The sense of urgency over the Black vote in the upcoming mid-term elections is mounting. Black congressional leaders are feverishly urging black voters to turn out strong on November 4th, saying that Democrats could lose multiple elections across the country and Republicans could take control of the U.S. Senate, if African Americans don’t pack the polls. Two weeks before the mid-term elections, there’s a lot at stake: Republicans already control the House and there is a strong chance that the GOP could also take over the Senate.
That means for the next two years Republicans can block President Barack Obama’s legislative agenda, stalling social programs and health care reforms designed to uplift African-Americans and people of color. African-Americans could help swing critical elections in Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina and Arkansas where Democratic candidates are vulnerable — but only if they turn out in large numbers. “Anybody who looks at the data realizes that if the black vote, and the brown vote, doesn’t turn out, we can’t win. It’s just that simple,” Rep. Marcia L. Fudge of Ohio, the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, told The New York Times. “If we don’t turn out, we cannot hold the Senate.”
President Obama cast his ballot Monday in Chicago where he worked to rally Democrats to turn out for Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and other Democrats in the midterm elections. “I love voting. Everybody in Illinois: early vote,” he said at his neighborhood polling place. “This is the most important office in a democracy, the office of citizen,” Obama said. Later, at Chicago State University, a predominantly Black college on the South Side of Chicago, Obama said: “Republicans have been trying to make it harder for folks to vote, but the truth of the matter is, so often we disempower ourselves.”
Obama may be right. To underscore the sense of urgency, Cornell Belcher, a Black Democratic pollster, sent a confidential memo to Democratic leaders in which he predicted “crushing Democratic losses across the country,” if Black voters don’t turn out in record numbers, according to The New York Times. And, most troubling, Belcher wrote, many African-Americans are not engaged in the political process. Belcher and Black Democratic leaders are worried that because President Obama is not on the ballot and it’s a non-presidential election year, there is no sense of urgency among Black voters. Democrats are concerned that the euphoria from Obama’s historic election in 2008 – where a record number of Black voters turned out – will never be repeated.
It’s a valid concern. Only 43 percent of black voters went to polls in 2010, far short of the 66 percent that voted in 2012 when Obama was running for re-election. “African-American surge voters came out in force in 2008 and 2012, but they are not well positioned to do so again in 2014,” Belcher wrote in the memo, dated Oct. 1.“In fact, over half aren’t even sure when the midterm elections are taking place.”
Fudge and members of the Congressional Black Caucus are urging black folks to vote early. Most states have a method for any eligible voter to cast a ballot before Election Day, either during the early voting period or by requesting an absentee ballot. In 14 states, early voting is not available and an excuse is required to request an absentee ballot.
States offer three ways for voters to cast a ballot before Election Day:
Early Voting: In 33 states and the District of Columbia, any qualified voter may cast a ballot in person during a designated period prior to Election Day. No excuse or justification is required.
Absentee Voting: All states will mail an absentee ballot to certain voters who request one. The voter may return the ballot by mail or in person. In 20 states, an excuse is required, while 27 states and the District of Columbia permit any qualified voter to vote absentee without offering an excuse. Some states offer a permanent absentee ballot list: once a voter asks to be added to the list, s/he will automatically receive an absentee ballot for all future elections.
Mail Voting: A ballot is automatically mailed to every eligible voter (no request or application is necessary), and the state does not use traditional precinct poll sites that offer in-person voting on Election Day. Three states use mail voting.
In an effort to boost the Black vote in November, Congressional Black Caucus and political strategist Donna Brazile announced a national Get-Out-The-Vote campaign that will involve thousands of black churches and more than 40,000 pastors from coast to coast.
“The African-American vote is crucial for the Democratic successes all across the country,” says Brazile, vice chair of Voter Registration and Participation for the Democratic National Committee, said during a recent press conference. By working with thousands of churches across the country, Democrats said the voter turnout campaign hopes to reach 12 million people before the November 4 elections.
And what if Black voters don’t show up at the polls in strong numbers next month?
“We’re in trouble,” Fudge said. “They will make our lives miserable for the next two years.”
Will you vote on November 4th?