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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Closing the Black Voter Turnout Gap

As the Democrats’ most supportive electoral demographic, African Americans have voted close to 90 percent Democratic in recent elections. But the benefit to the Democrats is offset to some extent by the lower turnout rate of African Americans.
Pollster.com‘s Mark Blumenthal reported recently that data compiled by Michael McDonald indicated a non-Hispanic white voter turnout rate of 51.6 percent in 2006, compared to 41.2 percent for Black Non-Hispanic and 32.3 for Hispanic respondents.
However, all groups “over-report” their voting. And a study by Benjamin J. Deufel and Orit Kadar “Race and Turnout in U.S. Elections: Exposing Hidden Effects” found that “African Americans turned out almost 20 percent less than whites in the 1992 and 1996 Presidential elections, almost double what use of self-reported data indicates.”
Even with a 10 to 20 percent lower turnout, African American voters have provided the margin of victory for the Democrats in a number of important elections in recent years. Imagine how Dems could benefit if the gap could be halved.
It’s not hard to imagine a package of initiatives that could help reduce or eliminate the gap. More African American and Hispanic Democratic candidates is an obvious goal that could help close the gap. Certainly Democrats should launch a full-court press to eradicate “caging” and other so-called ‘ballot security’ initiatives used by the GOP to obstruct Black voters.
The Democratic Party should organize an all-out campaign against felon disenfranchisement laws, which have a devastating effect on the African American turnout in states that still deny voting rights to Black citizens who have been convicted of felonies, some even after they have served their time. The Party could also make a point of training candidates of all races to better understand the legislative and policy concerns of Black voters and ways to more effectively share their message with the Black community. Most importantly, Democrats should solicit the ideas of African American and Latino community grass roots activists and leaders for more effective street-level voter education, registration and GOTV programs to increase turnout.
There must be a Party-wide commitment that such a large gap in voter turnout between voters of different races is no longer acceptable. Such a commitment would not only help Democrats — it would strengthen our democracy.

One comment on “Closing the Black Voter Turnout Gap

  1. Lucky Lanny on

    I see. Strengthen our democracy by electing Democrats. Gee, why didn’t I think of that?
    I just came across your posting while searching for information on black voting records. After reading your message, I cannot help but respond.
    fel-o-ny: a: a grave crime formerly differing from a misdemeanor under English common law by involving forfeiture in addition to any other punishment b: A grave crime declared to be a felony by the common law or by statute regardless of the punishment actually imposed c: a crime declared a felony by stature because of
    the punishment imposed d: a crime for which the punishment in federal law MAY BE DEATH OF IMPRISONMENT FOR MORE THAN ONE YEAR
    I noticed that you make no provisions for those convicted of “capital crimes (item ‘d’ above).”
    I guess after we get the vote for felons we need to get capital criminals out of prisons and off of death rows so they, too, can vote, especially since I’m sure there are also many more black capital criminals than white capital criminals in southern prisons.
    Allow me to offer you an alternative.
    Assuming there are more white felons than black felons in most areas of the north, wouldn’t it make a lot more sense to campaign in the North to pass felon election laws to KEEP THEM FROM VOTING? Why should we campaign against laws that
    take civil rights away from those who would do harm to the rest of us?
    You probably will not be interested in my idea, because that would be a constructive use of voting laws, so I will offer you one more alternative.
    If you want a really massive voter turnout, why not just resurrect the dead, like they do in Chicago?


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