Four Reasons Black Voters Could Decide Who Controls the Senate in 2015

Black voters in Virginia wait for President Obama to speak at a 2012 rally. (Marvin Joseph/Washington Post)
Black voters in Virginia wait for President Obama to speak at a 2012 rally. (Marvin Joseph/Washington Post)

Black voters played a huge role in delivering Barack Obama to the White House in 2008 and 2012. And in 2014, they will play a huge role in determining whether the president’s party can stop Republicans from taking the Senate.

Why? Here are four reasons:

1. Black voters are hugely influential on the 2014 map

Six of the 16 states with the highest black populations are holding key Senate contests in 2014. A seventh — the most African American state in the country, Mississippi — is holding a contest that could get interesting if there’s a tea party upset in the GOP primary.

This is a highly unusual set of circumstances, especially when you consider that most states with large numbers of African American voters generally don’t hold competitive Senate races because they are safely red (in the South, generally) or blue (in the Northeast).

What’s more, black voters don’t just matter to a lot of races; they also matter to themost important races.

Three of the states listed above — Louisiana, North Carolina and Arkansas — are widely considered to be the most pivotal when it comes to the GOP’s hopes of winning the majority. These three races are expected to be the difference between a GOP majority and a Democratic majority — at least the way things look right now.

2. Black voters are among the biggest midterm dropoff voters

An increase in African American turnout was huge for President Obama’s 2008 election and 2012 reelection, but history shows black voters are generally much less apt to vote than white voters, and that trend is even more pronounced in midterms.

The charts below, from the great Monkey Cage blog, show the states in which black turnout (as a percentage of registered black voters) has outpaced white turnout in recent elections. They are the green states. States where whites outpaced African Americans are denoted by increasing shades of red:

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Source: Washington Post |  AARON BLAKE

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