The share of black voter turnout is down in Florida and in North Carolina so far this year, in a troubling sign for Democrats who are counting on African-Americans to turn out and deliver the election again after President Barack Obama won them over and claimed the White House in 2008 and 2012.
The black share of early voters fell to 23 percent throughout the country this year, compared to 28 percent in 2008, The New York Times reported. In a radio broadcast Wednesday, Obama, who had previously called African Americans who are not backing Clinton “a personal insult” to his legacy, urged more black voters to head to the polls.
“I need everybody to understand that everything we’ve done is dependent on being able to pass the baton to somebody who believes in the same things I believe in,” Obama said on the “Tom Joyner Morning Show,” a program with a large following among African-American listeners.
Clinton claimed 85 percent of the support from black likely voters, while 4 percent of African Americans said they would vote for Trump, according to an Oct. 17 CBS News Poll. But in Florida, only 11.7 percent of early voters are African-American so far, down from the 15.9 percent in 2012. In North Carolina, about 22.5 percent of all early votes were cast by black residents, but about 27.3 percent of all early votes four years ago were black.
“We’ve had back-to-back elections in this country of high turnout where black voters have set the pace, and it’s going to be really interesting to see if that continues post-Obama,” Cornell Belcher, a Democratic pollster and the author of “A Black Man in the White House,” told the New York Times.
Black voters represented 23 percent of the entire electorate in 2012, when 93 percent of African Americans voted for Obama compared with the 6 percent who cast ballots for Mitt Romney, according to a Cornell University study.
Tougher voter registration laws recently approved in North Carolina and other southern states might be keeping black voters away from the polls. In Guilford County, North Carolina, where the population was about 34 percent African American in 2015, according to the U.S. Census, the Guilford County Courthouse was the only place for early voters to cast a ballot, compared to there being 16 locations to do so in 2012.
“It’s sickening and disgusting, what is going on,” said the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP chapter, in a briefing Tuesday.