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Despite 41,000 Drop in Black Voter Registration, Philly Minority Voters Say They'll Hit the Polls Come November

As the presidential election looms, some 41,000 black voters in Philadelphia who used to be registered to vote are off the books now, and leaders in Philadelphia’s black community are scrambling to get them registered so their voices will be heard come November.

“We’re concerned that people may think elections may go a certain way, and too often people think that one vote doesn’t count,” Minister Rodney Muhammad, president of the NAACP’s Philadelphia chapter, told NBC10 this week. “It certainly does.”

Muhammad said he recently met with elections commissioners and discerned the drop in registered voters. He said a larger decrease showed among black voters, who make up 44 percent of the city's population.

Muhammad said the local NAACP is joining forces with several other organizations now to try to get unregistered voters – particularly those who are black and Latino – registered ahead of the election. He said he attributes the hefty decrease in registered voters to people moving or registrations expiring – but he acknowledged apathy may be playing some role, too.

“We’re not going to let apathy win the day,” Muhammad said.

To complicate matters, some activists across the nation involved in the Black Lives Matter movement spoke out recently, saying they plan to abstain from voting for the next president, because they don’t believe their voices or votes matter. Asa Khalif, a vocal member of the local Black Lives Matter contingent, said he doesn’t plan to abstain from voting, but he knows people who do.

“I believe it is a privilege to vote,” Khalif said. “The right to vote is covered in the blood of our elders. Many of our elders were beaten and killed for that right … I plan to exercise my right.”

Khalif said he couldn’t put a number to how many activists he’s heard won’t vote.

It’s “more than a handful,” of people, Khalif said.

By and large, though, more than a dozen people interviewed in Philadelphia neighborhoods on Thursday rejected the notion that their votes don't count and said they plan to exercise their right at the polls in November.

Tyrone Lawrence works the polls and says he votes in every election. "When you don't vote, it seems like you don't care," he said.
Morgan Zalot / NBC10
If Eddie Dejesus had citizenship and was able to vote, he says, he'd be at the polls in November. "It's the future," he said.
Morgan Zalot / NBC10
Calvin Baker and Denzel Smith both say they'll vote in November. "I really think the world is gonna change," Baker, 28, said.
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