The Final Countdown to Elections: Will African-Americans Be The Deciding Factor Again?

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By Brittany Hutson

In 2008, voters, especially African Americans, who resonated with Barack Obama’s call for change, exceeded all expectations and moved to elect him into office. According to the Census Bureau, 64.7 percent of Blacks voted in the presidential elections compared to 64.4 percent whites.

The potential outcome of that election almost looked grim until the final count solidified Obama’s place in the White House for the next four years. The political contest is heating up again as Republicans attempt to sway potential voters who are displeased by the president and Congress’ work thus far. And just as in 2008, Black voters are being called on once again.

It’s getting pretty desperate for both sides in the final days leading up to the election. So much so that the Tea Party Nation sent an email to Minnesota voters calling for them to back independent Lynne Torgerson over Democrat Rep. Keith Ellison because of his Muslim religion.

According to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, Republicans are closing in and taking influence over women, Roman Catholics, less affluent Americans and independents, all of whom were groups that supported the president two years ago and Congressional Democrats four years ago.

While the Democratic National Convention has launched a $50 million program, placing staffers and volunteers on the ground to knock on doors and make phone calls to ensure that those who committed to voting this past summer will in fact do so come November 2nd, they have also gone on the offensive. An analysis of nearly 900,000 airings from January 1 to October 5 by the Wesleyan Media Project–which was established in 2010 to track advertising in federal elections–found a similar rate of negative ads from both parties; however, the Democrats are running a higher rate of negative ads by going after their opponents’ personal character.

All mudslinging aside, it will be the voters who have the final say about who will control the incoming Congress. The only question is which voting group will have the most influence?

Historically, Black voter turnout is lower than that of Whites during midterm elections, but “that doesn’t mean that African Americans as a rule won’t turnout for midterm elections,” said David Bositis, a senior political analyst for the Joint Center for Political & Economic Study. It’s not always the case that African Americans will have a significant impact on the outcome of the elections. It depends on where the competitive elections are. “There have been years where they have [had] tight elections in Washington state or South Dakota, both of which do not have a high population of Black voters,” says Bositis. But this year, “the competitive elections are in states where there are a significant number of Black voters.”

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