Alarm was so great about the potential suppression of the Black vote that many saw it as a motivating factor for them to turn out.
Now, the worry is that even though Black voters did turn out by the millions, Trump and the GOP seem to want to retroactively suppress it. After the election, ahead of certifying its results, the Trump campaign’s efforts to keep the president in power despite Joe Biden’s clear win have involved challenging votes in places such as Detroit, the Milwaukee area and Georgia, in ways that would disproportionately disqualify votes cast by Black people. Some examples:
- The Trump campaign is designating millions to a partial recount in Wisconsin and targeting left-leaning Milwaukee and Dane counties, where the majority of the state’s Black voters live.
- Republican appointees on the Board of Canvassers in Wayne County (Mich.) — home to Detroit, the city with the largest Black population in America — initially refused to certify the vote tallies from the 2020 Election, leaving some on the left to fear a delay — or even a halt — in the process to formalize President-elect Joe Biden’s winning Michigan.
- Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said prominent Republicans — including Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R.-S.C.) — have asked whether he had the power to throw out all mail ballots in counties with higher rates of nonmatching signatures. Multiple studies have found that Black voters’ ballots are rejected more often than those of White voters over signature matching.
As my Fix colleague Aaron Blake wrote, Trump, his legal team and his allies have attempted to exclude nearly 1 out of every 10 votes in those states that determined the outcome of the 2020 election.
LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, a nonprofit aimed at increasing black voter participation, told The Fix on Tuesday that these incidents are not a coincidence, nor are they surprising to many black Americans who have been engaged in this work.
“Let’s just call it what it is. There has always been an anti-democracy effort in this country to marginalize the votes of citizens,” Brown said. “What has happened is the Republicans have crossed over into desperation and Trump has opened up Pandora’s box, and they’re just walking right through it.”
Prof. Ebony Thomas, a University of Pennsylvania education professor and Detroit native, told The Fix on Tuesday that the efforts of Michigan Republicans to exclude the will of Black voters is the latest move in a long history of similar actions aimed at preventing Black Americans from exercising their rights in the electoral process.
“One of the things that Michigan has resented since the 1960s and perhaps before is Black political power. One of the reasons Detroit is so negatively stigmatized and why the city of Detroit is always used as a boogeyman by the far right and by white supremacists is because it was a city that wasn’t just majority Black but under Black political control.”
Detroit was one of the first major cities in the U.S. to elect a Black mayor — Coleman Young in 1974. The liberal politician began representing Detroit voters in the state legislature in the 1960s. Thomas argued that White conservatives and liberals in Michigan have long been aggrieved that the state’s largest city was led by — and continues to be led by — so many left-leaning Black politicians.
The Michigan Board eventually reversed its initial decision, and Georgia’s secretary of state has shown no interest in tossing ballots. And the Trump campaign is being criticized for backing a partial recount 20 years after George W. Bush argued that the Gore campaign’s interest in a partial recount was unfair and unjust.
The 2020 election saw a significant increase in Black voter participation after a decline in 2016, the first presidential election after Barack Obama was elected the first Black president. And the results show what can happen when Black Americans vote. Wisconsin, Michigan and Georgia all flipped from supporting the GOP candidate to backing the Democratic nominee. The Republican Party has taken note and appears to be looking for ways to invalidate the results instead of seeking to understand why so many Black Americans voted against its nominee. This approach to the results reinforces the concerns many Black Americans have, and could ultimately drive even more Black voters to back the party that they have primarily supported for the past 50 years.