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Voter registration drives this weekend in Henry

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

Leaders of two civil-rights organizations are working together in Henry County, to increase participation by local residents in the upcoming election.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference will sponsor a voter registration drive Saturday from noon to 4 p.m., at all libraries in the area. The event is being organized with the assistance of the National Action Network (NAN).

Trina Baynes, president of the SCLC's Henry County chapter, said preparing people to go to the polls in Novembe, is vitally important. She described the 2008 presidential election as "historic," adding that Georgia voters will play a "pivotal" role in its outcome.

"This year, we have the first African-American presidential candidate, and the oldest [one]," she said. "This shows the country is open to something better than the current administration. The security of the [nation] begins from within - with stable health care, education, jobs and homes. We need to elect a president whose policies are geared toward those issues."

Baynes said the country is going through a "dire" time and a "moral abyss," due to the war in Iraq, the state of healthcare affairs in the nation and the current gas crisis. Regarding the latter issue, she said the SCLC, under the direction of Dr. Charles Steele, has demonstrated its ability to make its voices heard.

"[We] started a gas boycott in June," she said. "Within a week, [fuel] prices started going down. As Americans, we have to take back control of the interests of the working class and the middle class."

Baynes said the past sacrifices of military personnel have allowed Americans the "phenomenal opportunity" to cast a vote in the election, adding it is "immoral to be apathetic."

Volunteers with the NAN, which was founded by the Rev. Al Sharpton, will reportedly be on hand at the registration drive. The group's involvement is a follow-up to last month's launch of the Not This Time Campaign, according to Tyleis Speight, executive director of the NAN's Southeast regional office in Atlanta.

Speight said the purpose of such efforts, is to "make sure every vote counts" in the election. "We don't want a repeat of the 2000 election," she said. "We're mobilizing churches, civil-rights leaders, students and activists, and we will have [people] at poll sites to monitor the voting process. We don't want to disenfranchise the voters again."

The executive director said the SCLC and the NAN "have worked together in the past" on various projects. She added that Steele and Sharpton hope to continue the tradition in the future, for the benefit of voters and the political process.

Other SCLC registration drives are expected to be held at local churches in the coming months. For more information, visit www.sclchenry.org.