Dec 4, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Midterm surprise: Low Black voter turnout

Illustration of descending voting booths forming a negative bar chart.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

A record number of Black Democrats ran for Senate in battleground states during the 2022 midterm elections — but many of them failed to energize African American voters.

Why it matters: One of the most important stories in American politics is the Democratic Party's increasing reliance on white voters, as they lose ground with nonwhite voters.

"[T]he evidence so far raises the distinct possibility that the Black share of the electorate sank to its lowest level since 2006," The New York Times' Nate Cohn writes.

  • "It certainly did in states like Georgia and North Carolina, where authoritative data is already available."
  • Cohn says that can be seen as a reversion to Black turnout before the Obama era — but warns that it's consistent with a pattern of nonwhite voters trending a bit more to the Republican Party since 2018.

🧮 By the numbers: Mandela Barnes, Wisconsin's progressive lieutenant governor, was one of the biggest Democratic underperformers in Senate races. He came up 26,718 votes short — a margin that nearly matched the Democratic dropoff in the city of Milwaukee, compared with 2018.

  • By contrast, turnout in largely white and progressive Dane County (Madison) increased by about 7,000 votes from 2018 to 2022.
  • Barnes was the only Democratic Senate candidate to lose a state that Biden carried in the previous election.

🥊 Reality check: Even as Black turnout sagged in Georgia for the November election, African American voters are showing up in larger numbers for early voting in the Georgia Senate runoff.

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