Oct 23, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Harris to Black voters: Casting a ballot is about honoring your ancestors

Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris speaks at a "Get Out The Vote" rally at Morehouse College

Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris speaks at a "Get Out The Vote" rally at Morehouse College. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Kamala Harris appealed to Black voters in Georgia on Friday, urging them to "honor the ancestors" by casting ballots, and again calling President Trump a "racist."

Why it matters: The U.S. saw a significant decline in African-American voter turnout between 2012 and 2016, reaching its lowest point since 2000. Higher turnout among Black Americans this year could tip the balance in favor of Democrats in key battleground states, including Georgia.

  • Black voters overwhelmingly prefer Democrat Joe Biden, but Trump is earning more support nationally from Black men than he received in 2016 — 17% — up from 14%, Axios' Alexi McCammond notes.

What she's saying: “We’re not going to let anyone mess with our right to vote,” she said at a "Get Out the Vote" rally at Morehouse College in Atlanta.

  • "Voting is about honoring those ancestors, honoring what they fought for and what they sacrificed for our right to vote," she said.
  • "Let's not let anybody take our power from us. We know the power of our voice, we know at election time, the power of our voice is expressed through our vote, we're not going to let anybody take us out of this game. We are present. We are, we are active. And we know what's at stake and we honor our ancestors every day."
  • "[O]n one hand you have Joe Biden, who has the knowledge and the courage enough to use the term and speak those words, 'Black Lives Matter.' On the other hand you have Donald Trump, who refuses, and will never say Black Lives Matter," she added.
  • She also told a roundtable of Black men in Atlanta that she wasn't "going to tell anybody, including Black men, that they’re supposed to vote for us. We need to earn that vote," per AP.
  • Responding to criticism from Atlanta rapper and producer Jermaine Dupri, who told Harris that “you put a lot of Black brothers away in your past” as prosecutor, the California senator acknowledged she didn’t “change the whole system," AP reported.
  • “It suggests Black people shouldn’t be prosecutors. ... It suggests that you don’t love your community, or you don’t want to reform the system if you decide to go in it," she added.

Worth noting: Trump claimed during Thursday's debate that "nobody has done what I’ve done” for Black Americans, with the "possible exception" of Abraham Lincoln.

Go deeper: Get-out-the-vote efforts in Black church communities

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