As America continues to struggle with racism and injustice, it is as important today as in 1965 that every American may cast their ballot without restriction and with dignity. It is incumbent upon each of us to remain vigil in protecting our right to vote. Your vote influences public policy and the laws in which we all live.
The US Census Bureau, Voting and Registration in the Election of November 2014 report clearly demonstrates the lack of interest minority voters had in that mid-term election. Black voter turnout in Nevada was 30.6%, substantially less than the 65.1% in 2008 and 66% in 2012 when Barack Obama was on the ballot, and the first time Black voter turnout exceeded White voter turnout at 65%. In Nevada the Clark County Black Caucus estimated an even high turnout in their report “Power of the Black Vote,” September, 2011. In comparison for 2014 mid-term elections, Asian voter turnout was 15.7%, White voter turnout 36%, and Hispanic voter turnout at 18.4%.
As the Latino population has grown over the past decade, so too has the number of Latinos eligible to vote and they have rightfully demanded attention from both major political parties. In 2008, Hispanics made up 7.4% of all voters, up from 6.0% in 2004 according to the Pew Research Center Hispanic Trends. “Nonetheless, Hispanics are still a smaller part of the potential electorate than might be expected given their rapid population growth and share of the general population.” This is due in part to citizenship. 55% of all Hispanics are not eligible to vote due to age or non-citizenship. By comparison 46% of Asians, 31% of Blacks, and 21% of Whites are ineligible to vote. For example, according to the Pew Hispanic analysis, more than 25 million blacks are eligible to vote in 2012 as are more than 152 million whites—both larger than the Hispanic electorate. http://www.pewhispanic.org/2012/10/01/trends-in-latino-voter-registration/
Sadly, the high number of incarcerated, including formally incarcerated and otherwise eligible Black and Hispanic voters is a contributing factor driving the higher percentages, and in my opinion is a civil rights issue that is finally getting promising attention for prison reforms in Congress with bipartisan support. It is estimated by the Sentencing Project that nearly 8% of Blacks cannot vote because of felon disenfranchisement. www.sentencingproject.org
In full disclosure, I am a registered Democrat and for years Black voters have expressed their growing frustration with both the left/progressive movement and Democratic Party ignoring issues important to them. There is a feeling that their vote is taken for granted and only become rhetorical “talking points” during election season. The Joint Center National Poll, Pew Research Center reports substantiate the growing problem. In 2012 Black voters registered as Democrats dropped to 76% from a high in 2000 of 89%, and increasingly changing their party affiliation to Non-partisan at approximately 5% in 2000 and 15% in 2012. Black Republican registration remains approximately the same.
At the recent National Urban League conference this topic was discussed and many share the same concerns such as activist and former President Obama advisor, Van Jones, who said during a panel discussion about the Presidential race, "We are a part, as black voters, of a coalition that we've given everything to and can't ask anything from…As long as that's our position, we're going to continue to be mistreated within our own party."
Nationally, the Black community continues to struggle with the same social issues we believed we were working to solve together when the voting rights act was passed. However, unemployment in Nevada for Blacks continue to remain double other ethnic groups and exceeded 15% in April 2015, while White unemployment decreased to 7.0%, and Hispanic 7.1%. When will candidates share with us their plan to resolve this job disparity? Are they willing to discuss one? With the lack of access to opportunities for Black owned businesses, and criminal justice reforms, the one great hope is the advancements made to address the education disparity in the Nevada Legislature this year.
Nevada must deal with this growing disparity, as too often Black college graduates struggle with finding employment at home and are forced to find jobs elsewhere. The problem becomes more pragmatic for students graduating high school and seeking a career path.
Conservative journalist, Noah Rothman writes in an essay in Commentary magazine, "If Republicans were even modestly successful in appealing to African-Americans, it would make winning elections substantially more difficult for Democratic politicians.” However, it's my opinion that the dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party is complicated for Black folk, given the lack of trust many have of the Republican Party and their agenda.
The Black voters in Nevada have tremendous clout in the outcomes of the 2016 election. Voters should ask questions important to them and phone or email candidates wanting to represent them. Given our consistently high turnout rates we are positioned to demand a platform and hold our representatives accountable at the ballot box. Are we ready to chart a path? Are we willing to encourage and inspire young leaders to step up?
To address this issue, the CCBC is hosting a meeting on Monday, September 21st from 6:00-7:30p.m. to finalize a Black Presidential Elections Platform, and invite the public to attend. The meeting will be held at the Las Vegas Golf Club and is a NON-Partisan event. More information is available on their website.
As reported by BBC News in August, Angela Rye, a political strategist and former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, said it best "Black folks shouldn't be beholden to the Democratic Party, they should be beholden to their interests…" (Anthony Zurcher, BBC News)
To review statistical data go to www.CCBlackCaucus.com
Yvette Williams is a community advocate and Chair/Founder of the Clark County Black Caucus, a non-partisan community organization driven 100% by volunteer members registered to vote. Follow her Blog at www.YvetteBWilliams.com and on twitter @YvetteBWilliams or contact her at ClarkCountyBlackCaucus@gmail.com for more information.