Thursday, December 27, 2012

African American Voter Turnout Likely Topped Anglo Voters

by Michael Handley

The rate of nationwide African American voter turnout remained high in 2012 and, for the first time, may have topped the rate for Anglo turnout, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.

In 2008, the rate of African American voter turnout almost equaled that of Anglos, continuing a trend of a steady increase in African American turnout rates that began in 1996. This year, African American turnout seems very likely to have exceeded the Anglo level voting, partly because Anglo turnout appears to have dropped slightly.

Republicans took over swing state state legislatures as part of the 2010 mid-term tea party wave election. Those Republican-majority legislatures immediately adopted American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, model legislation designed to limit minority voter access to the polling booth by curtailing early voting days, voter registration activities and acceptable voter identification documents.

Many African American leaders said those laws would disproportionately hurt elderly, poor and minority voters and accused Republicans of running a campaign of “voter suppression.”

Republicans said those new laws were needed to combat voter fraud. In a few states, Republican legislative leaders explicitly said they hoped the measures would hurt Democratic candidates or reduce the “urban” vote.  ("Florida Republicans Admit Voter Suppression Agenda" and "The GOP’s Crime Against Voters")

Courts blocked some of those laws, and in the end Republican attempts to suppress minority voters may have backfired as African American organizations used “voter suppression” as a rallying cry to turn out the vote. The perception that Republicans were attempting to disenfranchise their vote strongly motivated many African Americans to get out the vote.

Overall, about 60% of the Americans eligible to vote (Voting Age Persons who are non-felon citizens) actually voted in 2012, according to data posted by Michael McDonald of George Mason University. According to McDonald's data, 2012 voter turnout is about three points below 2008 turnout, with much of the decline coming among Anglo voters. 

The number of voters from minority groups rose in the November 2012 election, a key factor in President Obama’s reelection. But those numbers went up for disparate reasons. Among Latinos and Asians, population growth has steadily driven up the number of voters. Turnout rates also have gone up, but remain significantly lower than those of the population as a whole.

The nation’s African American population, by contrast, has remained steady, but the number of African American voters has continued to go up because of increasing turnout rates.  African Americans make up about 12% of the U.S. population, but were 13% of the voter turnout, according to the 2012 election day Edison Research for the National Election Pool exit poll of more than 26,000 voters conducted for a consortium of major media organizations.

Anglo Americans made up about 71% of the voter-eligible population and 72% of the turnout, the exit poll indicated.

The large African American turnout was critical to Obama’s victory in several swing states, Ohio, in particular, according to a recent analysis by the Center for American Progress.

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