Barack Obama’s historic run for the White House recently announced a strategic and ongoing effort to maximize the African American electorate throughout the country in places where Blacks congregate often: barbershops and beauty salons.

The Obama campaign has initiated the Barber Shop and Beauty Salon National Voter Registration effort to register new African American voters in traditional locations where national politics and other related topics are regularly discussed.

The campaign says there are some 56 million unregistered voters in the U.S., making up 32 percent of the total eligible voter ranks. Among them are some eight million African Americans, or about 32 percent of Black voters.

Taking a lesson from the past, Democrats hope to reverse the shortfall of African American voters in the 2004 presidential elections, especially in key battleground states like Ohio, Virginia and Florida where they lost to Republicans by single digits. Democrats say those states were lost due to the high number of unregistered voters.

By registering new voters, particularly in the Black community, the Obama campaign hopes to correct that problem and to make a significant difference in states like North Carolina, which has a Democratic state legislature and governor but has not succeeded in winning voters to side with a Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

To shift North Carolina from a red Republican state to a blue Democratic one, the campaign plans to focus on voter education, particularly in the African American community, that highlights important issues to propel a massive surge of voters to the polls.

The campaign says mobilizing the African American vote nationwide, as never before, will be a major factor in winning on Nov. 4.

“It’s not just about registration, but we have to make sure that people understand why their vote matters, and what’s at stake in this election,” Michelle Obama told the Wilmington Journal. “We need people to understand the disparities not just at the economic level, but also in health and education … you name it. And I can guarantee you that our efforts aren’t just limited to registration,” she added.

The Obama campaign also plans to increase the involvement of African Americans throughout the Democratic National Convention with a host of speakers and participation of many Black young people.

For the past 40 years African Americans have overwhelmingly favored Democratic presidential candidates by ratios of up to 9 to 1. Other minority groups such as Latinos and Asian Americans have also historically voted Democrat. Overall, registered Democrats are about 35 percent non-white and 65 percent white, whereas 90 percent of registered voters in the Republican Party are white.

Meanwhile, a recent Census Bureau report projects that by the year 2042 non-whites or minority groups will make up more than half the U.S. population.

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