Blacks must not cede vital role in elections
The Kansas City Star
African Americans should never doubt their voting strength or why racist efforts since the beginning of this nation have never tired of trying to keep them from the polls.
Those were the findings of a National Urban League report released last week. The analysis of the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections leaves no doubt that black voters played a key role in sending Barack Obama to the White House as the country’s first African American president.
The report cites “the long journey in the expansion of the right and the ability to vote in the United States” from the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution after the Civil War to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But African Americans’ ballot box power troubles some.
“Efforts by several states to introduce voter identification requirements and limitations on early and postal voting are casting doubts on whether the diverse electorate of 2008 will be maintained, let alone expanded,” the report said. “The stability and legitimacy of the republican form of government depends more on achieving that expansion of the electoral franchise than anything else.
“This makes 2012 a crucial election.”
The pivotal black vote has to happen again.
“The genuine efforts by the campaigns of President Barack Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney to reach out to African Americans and speak to their concerns is proof that those seeking office are aware of this potential,” the Urban League report said.
It wasn’t a fluke that Romney addressed the NAACP convention this month in Houston. Sure he was booed, saying he’d spike the Affordable Care Act.
But Romney gained respect by speaking to the oldest and largest civil rights group, unlike George W. Bush, who declined invitations during most of his presidency, and Ross Perot, who in 1992 referred to blacks at the NAACP as “you people.”
Without a doubt Republicans are tracking blacks’ growing electorial strength. They know that 90 percent of blacks voted for Obama in 2008. But the Urban League report shows he will need every one of those ballots and more to win in November.
The report said that if the African American registration rate rises 8 percentage points from 2008 to 78.3 percent and the turnout is equal to four years ago, then an additional 3 million African Americans will cast ballots in the presidential election. The black registration rate in 2008 was almost 4 points below the white rate and 1 point below the white turnout rate.
However, “when African Americans were registered they were the most likely to vote in 2008 — 92.8 percent of registered African Americans, 90 percent of registered whites and 84 percent of registered Hispanics voted in 2008,” the report said. There was an “extraordinary growth” in black voters. The number grew by 16 percent from 2004 to 2008, adding 2.4 million more black voters. That was 2 times the rate of growth in the black population over age 18.
“The African American voter turnout rate in 2008 was 64.7 percent — the highest African American voter turnout rate for any national election and the narrowest gap with whites at -1.4 points,” the report said. For people who think apathy kept young African Americans from voting, think again.
Blacks ages 18 to 44 had a higher voter turnout than their white counterparts. “This was the first time any race/ethnic group had surpassed white turnout,” the report noted.
Expect that to happen more.
But the report also said if black voter turnout only reached the 2004 level of 60 percent then Obama will lose North Carolina and have difficulty moving Ohio and Virginia into his “win” column. That could send Romney to the White House.
It’s also why swing states are bombarded with political ads. Missouri and Kansas won’t get them because they’re viewed as Romney’s.
Romney and Obama will campaign where the growth in minority voters made a difference in 2008. Meanwhile, some will do their best to scapegoat minorities and keep them from the polls.
Race has always mattered in America. The numbers now show it will determine who the next president will be.
To reach Lewis W. Diuguid, call 816-234-4723 or send email to Ldiuguid@kcstar.com.