Statistics show that the amount of black men who vote is highly disproportionate to the amount of black women as well as whites. But what is the reasoning behind the lack of voting???
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
A record number of African-Americans voted in 2008 with Barack Obama on the presidential ballot, but even that historic occasion exposed a glaring disparity in voter participation: Black men vote at sharply lower rates than other groups. Another 70,000 votes would have been cast in Georgia’s 2008 general election if black men voted at the same rate as black women. Republican John McCain would have still won the state, even if every one of those votes went for Obama; McCain carried Georgia by more than 200,000 votes. But the gap speaks to larger issues of race, community and the health of America’s democracy.
Here are the numbers:
- Only 63 percent of eligible black men in Georgia are registered to vote, compared to 76 percent of black women and 75 percent of whites;
- Of those registered to vote, 70 percent of black men actually cast a ballot in the 2008 general election, compared to 80 percent of black women, 78 percent of white women and 76 percent of white men.
Those figures come from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Georgia Secretary of State. The explanation for the disparity in voting between black men and women is complicated. But for many black Georgia men who do vote, no explanation is sufficient. “There was a struggle to just get the opportunity to participate and make a change in the way you live and the your families live,” said Rod Harris, 39, of Atlanta. “It’s my duty as an African-American male to vote, to participate.”
Education is another concern, she said. Educated people tend to vote more frequently, and there is a deep gap in educational attainment between black men and black women. Nationally, black women earned 68 percent of of associate’s degrees, 66 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 71 percent of of all doctorates awarded to black students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, a project of the U.S. Department of Education. Johnson also points to “disproportionately high” incarceration rates among black men of as an obstacle. Blacks in Georgia are 3.3 times as likely as whites to end up behind bars. Those convicted of felonies in Georgia lose their right to vote until they have completed their entire sentences, including probation or parole. Of the more than 275,000 disenfranchised felons in Georgia, nearly 160,000 are black, according to The Sentencing Project, a national group that argues for sentencing reforms.
The National Urban League has launched a voter registration and education program called Occupy the Vote to encourage African-Americans to participate in the political process. Other national black leaders, too, have called voting a duty. African-Americans who don’t vote “ought to give us their color back,” the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., said in a speech in September. Not voting, he said, “is an insult to the ancestors and the people who brought us to where we are right now.”
Political scientists tend to look at trends in less emotional terms. Morehouse College Professor Hasan Crockett said the “attitudes, values and beliefs” that dictate whether one votes are acquired through “political learning.” And different groups tend to acquire that learning from different sources, he said. According to his research, peer groups have a stronger influence among young black men than within other segments of the population. In other words, if a young black man is surrounded by friends and associates who don’t vote, who don’t feel invested in the process, they are likely to do the same. The key question is, “are they associated with people who say you can make a difference?” Crockett said. Among other external factors that can discourage voting, he said, are the laws passed by Georgia and other states that require state-issued photo identification to vote.
Many African-Americans believe the laws pose an unnecessary obstacle to voting and compare them to the poll taxes and literacy tests of the Jim Crow era. Supporters, meanwhile, say the laws are needed to guard against voter fraud. But even in the face of such internal and external obstacles, certain events can shift the balance in favor of voting, he said. Take 2008: Nearly 350,000 more black Georgia voters cast ballots in that year than in 2004.
“It was because of Barack Obama, and that had a lot to do with peer groups and certain voting registration campaigns,” he said. “You had celebrities involved, and media has proven to be a socialization agent that influences voter turnout.” In 2012, however, some that influence may not be as potent. Obama is now the incumbent, someone who has already rewritten the American political narrative.
Discuss and make sure you get out there and vote.