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Democrats launch voter registration drive

Democrats launch voter registration drive

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democrats launched a new initiative to persuade more Americans to vote in upcoming elections, most particularly this November's congressional elections.

"Three out of every ten Americans who are eligible to vote are not even registered to vote," said U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, D-New York, during the weekly Democratic radio address Saturday.

Rangel called this status quo a "crisis."

In an effort to draw minority groups into the political process, Rangel announced a new Democratic program called "Every Vote Counts," which will focus on "voter registration, education and mobilization" for minority groups, young Americans, persons with disabilities, and other "underserved" communities.

Referring to the election debacle of 2000 in which Vice President Al Gore lost the presidency by a disputed narrow margin, Rangel said, "If [it] proved anything, it's that every vote really does count."

"Every Vote Counts" will kick off this Wednesday with voter registration events across the nation.

A concert at the Apollo Theater in New York's Harlem neighborhood Wednesday night will also raise money for the Democrats' project.

Rangel said the program will benefit racial and ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians, seniors, military people, and veterans. The program will address some of the complaints voiced in past elections, such as difficulty acquiring absentee ballots, problems finding polling places and completing ballots, and lack of wheelchair accessibility at the polls.

At a time when control of government can easily shift between Democrats and Republicans, Rangel spoke about building on recently passed legislation such as a campaign finance bill, which was signed last month by President Bush, and an election law measure, recently passed by both the House and the Senate, which will allow states to upgrade voting equipment.

Calling "Every Vote Counts" more than just a voter registration drive, Rangel said, getting people to register is just the first step and what's equally important is empowering voters and persuading them to remain actively involved in the voting process.

Rangel said many Americans who don't vote are "the poor, the marginalized and the isolated ... and these are the people that are most likely to find a home within the Democratic Party."




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