The ranks of the nation’s voters grew by 100,000 Black voters Easter Sunday, part of a campaign spearheaded by Black clergy across the nation.

The Empowerment Movement, a coalition of Black ministers from a range of Black faith groups, was created to advance the power of the African-American community in politics, education and economics using Christian principles as a foundation.

Led by Rev. Jamal Bryant, founder and pastor of the Empowerment Temple in Baltimore, Md., the group challenged Empowerment Movement officials estimate of 500,000 Black churches in the U.S., to register at least 20 persons with the goal of securing 1 million registrants in total.

“This is going to be a critical election,” Bryant told NewsOne in a video posted on the group’s website, “We’re dealing with foreclosures, dealing with bankruptcies, dealing with health care….And we obviously see that our president has an agenda but he needs some people that can back him up.”

That support, according to Bryant and others, can come from the estimated 5 million unregistered voters in churches nationwide. Voter participation advocates want to repeat 2008’s surge in voter registration and turnout that made a difference in the election.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s November 2008 Current Population Survey (CPS) Voting and Registration Supplement, 146 million people were registered to vote in 2008, an increase of approximately 4 million people since 2004. Census figures show 69.7 percent of Blacks who are eligible are registered to vote while the registration rate is 73.5 percent for non-Hispanic Whites.

On the downside, however, 2.9 million eligible African Americans did not register to vote. Among the chief reasons: not interested in politics (33.7 percent), missed registration deadlines (17.7 percent) and ineligibility (14 percent).

The Easter Sunday voter registration initiative was the latest effort of the Empowerment Movement. Bryant and the group most recently led a march of over 8,000 protesters in Sanford, Fla., in the wake of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO