NAACP’s Civic Engagement History

Historical View

In 1965, amidst the discouragement of racial discrimination, the NAACP registered approximately 80,000 voters in the southern states. This remarkable increase sparked the attention of our society which led the 1979 initiation that introduced the first bill ever to be signed by Detroit Michigan Governor, William G. Milliken. The new bill provided high school principals or their deputies to issue registration cards on the spot and act as registrars to certify that students meet the state’s minimum voter eligibility requirements. (In order to vote, students must be 18, U.S. citizens and residents of the state for 30 days.) With voter registration now being allowed in high schools, the 133,000 graduates from Michigan high schools were eligible to vote in the 1980 presidential election. This bill resulted in similar practices launched in high schools in over 24 other states.

In 1982, the NAACP registered 850,000 voters and in 1991 encouraged a 76% turn-out of African-American voters in southern states. In 2000, the NAACP was extremely instrumental in one of the largest voter turnouts in over 20 years. In 2004, nearly 3 million more African Americans surged to the polls than in 2000, accounting for upwards of 20% of the overall voter participation increase. In 2008 the African American voter turnout rate increased 4.9 percentage points, from 60.3% in 2004 to 65.3%.

The turnout rate for African American Women increased 5.1 percentage points, from 63.7% in 2004 to 68.8% in 2008. Two million more blacks reported voting in 2008 than said the same in 2004. The share of eligible voters who were black increased from 11.6% in 2004 to 11.8%. Overall, among all racial, ethnic and gender groups, black women had the highest voter turnout rate in November’s election — a first. The voter turnout rate among young black eligible voters was higher than that of young eligible voters of any other racial and ethnic group in 2008. This, too, was a first. From 2004 to 2008, the greatest increases were in Southern states with large black eligible voter populations:

  • Mississippi (where the voter turnout rate was up 8 percentage points),
  • Georgia (7.5 points),
  • North Carolina (6.1 points)
  • Louisiana (6.0 points).
  • District of Columbia (6.9 points)