With Election Day just days away, the 2014 Midterm Elections have become the hot-button issue for pundits and analysts alike. In regards to the Black electorate, this voting cycle could have even greater implications. Adding to the drama, there is also a partisan battle unfolding involving those critical votes.
This year’s midterms shows that U.S. Senate and the Democrats reign of power could hinge on the turnout of Black voters specifically. The current Senate balance is 55-45 in favor of the Democrats, but Republicans are projected to make major strides and some analysts give them a slight edge. Just eight seats are toss-ups, and the number of voters that hit the polls in force Tuesday will tell the tale.
A recently published report by the Joint Center reveals that those eight Senate seats in Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, and North Carolina are being closely watched by analysts in regards to Black voter turnout in those races.
The report also highlights Black voters are critical in the swing for nine close races for governor in Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
Low Black voter turnout during midterms has been historically noted, perhaps in part to a lack of true civic participation in some urban and rural areas. Apathy toward the midterms isn’t solely an issue within the African-American community, though, as wide swaths of voting blocs of all races and demographics are typically lower than they would be for a presidential election cycle.
The Democratic Party is aware of this historical fact and has been running smear ads in key states where the Black vote could upend races in their favor.
Here are the key midterm elections worth paying attention to:
1. In North Carolina, state House of Representatives Congressman Thom Tillis has been attacked by commercials running down his record. The ad paints Tillis as a conservative figurehead at the center of the state’s controversial voter restriction fight and a lead voice on the passing of a “Stand Your Ground” law as well. While it is a wise strategy mired in truth, there is extreme urgency in these attacks as Tillis is running to represent his state in the U.S. Senate.
In response, Republicans in the state are accusing Democratic Party opponent Kay Hagan (pictured above) of “race-hustling” and this will be a rallying call for the GOP in the days to come.
2. In Wisconsin last week, President Barack Obama (pictured at left) stumped for Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, boosting her chances against incumbent Scott Walker. Black voters who probably would have bypassed placing a vote for Burke were galvanized by the President’s visit. And while the stop wasn’t designed to attract Black voters specifically, the effect was worth the effort, according to observers on the ground.
3. While Republicans say race is becoming central to the elections, a man running for judge in Texas may have killed his chances to remove the Democratic incumbent based on remarks he made last year.
Dallas County Judge hopeful Ron Natinsky told a group at the Coppell Republican Club last November that he didn’t want to “motivate” United States Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson‘s (pictured above right) voters.
Natinsky added, “What we want them to think is there’s no reason. She doesn’t have an opponent. I don’t need to go to the polls. I’ll go spend my food stamp money at the grocery store, or whatever, you know, on Election Day.”
Naturally, Natinsky claims not to remember the speech or the comment.
The claims of voter suppression were largely treated as speculative by proponents of voter ID laws and other restrictive measures of the polls and statements such as Natinsky’s paint a clear picture that Republicans are betting on Black voters to stay home.
In truth, Black voter participation is necessary for reasons beyond holding the U.S. Senate for Democrats, or to challenge those in states that do not see voters of color as a valuable component. To be a part of a democracy is a privilege that has been increasingly taken for granted, which is staggering considering that the right to vote was afforded to Blacks just 49 years ago.
The Black vote is important because it signals that African Americans are engaged in a political process that hasn’t always treated us fairly. Still, we can effectively impact the political landscape, and that is what it is all about. There has always been an insidious presence at hand to keep Black voters blind to the bigger picture, yet 2014 could signal the beginning of a new awakening.