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Saturday, April 19th, 2014

Record Turnout Already Among Black Voters in Georgia

Though some observers have concluded that President Obama’s supporters are lacking in enthusiasm compared to 2008, voting numbers coming out of Georgia starkly dispute that conclusion: more than 250,000 black voters in Georgia have already cast ballots—the highest participation rate ever recorded by the secretary of state’s office.

State elections officials report that 780,545 Georgians had already voted in the presidential contest as of Friday and 33 percent were black. In 2008, African Americans represented just 30 percent of the full electorate in Georgia, which was a historic high. If the percentage holds this year, it will be recorded as the single largest black voter turnout event in state history.

This would bode extremely well for President Obama across the country, indicating that there’s been no diminution in enthusiasm for Obama among his supporters—and in fact there might have been an increase.

The 780,545 early voters this time is far lower than the 2 million voters who had already cast early ballots in 2008, but a rise in the black voting percentage is good news for the president. It might also indicate that the concerns about how the change in voter ID laws would affect African Americans may not be justified.

A study by researchers at the University of Chicago and Washington University in St. Louis had warned that as many as 73,000 black Georgians under age 30 may be barred from the ballot box next month because of voter ID laws. But the turnout by black voters in this election might provide Republicans with evidence that the new laws didn’t stifle black turnout—though if the result is a win for Obama, the Republicans may be in no mood to do much crowing about the finding.

But across the country, there are many different measures being used to reduce turnout.

In Arizona, for example, a voters’ guide written in Spanish published the wrong date for Election Day. In Oneida County, N.Y., the president’s name was misspelled on the ballot. In Virginia, a man was arrested and charged in connection with the dumping of a stack of Democratic voter registration forms in a trash bin behind a local store in Harrisonburg.

In Florida, some voters have received phony letters telling them they are ineligible to vote, while other voters received telephone calls telling them they did not have to leave their homes but could vote by phone on the spot.

Meanwhile, ballots in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, which includes the city of Cleveland, voters complained that GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s name was at the top of the ballot, but President Obama’s name was listed at the bottom, following a long list of minor party candidates.

While some of these problems may not have been intended to intimidate voters, if people feel that they were, it could still discourage them from exercising their right to vote.

About Nick Chiles

Nick Chiles is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author. He has written or co-written 12 books and won over a dozen major journalism awards during a journalism career that brought him to the Dallas Morning News, the Star-Ledger of New Jersey and New York Newsday, in addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief of Odyssey Couleur travel magazine.

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