By Kaitlin Dunn
Elm Staff Writer
As the 2020 presidential election nears, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden have begun to buckle down on securing their bases of most likely supporters.
Since voter turnout in the United States is low in comparison to other democratic nations, ensuring voters have locked in their bases, and more specifically, certain groups such as Black and Latinx voters, can be crucial to winning the election.
Recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, issues regarding immigration at the U.S. southern border, and race relations within the U.S. have motivated minority groups to go out and vote in the upcoming election.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black and Latinx Americans with COVID-19 are hospitalized at rates 4.6 times higher and die at rates from 1.1 to 2.1 times higher than their white counterparts.
These rates have made the issue of how COVID-19 has been handled and healthcare more pertinent for these communities, as they are the ones who are more likely to be deeply affected by COVID-19.
According toThe Washington Post reporters, Scott Clement, Dan Balz, and Emily Guskin, Black Americans cite racial issues and police conduct as being their top two reasons to vote and who they are voting for.
The poll finds that, across all age groups, “at least 9 in 10 Black Americans say both racism and police treatment of Black Americans will be important in their presidential vote”, whereas “roughly 7 in 10 of Black adults say each of those issues is ‘one of the most important.’”
For Hispanic and Latinx voters, Pew Research Center has found that the economy, healthcare, and the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic are the prevailing issues among these demographics.
Historically, according to the Pew Research Center, both groups have leaned more towards voting for Democratic candidates regarding partisanship. However, turnout has fluctuated greatly depending on who is the nominee.
The Pew Research Center found that, in 2016, Black voter turnout fell from 66.6% in 2012 to 59.6%. Latinx voter turnout decreased from 48% in 2012 to 47.6% in 2016.
Biden’s vice-presidential nominee, Senator Kamala Harris, has aided in increasing voter support specifically among Black women.
Harris, who is a member of the historically Black sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha has utilized the support from her fellow sorority members to increase voter turnout and support, which has allowed her to use her sorority sisters to aid in support for the campaign, even if they are not able to offer an official endorsement.
After Harris was nominated, the Democratic National Committee received thousands of donations in the amount of over $19 million from the sorority, equating to a total of approximately 275,000 dollars in donations.
Voter turnout among Black and Latinx voters has proven to be increasingly important in election years, particularly within the Democratic Party. In 2016, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won the majority of Black and Latinx voters but still fell below former President Barack Obama’s 2012 polls.
In a nation where almost half of the eligible voters do not practice their right to vote, an increase in voter turnout could sway the election to one side, especially in swing states like Florida, which went to Obama in 2012 but to Trump in 2016.
Groups like VotoLatino and the Pan-Hellenic Divine Nine sororities have been pushing for increased voter turnout within their communities. VotoLatino has registered over one million new voters, with numbers increasing every day.
According to The Washington Post’s Chelsea Jane, the Divine Nine sororities have organized “Get Out the Vote” efforts, as well as calling upon members who are lawyers in order to combat and challenge voter suppression, which has been an increasing issue in Black and Brown communities.
“Those AKA lawyers will be on call if a voter’s ballot is ruled invalid, a registration is challenged or a poll closes before someone can vote,” said Jane.
Evette Alexander, a director at the Knight Foundation, said in an interview with FiveThirtyEight’s Dhumril Mehta, that while it is hard to say which party would ultimately benefit more from an increase in voter turnout.
However, due to discrepancies in different parts of the nation, she argues that an increased voter turnout makes for a fairer democracy for all Americans.
“If both parties work to reach disengaged Americans and convince people that their vote matters, that would be a ‘win for democracy,’” Alexander said on Feb. 21.
Featured Photo caption: With Election Day less than a month away, the act of voting, particularly within Black and Latinx American communities, will be likely be shaped by what they have witnessed throughout these last few months. Photo Courtesy of Element5.