Two weeks before Election Day, black Americans have voted in striking numbers, helping to create historic levels of early voting, as postal voting has flooded polling stations and people have endured huge lines to vote in person across the country.
In interviews in 10 states where early voting is underway, black voters said this year’s presidential election is the most important in their lifetime – some call it more consistent than 2008, when those old enough went to the polls in record numbers. to make Barack Obama the country̵
They spoke of an urgent sense of protection for the nation’s democracy and their role in what they believe another Trump term would erode without repair. Many said they see the president as a racist who cannot bring himself to reject white supremacy or this year’s wave of police killings of unarmed black Americans, and they believe the country is less secure for themselves and their families.
Again and again, black Americans described their vote this year as much more than a choice between two presidential candidates, but as an urgent stance in the long struggle against racial injustice in America, as this year’s events have made clear, is not over yet.
“We should not be where we are in 2020,” said Tasha Grant, 44, a nurse who voted in Charlotte on Thursday, hoping her vote for the Democratic candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden, will ensure her children growing up in a safer and more acceptable world.
“Especially my son,” she said. “It does not matter if he is smart and an ‘A’ student. People still see him as a black man. ”
Turnout in states with available data shows an increase in black turnout in the first few days of personal voting. In North Carolina, which began voting early Thursday, black voters accounted for more than 30 percent of turnout on the first day – well above their 23 percent share totaled in 2016. In Georgia, black voters accounted for approx. 32 percent of mail votes and in-person votes cast until Thursday, so far that they exceed their total share of voters in 2016.
The pattern is similar in American cities with large black populations. In the counties that include Milwaukee and Detroit, for example, the approximately 283,000 in total votes cast, it corresponds to almost a quarter of these counties’ total turnout four years ago. A drop in votes for Democrat Hillary Clinton in these cities in 2016 compared to Obama’s voting rights in 2008 and 2012 contributed to Trump’s overall victory after carrying Wisconsin and Michigan by small margins.
In the Washington Post-ABC News national polls conducted in late September and early October, Biden leads Trump by 92 percent to 8 percent among black likely voters. In addition, three Washington Post-ABC polls since August found, on average, that 86 percent of registered black voters are either sure of voting or have already voted, up from 80 percent in 2016.
In some parts of the country, the Black Lives Matter movement has led into the polling booth. Last week, dozens of people in Louisville marched against police shooting the death of Breonna Taylor, from a city park to a basketball arena that serves as a place for early voting.
They shouted: “This is what democracy looks like! You – can not – stop – the revolution! ”
Another voter at the arena, Rhonne Green, 39, said he had been at the Taylor protests from the start and decided to vote early because “it’s time for a change.”
“We’ve been through this for far too long and everyone keeps putting a patch over it or sweeping it under the rug,” Green said after emerging from voting in a T-shirt with the phrase “Stand for black Women. “
Trump’s handling of racial unrest as well as the coronavirus pandemic changed the calculation for black voters by posing real threats to their health and safety, said Morgan Jackson, a Democratic consultant in North Carolina. For some, it turned voting into a life-or-death venture.
“African Americans have said, ‘Enough,'” Jackson said. “Everything Trump has done in the last three and a half years, as wild as it has been, has been a mile away from people. It’s a show you saw on TV. But with these two issues, he has affected your family in your living room and at your kitchen table. ”
During his tenure, Trump has presided over a sweeping U.S. government withdrawing from citizens’ rights, which spokesmen say has threatened decades of progress against voter oppression, housing discrimination and police misconduct.
In recent months, Trump has condemned Black Lives Matter as a “symbol of hatred,” while defending armed white militants in Michigan, right-wing activists waving weapons from pick-up trucks in Portland, Ore., And a white teenager who shot and killed two protesters in Wisconsin.
Trump has also vowed to protect the legacy of Confederate generals as he skips the funeral of the late Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.), A civil rights icon, and retweeted – then deleted – video of a supporter shouting “white power.” He has questioned the eligibility of Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-California), the nation’s first black and Asian American candidate for vice president of a major party; in doing so, he re-animated a version of the false “birther” claim that he used to suggest that Obama may not have been born in the United States.
As a result, Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher said Trump is much more than a threat to black Americans’ right to equality under the law; he is a threat to their very existence.
“There is no group of Americans who have historically had more influence on this democratic experiment than the black person in the United States of America,” Belcher said. “Black people literally vote as their lives depend on it.”
Trump has denied being a racist, declaring on several occasions that he has done more for black Americans than any president since Abraham Lincoln signed the liberation proclamation. As examples, Trump presents the pre-pandemic fall in unemployment among black Americans as well as his support for the reform of sentences to reduce the prison term for nonviolent offenders.
