There are many stories circulating regarding low Black-voter turnout in the 2016 Presidential race. The stories cite an “enthusiasm gap.” They suggest Black people have been discouraged by the negativity of the campaign. They imply apathy to the candidates or a lack of interest. They offer many reasons except for the one we all know to be true. Voter suppression.
Voter suppression is not new. It began from the moment Blacks got the right to vote. Over the years we’ve seen literacy tests, poll taxes, limited access to polls, inability to register, lynchings and murders. Some of those still exist.
The same day the Supreme Court gutted enforcement of the Voter Rights Act of 1964. Texas, North Carolina, Alabama and others began implementing laws that could have never been passed if pre-clearance still existed. Florida had long been removing Black and Hispanic voters from the rolls. Early voting in many places has been reduced. In North Carolina, early voting locations were reduced from 16 to 1 in the Blackest County in the State. In Alabama, in conjunction with a new Voter ID Law, they reduced the locations in several predominantly Black Counties to one per County. Back in North Carolina, a Clerk associated with a group whose purpose is to suppress votes got her County to remove voters from the rolls if a mailing from her group was returned to sender.
In Indiana, 45,000 Voter Registrations have been impounded by the State Police. The group registering voters complied with a State law requiring them to turn in all applications including those that are incomplete or have errors. Mike Pence shouts “Fraud” but none has been documented. Trump and Pence have repeated often from the stump their coordination with the RNC to institute poll watchers. When dragged into court to see if the RNC was in violation of a Consent Decree. Issued the last time the RNC used that tactic to suppress votes in New Jersey. The RNC denied any coordination with the Trump campaign making clear that one of them is lying.
Donald Trump has told his supporters to literally watch minority voters in Philadelphia, St. Louis, Chicago and elsewhere. Leaving no doubt who he intended to target. He said, “You know what I mean” and indeed his supporters did.
So now we get reports of low turnout among Black voters. In some cases it’s not an apples to apples comparison against 2012 because of limited access to Early Voting now that didn’t exist then. There is an increase in Hispanic voting but it reflects an increase vs a historically low participation rate. Reworded, it was easier for Hispanics to show an increase because they started from a much lower place.
There is evidence in North Carolina that in the County where only one location was initially available, Black voting was reduced vs the same time period by 85%. When additional locations opened up, Black voting increased dramatically and they are almost caught up. This coming weekend will see pushes from Black churches and other organizations to get people out to vote. I suspect one of two things is true:
- Black voters will come out in their traditional high numbers because voting is what we do. The cost was too high in blood to simply cede the right.
- The cumulative effect of the Voter Suppression that has been coordinated over a period of years has finally worked to a degree and reduced minority voting.
The answer to low turnout if it comes to pass is not to blame Black voters. If it’s the case, let’s give credit where it’s due. The Republican Party, the RNC, the Supreme Court, the Right Wing Media and the rest of us who let it stand. The answer is a Democratic President and Senate. A Supreme Court that will enforce laws (and get rid of Citizens United along the way). A Congress that will take voting rights seriously and put American citizens ahead of Party. We can start making that happen on Tuesday. Whatever the obstacles we must vote; as if our future depends on it because it does.
Feature Photo: indie.com