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July 25th, 2012

Black voters: the hidden swing vote in 2012

Marc Morial
“People who don’t vote have no line of credit with people who are elected and thus pose no threat to those who act against our interests.”

- Marian Wright Edelman

The list of upcoming 2012 swing states - states where neither presidential candidate currently has a clear majority - includes Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, Nevada, Iowa, Virginia, North Carolina and Colorado. Whichever candidate carries these “battleground” states will likely win the election. That is why the two nominees are making a lot of campaign stops and targeting millions of advertising dollars in these states in order to bring undecided voters to their side. But according to a new report released this week by the National Urban League Policy Institute, we need to add another state to this list - the State of Black America.

That’s right, just as in 2008, when African American voters went to the polls in record numbers and were a deciding factor in the election of Barack Obama, the Black vote could again tip the scales either way in 2012 depending on how many register and turn out to vote. 

The National Urban League’s report, “The Hidden Swing Voters: Impact of African Americans in 2012” reveals that due to a significant increase in voting, African Americans tipped the 2008 presidential election outcome in the swing states of North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana and Florida. For example, the additional African Americans who voted in North Carolina in 2008 compared to 2004 were nearly nine times the margin of victory in North Carolina - an additional 127,000 African Americans voted and the margin of victory was 14,177.  Conversely, our report shows that if African American voter turnout falls back to the 2004 rate of 60% as opposed to the record 2012 rate of 64.7%, then the President will have difficulty repeating his 2008 victories in the critical swing states of North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.

Voter registration will also be a critical factor in this upcoming presidential election. African American registration lagged turnout in 2008, but when registered, African Americans were the most likely to vote. Our report shows that if overall African American registration rises to 78.3% (the 2008 African American rate in Maryland), up from the 2008 rate of 69.7%, and turnout is as it was four years ago, an estimated additional 3 million African Americans will vote. That could have a huge impact on the outcome of the presidential election.

The National Urban League’s report also confirms the potential voting power to be found in Black America. The 2008 election showed that, for the first time, Blacks were at the table in he democratic process, with voting turnout nearly equal to and, in some instances, surpassing, Whites. This upcoming election presents an opportunity for Blacks to secure their seat at the table, once again playing a major role in the outcome of the presidential race and show that we have a say in who will be running this country for the next four years.

That is exactly the purpose of the National Urban League’s “Occupy the Vote” campaign. In addition to fighting back against those who would deny any citizen the right to vote, we are issuing a clarion call to reawaken the Hidden Swing Voters in the State of Black America.

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