The narrative around the Doug Jones vs. Roy Moore U.S. Senate race in the days leading up to yesterday’s election was that black people needed to vote at higher rates than normal. African Americans typically do not turn out in large numbers for Alabama elections, especially in off-year races, goes the narrative, and hence Doug Jones needed an unusual surplus of black votes to win. However, as Vann Newkirk pointed out in The Atlantic, what’s left from this narrative is that part of why black voter turnout, or even black voter energy, has been low in past elections is because of Alabama’s long history of making it difficult for black people to vote.
Black get-out-the-vote efforts were compromised: As law scholar Richard Pildes explains at Election Law Blog, one of the most instrumental organizations for black political participation in the state is the Alabama Democratic Conference [ADC]. Since 1960, the ADC has not only helped to protect the voting rights of the state’s African American residents, but it also helped get them to the polls during elections. But its efforts were crippled this year thanks to a new state law that forbids political organizations from making financial donations to other political groups, which is how the ADC earned much of its revenue. Writes Pildes:
Black voters endured waves of voter suppression to help elect Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate, and it didn’t have to be that way.