsibility through better implementation of laws relating to the registration of young, low-income and minority voters.”

“Representational Bias in the 2006 Electorate” is the first report to analyze just-released data on the 2006 election by the US Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS). Consistent with previous years, the report finds that electoral participation – both registration and voting – is stratified by social and economic factors, including age, income, education and race and ethnicity:

- A substantial majority of eligible Americans (52 percent) did not participate in the 2006 general election, either because they were not registered (32 percent) or because they were registered but did not vote (20 percent). Of those registered, however, the majority (71 percent) did vote.

- Americans between 18 and 29 were approximately 20 percent of the eligible voter population but only 10 percent of the voting population in 2006.

- In registration, non-Hispanic Blacks lagged behind non-Hispanic Whites by 10 percentage points: 61 percent to 71 percent. Only 54 percent of Latinos and 49 percent of eligible Asian-Americans report being registered.

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- In voting, non-Hispanic Blacks also lagged behind non-Hispanic Whites by 10 percentage points: 41 percent to 52 percent. Approximately 32 percent of eligible Latino and Asian-American citizens voted.

- If all eligible minorities had voted at the rate of non-Hispanic Whites, more than 7.5 million additional Americans would have participated in the 2006 elections.

“The electorate does not reflect America’s voting eligible population,” says Project Vote Deputy Director Michael Slater. “Parties, candidates and organizations need to speak to the interests and values of all Americans not just White Americans or affluent Americans. Until they do, and until existing legal and administrative barriers are lowered, we will continue to see an electorate that is stratified by race, income and age.”

Project Vote calls on civic organizations and officials at all levels of government and throughout the political process to expand opportunities for participation in U.S. elections. Specifically, Project Vote continues to press officials to ensure that the Voting Rights Act, National Voter Registration Act and Help America Vote Act are implemented fully and fairly to reduce the bias that is so evident from this report.

For a copy of the report, please visit www.ProjectVote.org

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Project Vote is the leading technical assistance and direct service provider to the civic participation community. Since its founding in 1982, Project Vote has provided professional training, management, evaluation (more...)

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