Chicago's black voters have sent a signal to black voters in the South: High voter turnouts make a difference. And a higher voter turnout among blacks is needed in the South, says Geraldine Thompson, executive director of the Atlanta-based Voter Education Project (VEP). In 11 Southern states, 64 percent of the black voters turned out in the 1980 election. Only 45 percent voted in the 1982 election, although midterm elections nationally see a substantially smaller turnout among all voter groups.
But in Louisiana, only 30 percent of the black voters cast ballots in 1982, she says. The VEP is organizing conferences throughout the South to encourage higher black voting.
A less-than-expected black voter turnout is credited with helping defeat black state Rep. Robert Green in his bid to become Mississippi's first black congressman in this century last November.
And as Harold Washington was being elected mayor of Chicago, Harold Gibson, a black city councilman in Jacksonville, Fla., was losing to white incumbent Jake Godbold in the Democratic primary for mayor. In 1979, Mr. Godbold got about 70 percent of the black vote.