The following statements often repeated in several Muslim circles all the time.
1. Muslims are eight million strong in America. They are a strong voting bloc.
2. Muslims must vote as a bloc because their interests are the same.
3. Muslim votes can impact the outcome of presidential or congressional races.
4. Muslim votes are the best organized in the country.
But the harsh reality is that no data exists to substantiate any of the above assertions. In fact, the dearth of the data is so intense that one can adequately identify the number of Muslim votes in one congressional district.
In the current primaries, Muslims are heavily involved in Obama, Clinton, Ron Paul, McCain campaigns. Yet none of those involved have any clue about the number of Muslim votes and their pattern of voting. Somehow everyone assumes that on the election day, Muslims will fill the polling booths in large number and would impact the elections.
It is obvious that unless Muslims are organized they would not have any electoral prospects in this country. Occasionally, they might win a few districts here and there based on the two party politics, but permanently, they may not be able to use their franchise in a constructive manner.
Muslims need to realize that elections are not on only a four or two year cycle, but that electioneering and campaigning have become a science and an art in their own right. Based on this science, parties and businesses determine their future policies. Based on this, the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security decide their future action plan. Based on this, the State Department pursues policies for the future, and based on this science, lobbies conduct their affairs in Washington.
If Muslims really want to be effective, some of their organizations have to do at least a few of the following things.
1. Determine an accurate count of Muslim votes in each congressional district split into each precinct.
2. Determine the party affiliations of Muslim voters.
3. Determine the voting pattern of Muslim voters in the last five or six general elections.
This data is obtainable through electoral lists maintained in most county offices. Obviously, not all the Muslim names can be identified, but at least some 70 percent of Muslim sounding names can be traced through these lists.
This data would need verification before making any accurate assessment.
Once the data is verified, we can explore the possibility of identifying those Muslim citizens who are currently not registered as voters. This is a tedious task, However, if done at precinct level, it might produce better results.
The voter registration drive would not end the task. It would lead one to think of ways to educate voters about issues and then persuade them to come to the polling booth on the day of election. Any electoral campaign is meaningless if it does not result in attracting the votes to the polling stations in large numbers. Here, Muslims also face serious challenges. A large number of Muslim voters still does not speak English. Women especially do not usually drive. Some are reluctant to go to the polling station on their own. Others do not understand the meaning of democracy and elections. Obviously, someone would have to organize short term classes on civic responsibilities before the registered voters can really be effective.
Once we have a substantial number of Muslims registered as voters, we can really talk about en bloc Muslim votes. A bloc vote is meaningful only if it is cast around some unchangeable principles. Otherwise voters must have the choice to vote their conscience.
Two years ago, in a congressional district, a congressman was told by a Muslim resident of the area that in his victory Muslims played a significant role and in his victory margin of 5,000–Muslims were the determining factor. The congressman looked astonished at this assertion. His aide pointed out that in his congressional district, he received votes from two Muslim sounding names. â€œIf Muslims have changed their names for voting purposes, than I may accept your claimâ€ the congressman quipped.
One has to be very careful when making assertions in this respect. However, a lot can still be done before the coming general elections in November.
Those interested in working on election project rather than political campaigns may contact the editor at Aslamabdallah@aol.com.