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MLK Breakfast 2021 Save the Date
The Democracy and Power Innovation Fund
Published: 03 November 2020

One of the powerful stories so far this election season is that Black voters are showing up and casting ballots in record numbers in key battleground states, potentially making the difference in electoral outcomes up and down the ballot. 

Many of these voters are among the millions of Black voters in battleground states who skipped the 2016 general election.   

Relative to 2016, white non-college early vote share is down in three key states (Arizona, Michigan, and Pennsylvania), whereas the share of Black turnout is up in all three—by nearly 7 percentage points in Pennsylvania. White non-college early vote share in Pennsylvania was down nearly 16 percentage points (from 67 to 51 percent of early votes) relative to election eve in 2016 (see chart here and underlying data from TargetSmart here). 

The story of this election season is that Black voters are leaning in to their agency, advocating for a collective agenda, and building power that they are taking from the streets to the ballot box.   

And despite the rage and bluster from those who threaten to silence Black voters and negate Black votes, our community stands ready to protect our vote from those who will try to use intimidation, harassment, and dirty tricks to take it away.   

“Through our organization we reached out to over 188,000 predominantly Black voters in Southeast Pennsylvania. Now that we have made our voices heard by voting, we will not allow our voices to be muted by stopping vote counts. We will protest, petition, show up, and apply pressure until every valid vote is counted,” said Bishop Dwayne Royster of POWER Interfaith in Pennsylvania. As an example of how determined Black people are to vote, Bishop Royster added that he took his brother straight from chemotherapy to vote in person because he hadn't yet received his requested vote by mail ballot. 

“From our ancestors to the people taking to the street to protest daily, Black people have made enormous sacrifices to protect and expand our rights and especially to exercise our right to vote.

"Our strength is in our numbers,” said Branden Snyder, Director of Detroit Action.

In Michigan, Black voters make up 9.6 percent of the early vote share, an increase of two percent compared to the same time in 2016. Nearly eight percent are first-time voters and 32.6 percent did not vote in 2016, according to Target Smart data. 

In Georgia, Black turnout is already at nearly 92 percent of 2016 and 2018 totals.  More than 1.1 million Black Georgians have already voted. 28.5 percent of these people did not vote in 2016, while 7.3 percent are first time voters. In several metro Atlanta counties, Black youth turnout (18-29) is already well above 90 percent of 2016 levels, including two (Gwinnett and Rockdale) where Black youth turnout has already exceeded 2016 turnout. 

Black turnout in Florida is already at 87 percent of 2016 total turnout -- 33.7 percent of those voters are new and infrequent voters and nearly 28 percent did not vote in 2016.  

“We have worked too hard for the opportunity to vote, and overcome obstacles like Covid-19 to vote, to let anyone undermine the legitimacy of this election. We will protest, apply pressure to elected officials, and guard against any effort to tamper with this election,” said Katrina Gamble, PhD, principal of Sojourn Strategies. “Black voters understand the power of our vote and what’s on the line in this election and Black people have turned out in record numbers to stand up for our community and to make sure our voices are heard, and we will continue to stand together to make sure every vote is counted.”

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