The turnout of African Americans is so key in the upcoming presidential election that just a 5 percent drop in the number who vote could make it much harder for President Obama to get elected, according to a report released today by the National Urban League.
While most election observers expect African Americans to overwhelmingly support the president, the key question is how many African Americans will come out to vote—or be allowed to vote in the wake of a raft of new voter restrictions and voter ID laws that have been imposed since the 2008 election.
“We wanted to point out that turnout makes a difference,” said Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League and former mayor of New Orleans. “And that African American turnout particularly, in a number of states, could make the ultimate difference.”
The Urban League report points out that if the black turnout drops down to the 2004 level—60 percent compared to the 65 percent in 2008—Obama could be in trouble, particularly in swing states like North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia where the margins are expected to be close.
According to Chanelle Hardy, executive director of the National Urban League Policy Institute, their analysis also showed that in 2008 more African Americans between 18 and 25 voted compared with whites of the same age group for the first time.
“That’s just an amazing high water mark for democracy,” she said. “Armed with that information we’re in a strong position to tell each and every African American voter: ‘Your vote does matter.'”
The Urban League sees a direct connection between that high water mark for democracy and a consequential low water mark for democracy—the efforts by Republican-controlled state legislatures across America to institute new measures that will make it harder for people to vote this time. The Center for American Progress said in a report in April that as many as 25 percent of blacks do not possess a valid form of government-issued ID, compared with 11 percent on average for all races.