Trump campaign officials have also repeatedly said they win a larger share of the black vote than former Republican nominees, with surrogates, including retired professional football player Herschel Walker, appearing in ads in cities with significant minority populations like Detroit, Philadelphia, Raleigh. , Atlanta, Jacksonville and Savannah.
“President Trump has a real record of results for the black community,” said senior Trump campaign adviser Katrina Pierson. “On the other hand, Joe Biden overlooked stagnant wage growth and anemic job creation. He also authored legislation that imprisoned entire generations of black Americans for nonviolent offenses. In fact, President Trump is a far better choice for black Americans, and it’s not even a close call. ”
Campaign officials also said the increase in early voting so far will be below what Democrats need to compensate for enthusiasm for Trump on election day, when most Republicans have said they will vote.
“It takes work to get these ballots filled out and returned,” Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien told reporters at a conference call last week. “This is the reason why a basic game means something. . . and Joe Biden does not have one. ”
So far, however, states have registered record levels of voting both via mail and in person with data showing that democratic voters have controlled much of the turnout.
As of Sunday, nearly 28 million Americans had cast their ballots, according to Michael McDonald, a political scientist at the University of Florida. The number, equivalent to more than one-fifth of the total turnout in 2016, suggests that Trump will have to pose a huge democratic advantage on election day.
Said GOP poll Bill McInturff: “What was a modest Democratic advantage in 2016 among early voters has become a chasm in a way no one has ever seen before.”
Yet analysts warned that if narrow results provoke a wave of lawsuits after election day, it could affect voters in color more than white voters.
Research conducted by political scientist Dan Smith at the University of Florida showed that black voters’ postal votes were rejected at higher rates in previous elections. And in North Carolina this fall, election officials have marked the ballots for a disproportionate number of black voters with errors that need to be rectified to count.
So far, this year’s mobilization is on track to compete with 2008, as historic levels of black turnout helped propel Obama to the White House. Since Clinton’s lower performance among black voters in 2016, Democrats have lamented whether a white candidate, including Biden, could ever attract the same level of support as Obama.
Interviews with dozens of black voters, however, suggest that the driving force for many this year is not the Democratic candidate, but the desire to remove the current president; some black voters said they are more motivated to vote against Trump than they should be to vote for Obama.
“I was waiting for this day,” said Connie Neal, who works in health care in Charlotte and voted Thursday. “We need change. We need a new president. As soon as I could do my part, why postpone it? ”
In addition to questions about race, black voters also said in interviews that Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis is a major motivating force. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black Americans are more than twice as likely as whites to be infected with coronavirus, nearly five times more likely to be hospitalized, and twice as likely to die.
Married Latonia and Irie Smith, both 62 and retired postal workers from Fishers, Ind., Said health care was the driving force behind their decision to vote in person on Oct. 6, the first vacant day in their state.
“We have been lucky that we have not been affected so far,” Irie Smith said. “But we never know what fall and winter will bring.”
Many voters who were interviewed while waiting in line in recent days in Atlanta, Houston and Durham, NC said it was important to vote in person at the first opportunity to make a statement about the importance of this election.
They brought lunch for lunch and lawn chairs, wore clothes on Black Lives Matter, and voted for sometimes for the first time ever.
Some also said they were suspicious of the use of the mail – in part because of the fleet of reports this year of delays at the U.S. Postal Service and Trump’s threats to withhold mail financing.
Another strength resonated with others: a wisdom born of decades of overthrowing blacks, to trust that their voice would be spoken if they could not feed it to a scanner themselves.
“Since I was 18, I feel more comfortable this way,” said Alyson Marsalis, 57, a psychologist from Waukegan, Ill. “I have people who were beaten over voting.”
Said Jatona Mitchell, 37, a home nurse who voted near Charlotte last week: “My people are fighting for the right to vote.”
Carole Blount, 60, of Detroit, also a retired postal worker, offered a concise answer to the question why she voted personally. “To get it spoken,” she said.
“My people, my inheritance, were not born with this right and they had to fight,” she said. “I owe them my vote. They fought hard and shed blood and died so I could be here in 2020 to vote. ”
Elise Viebeck, Scott Clement, Emily Guskin, Ted Mellnik and Greg Miller in Washington, Anna Clark in Detroit, Ted Genoways in Omaha, Mark Guarino in Waukegan, Ill., Stephanie Hunt in North Charleston, SC, Pam Kelley in Charlotte, Brittney Martin in Houston, Kevin Williams in Dayton, Ohio, Haisten Willis in Marietta, Ga., Josh Wood in Louisville and Adam Wren in Noblesville, Ind., contributed to this report.