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Obama won the black vote in 2008 by a landslide with 95% of their votes. However, voter turnout was also higher in 2008 than it is expected to be this year. In 2008 two million more African-Americans showed up to the polls than in 2004, but those numbers could be much lower for 2012. In 2008 there was a turnout of 87% from the black community as opposed to 76% who claim that they will be going this year according to a Gallup Poll.
“He’s got to worry about turnout. [Obama] doesn’t have to worry about losing votes to Mitt Romney. He has to worry about African-Americans not showing up in the record numbers that showed up in 2008,” claims Larry Sabato, Director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
Currently the Democrats are counting on the black vote to help tip the scales on several swing states in the election. These swing states include Virginia (with 20% of the voting population African-American), Florida (13%), Ohio (11%), and North Carolina (23%). In 2008 the black vote was key in Obama winning North Carolina and Virginia.
“In 2008, he [Obama] won North Carolina by about 14,000 votes,” Bill Randall, a black Republican and former Congressman stated. However he also claims that “support is waning… policies are not doing things that are going to spur economic growth.” And economic growth is important.
Currently 14.4% of African-Americans are unemployed versus the about 8% unemployment nationwide. This gap will significantly harm the President’s chances of garnering more voter turnout and support from the black community. Some have also claimed that the President is taking the black vote for granted, citing his absence at the NAACP conference as evidence. Frederick Harris, a professor of Political Science at Columbia University, stated that Obama “can afford to take the black voters for granted.”
Obama did send a pre-taped video addressing the NAACP stating “I stand on your shoulders” acknowledging their support and work. However this video did not prevent Romney from including a dig at Obama’s absence. “We have to make our case to every voter. We don’t count anybody out, and we sure don’t make a habit of presuming anyone’s support. Support is asked for and earned, and that’s why I’m here today.”
Benjamin Todd Jealous, President of the NAACP said that “if [Romney is] going to pick up more support in the black community he has to send a message that he’s prepared to lead on issues that we care about.”
One of these issues is voting rights. Jealous claims, “we are living through the greatest wave of legislative assaults on voting rights in more than a century. In the past year, more states have passed more laws pushing more voters out of the ballot box than at any time since the rise of Jim Crow.”
Romney has already previously announced his support for voter ID cards and other stricter voting laws. “I support efforts to say, look, we want people to come in and make sure they’re a citizen of the United States and that they haven’t voted multiple times and they’re not voting for someone who’s passed away.”
The Houston NAACP Conference that Romney attended was organized to discuss voter disenfranchisement including the new law in Texas that is expected to remove 600,000 people from being able to vote, most of them from minorities. According to USA Today the Texas law would also allow concealed handgun licenses to be used as a form of identification but not Student ID cards. Attorney General Eric Holder, who has been working to fight many of these new restrictive laws, claims that 25% of black voters do not have an ID card as opposed to only 8% of whites.
Pennsylvania has also introduced stricter voter ID laws that block 9% of the state’s residents from voting. More than 18% of registered voters in Philadelphia do not have an ID and the majority of African-Americans in Philadelphia also lack identification.
Hilary Shelton, Senior Vice President of the NAACP, has stated, “when proponents of these measures say this is a tool to prevent voter fraud, they’re missing the point. Most of the corruption that occurs is by polling officials – those who are put in place to protect and administer process. It’s not people pretending to be someone they are not.”
According to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law Voter Fraud by individuals is exceptionally rare. Instead, most voter fraud issues are conducted by those running the polling places.