African-American voters went to the polls in record numbers to elect Barack Obama president in 2008 and 2012. In the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton could not mobilize African-American voters. Turnout in the 15 Alabama counties with the highest percentage of African-American residents dropped by 9.45% in 2016, compared to 2012, representing a loss of 20,834 votes.
In contrast, Trump energized white voters in Alabama. Turnout in the 15 Alabama counties with the lowest percentage of African-American residents increased by 5.49% in 2016, compared to 2012, representing an increase of 22,401 votes. In 2016, this disparity of turnout by race in less than half of Alabama’s counties shifted the vote toward Trump by 43,235 votes.
To defeat Roy Moore in the December 12 Senate election, African-Americans must vote at levels closer to the 2012 election. Doug Jones is not Barack Obama, but electing him is equally important to the future of Alabama politics. In this contest for the soul of the state, African-Americans have both an opportunity and a responsibility to make a new kind of electoral history.
This chart shows the trendline, with counties ranked with the highest percentage of African-American residents showing the largest drop-off in turnout and counties with the lowest percentage of African-American residents showing the largest increase in turnout. (Click to view image.)
Here is a list of the 19 Alabama counties that experienced a turnout decline of more than 5% in the 2016 election.
As you can see, these counties are small and rural with declining populations and a distribution of residents that in almost every case is more than 40% African-American. This is a difficult cohort for Doug Jones to reach, logistically and emotionally. But his success in defeating Roy Moore may hinge on his ability to restore turnout in these counties to Obama-era levels. (Click to view image.)