Some barriers to voting that people of color experience in the US include felon disenfranchisement, vote suppression due to voting inactivity, and lack of trust in mail ballots. According to recent surveys and research, black Americans could largely influence the 2020 elections in this country. More information regarding voting barriers and the influence of black Americans in the upcoming US elections is provided below.
Black Americans — Barriers to Voting
1. Felony Convictions
- About 4.7 million American convicted felons have no right to vote. Forty-eight states implement felon disenfranchisement, but Iowa, Kentucky, and Virginia “disenfranchise people for life.” This felon disenfranchisement results in one in 13 African Americans losing their right to vote, compared with one in 56 non-black voters.
- Felony disenfranchisement laws affect Black people the most as they often experience “harsher sentences than white people for the same offenses.”
- In 2018, Florida amended the state’s constitution to restore voting rights to U.S. citizens with prior felony convictions, resulting in 1 in 5 Black residents given back their right to vote. However, in 2019, Republican legislators in Tallahassee imposed new financial restrictions for individuals with prior felony convictions to vote.
2. Vote Suppression due to Inactivity
- Failing to vote in recent elections is one of the “most common excuses for purging voter rolls.” Also, it has been seen that states conduct these decisions using inaccurate data and prevent people who don’t fall under this category to vote.
- In 2018, the US Supreme Court ruled in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, where states are permitted to purge American voters who skipped previous elections. The ruling resulted in the purging of 846,000 Black voters in Ohio who reported “infrequent voting over a six-year period.” The court’s decision could prevent millions of black Americans to vote.
3. Lack of Trust in Mail Ballots
- The Democratic Party is promoting mail-in voting amidst the coronavirus pandemic and the need of voting more safely. However, black Americans do not trust mail ballots and prefer to vote in person as they fear their votes might get lost or rejected. In 2018, only 11% of black Americans voted by mail.
- If in-person voting is restricted and polling stations are closed due to Coronavirus concerns, many Black Americans will likely abstain from voting.
4. Registrations on Hold
- In 2018, Atlanta reported thousands of voter registrations being on hold. People on the list of “on hold” registrations were predominantly black and likely did not know their registrations were being held up.
- Rian Kemp, the Republican candidate, was said to be systematically suppressing votes and tilting the election, mainly affecting black and minority voters. From over 50,000 voter registrations on hold, 70% of were from black American voters.
How Black Americans will Contribute to the 2020 Elections
- Many black Americans are more interested in the next 2020 presidential, compared to 2016, according to a recent study. These results are driven by the desire to remove Donald Trump from office. It is estimated that 30 million black Americans will be eligible to vote in 2020.
- It is expected that Joe Biden will win “at least 9 in 10” black voters who have voted in favor of Democrats in recent elections. According to the Wall Street Journal and NBC News, 70% of black men under 50 support Biden, which is less compared to black women (92%).
- Black women’s votes are important as there are fewer “eligible male voters” across the country. Also, black women sometimes can “swing results” in favor of the candidate who best addresses their issues. About 98% of black women voted for Senator Doug Jones in Alabama’s 2017 elections, resulting in Doug Jone’s triumph. In 2020, black women may again influence the elections across Southern and Midwestern regions.
- Nonvoting black residents in key locations could swing elections in 2020. Geographic concentrations of black Americans exist in cities like Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando, Fayetteville, and Winston-Salem, where majority-black census neighborhoods account for a great percentage of the black population. According to recent research, the most effective voter-turnout technique would be person-to-person contact from a family member, friend, or neighbor within these neighborhoods, which most of the times are ignored because of their “low turnout scores.”
- Black Americans make up nearly 24% of the Democratic primary electorate, which is more beneficial in South Carolina and other early voting states (Georgia, Alabama, and Virginia), where black voters represent two-thirds of primary voters. Black voters can also be decisive in the ultimate winner as they have been “their most loyal constituency.”
- The number of black Americans in North Carolina is growing and could help determine the outcome of the presidential election. Alongside millennials and unmarried women, black Americans represent 61.4% of eligible voters in this state.
- According to a recent poll, 63% of black Americans agree that they would vote for Biden in the general election, while 8% would vote for Trump. These results are driven in part by the black greater COVID-19 death rates compared to whites in the South and major cities like Detroit, Chicago, and Los Angeles.