Monday, June 23, 2008

Black voter turnout key to winning Florida

Can Barack Obama win the off-and-on red state of Florida? To paraphrase the candidate, "yes he can." But he'll need record black voter turnout (even higher than the high water marks of 1996 and 2000) to get it done. This year, he may get it (hat tip to Marlon Hill). First, some history:
About 12 percent of the Florida electorate is black, but black turnout is inconsistent. In 2000, when Al Gore barely lost the state and the White House, black voters accounted for 15 percent of the overall vote. In 2004, when John Kerry lost Florida by 5 percentage points, that number was 12 percent.

Despite a massive mobilization effort by political groups working independently of the Kerry-Edwards campaign but in hopes of helping the ticket, black turnout in Florida was just 61 percent. Overall turnout was 74 percent.
I remember it well -- I was working for one of those groups... and now the bottom line:
Florida is just starting to get to know Obama, as he and Hillary Rodham Clinton avoided campaigning in the state's unsanctioned Jan. 29 primary. But in the 16 contested Democratic primaries with significant black populations, the black turnout jumped 115 percent. Overwhelmingly, those votes went to Obama.

"I have no doubt he will significantly increase black turnout across the country. It was 60 percent in 2004, and I would expect it to be 72 percent this year," said David Bositis of the Joint Center for Political and Economic studies, one of the country's foremost experts on black voting trends.

"In most cases, that's not necessarily enough for him to carry a state, but Florida is one of those places that a big black turnout certainly has the potential to put him over the top," said Bositis, putting Virginia and North Carolina in the same category.

That alone can't deliver Florida, but if Obama continues to run strong or competitively among Hispanic and independent voters, black turnout could give him a pivotal edge.
Meanwhile, Obama could also be helped, inadvertently, by eager McCain suitor Charlie Crist, who made good on a campaign promise to ease the transition of former felons to full membership in civic society, including restoring the right to vote (or at least making the process a little simpler.) That change alone could in theory put nearly 950,000 ex-felons (and people mistaken for felons by Kathy Harris' Dickensian system,) back on the rolls, or 9 percent of the state's voting age population (Florida has more disenfranchised felons than any other state, and surprise, surprise, a disproportionate number of them are African-American, Latino or lower income white. And though these are voters who haven't been able to participate, most researchers believe that the disenfranchised would overwhelmingly vote Democrat.) If the Obama campaign and other groups can get to these voters -- even half of them would erase George W. Bush's 380,000 vote margin over John Kerry in 2004.

Sidebar: I can attest anecdotally that at nearly every event we did in the black community at my prior radio station, we had people coming up to us or calling in to ask how they could get their rights restored. From the jobs standpoint, as well as from a voter participation standpoint, this is a very big deal...


Larry Thorson said...

I'll second Joy's anecdotal evidence pointing to a lot of interest in voting among those who are disenfranchised by that felon business. This cuts across all ethnic groups, for all have been clobbered by the "war on drugs." Talk to people in the neighborhood streets in South Beach and one in three or four is ineligible to vote because of felon rights. One of my North Beach neighbors, a young woman, declared, "It's so easy to get in trouble in this country." And she was from Colombia.

Anonymous said...

Although many black brothers have fallen prey to drugs and many are imprisoned,we still have a significant number who are not.Its my opinion that our black churches are not active enough in sending out the message to our people.Blacks in south Florida ,regardless of where they come from,have surrendered their basic right to vote.Black Americans are almost like foreigners in their own land.It is time for the black communities to unite.This unity should involve blacks and minorities accross the board. Its is time for blacks to resist having to live totally by the way others would have us live that being as second class citizens. As it relates to the vote,its my opinion that if one black person can convince ten others we could make an appreciable dent in the power structure that exists in Miami Dade. If the blacks and other minorities can effectively embark on such a mission,it is a concept that would certainly be a model accross this nation. Lets tear down the walls that separarte West India minorities from black Americans.The black man in America was brought here in the same manner that blacks got to the islands''in chains''We as a people need to adopt a long range plan,one that in some way secure the future of our children and provide a legacy from which they can's time for us to cease being spsctators and become apart of the game.

Larry Thorson said...

Yes, let's get out and convince 10 others to register and to vote. There's a structure rising to help do this, and it's easy to find at