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87,000 Missouri Voters Register Under Black Turnout Effort

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KANSAS CITY — A coalition of nonprofit groups that has registered more than 87,000 new Missouri voters — most of them black residents — says it is not working for Sen. Claire McCaskill, but its effort could help her campaign against Republican challenger Josh Hawley.

The nonpartisan coalition called Missouri Black Votes wants to engage black voters because of a voter identification approved in 2016, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported . McCaskill, who captured 94 percent of the black vote in Missouri in 2012, is trying to increase her standing among black voters this year after being criticized by some who said she has taken them for granted.

The voter registration drive also could be important in elections involving raising Missouri's minimum wage, legalizing medical marijuana, passing several ethics reforms and a redistricting proposal.

The effort by the coalition, including Missouri Faith Voices, Missouri Jobs with Justice and Shirley's Kitchen Cabinet, is funded by the Black Progressive Action Coalition, which is affiliated with BlackPAC, a super PAC that backed now-Sen. Doug Jones, an Alabama Democrat, and Lucy McBath, a Georgia Democratic congressional candidate.

Angela Pearson, Missouri Black Votes project manager, said it's important to ensure that people have access to democracy.

"And part of that access is making sure that we find them, let them know that voting is important and that we're here to help them register to vote if they like," Pearson said.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates about 414,000 black people were registered to vote in November 2016.

"I think no matter how you look at it it's a pretty hefty figure," said Dave Robertson, chairman of the political science department at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He said that is true even if half of the registrants had been previously registered and moved.

The Missouri Secretary of State's Office reported at the beginning of the month, the state had registered a total of nearly 68,300 new voters this year.

The registration comes after Missouri voters approved in 2016 a Constitutional amendment requiring voters to show a photo ID at the polls. Critics of similar laws say they make voting burdensome for minority and low-income voters who can't get an ID.

With that new requirement in place, Pearson said the coalition wanted to give Missourians a chance to register and participate.

"Part of our job is to help remove one barrier, at least, when it comes to voting," Pearson said.


Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com