Black voters return to polls after summer of civil unrest

Black voter turnout dipped 7% in 2016 after historic turnout in 2012
Posted at 4:52 PM, Nov 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-03 19:49:37-05

CLEVELAND — Black voters are returning to the polls after a dip in turnout in 2016 and a summer of civil unrest.

“I didn't need the fliers or anyone to talk me into it," said Renee Gray, who spent a Friday morning standing in a socially-distanced line outside the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.

"It's a lot of things that are important right at home," she said about the issues on the 2020 ballot. "But we've got to look at the big picture, too."

That big picture is the outcome of the presidential race.

In late September, the Washington Post and ABC News released a poll showing Black voters overwhelmingly supported former Vice President Joe Biden over incumbent President Donald Trump. The results show 92% of respondents would vote for Biden over the 8% supporting Trump.

"I think in the past, we've all just felt like, you know, it's going to go the right way," said Jo Gary about voting sentiments in the past. "You know, things are going to work out. And I think I think we're definitely over it -- that kind of thinking."

Gary hasn't turned 30 yet. She said she sees younger Black voters filling out ballots after clashes between police and protesters raged in late spring and over the summer.

The turnout of Black voters in 2020 is expected to see an uptick from the 2016 election. Black voter turnout dropped between 2012, President Barack Obama's last election, and 2016.

Raymond Green, Jr. knows the reason for the turnaround.

"I'm seeing desperation, for one, to get this guy out of office," Green said, sitting in his group's Akron headquarters.

"We created the Freedom Block to provide a political home for Black people," he said. "I think now people have a bigger hope and a bigger thirst for getting the current person out of the White House than ever before."

Green said despite the numbers showing big support for Biden, the generational divide in the Black voting community is visible.

"Our younger generation wants a more progressive society, in our older generation — wants things to remain the same," he said.

Gary is seeing younger Black voters at the polls as a result of early vote efforts.

"I've seen a huge push for more and more early voting from my peers and my friends and whatnot," she said.

Nationally, 30 million black voters are registered to cast a ballot in this election.

In Ohio, there are a million registered voters centered mostly in urban cores like Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati.