Turnout is anticipated to be low for the upcoming November elections, and voter interest has been dropping since June; NBC’s political analysts have called it the “great American tune out.” But generalizing about an apathetic electorate ignores one key group of voters whose participation in recent years has been on the rise: black women.
That’s the demographic often called the most reliable progressive voting bloc. From the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections to last year’s gubernatorial race in Virginia, black women can be counted on to show up at the polls. In 2012, young black women had the highest voter turnout of all voters ages 18 to 29. Black women’s participation that year contributed to the turnout rate of black voters surpassing that of whites voters for the first time ever.
A handful of organizations are intent on keeping black women’s political participation high. ColorOfChange.org, an online civil rights advocacy organization, has launched a new campaign urging its base—specifically black women—to turn out. “The hope is that not only will we continue to see this upward trend in participation, but that black women will lead their families to the polls as well,” Arisha Hatch, the organization’s managing director of campaigns, told me. They’re focusing on issues broader than just casting a ballot, like calling for a debate in the Ohio Secretary of State race and fighting disenfranchisement in Georgia, where 40,000 voter registration applications have turned up missing. Hatch said ColorOfChange will facilitate conversations on Twitter during Thursday night Scandal broadcasts in an effort to meet a critical mass of black women where they are in the weeks before the election.
The Detroit-area group Mothering Justice is taking a similar approach. On Tuesday night, it will hold a conference call for black mothers about the power of their voices in the midterms. Danielle Atkinson, the group’s director, said the message is especially important in Michigan, where about half the state’s black residents live under emergency management and are governed by state-appointed officials.