The state’s “black belt” made big turnout gains in support of the Democratic candidate, providing his margin of victory in the Senate special election in a deep red state.
Ahead of Alabama’s special Senate election, there was a clear narrative about the state’s black voters: They weren’t mobilizing.
Six of 10 black voters stopped by a New York Times reporter in a shopping center last week didn’t know an election was even going on, a result the reporter took to mean overall interest was low. The Washington Post determined that black voters weren’t “energized.” HuffPost concluded that black voters weren’t “inspired.”
If Democratic candidate Doug Jones lost to GOP candidate Roy Moore, weakened as he was by a sea of allegations of sexual assault and harassment, then some of the blame seemed likely to be placed on black turnout.
But Jones won, according to the AP, and that script has been flipped on its head. Election day defied the narrative, and challenged traditional thinking about racial turnout in off-year elections and special elections. Precincts in the state’s “black belt,” the swathe of dark, fertile soil where the African American population is concentrated, reported long lines throughout the day, and as the night waned and red counties dominated by rural white voters continued to report disappointing results for Moore, votes surged in from urban areas and the black belt. By all accounts, black turnout exceeded expectations, perhaps even passing previous off-year results. Energy was not a problem.