Two weeks ago, we told you about Jason Carter’s estimate that he would need an additional 200,000 Democratic votes to win his race against Governor Deal.
Now comes a new report from Benjamin Jealous, formerly of the NAACP, and the Center for American Progress, titled True South: Unleashing Democracy in the Black Belt 50 Years After Freedom Summer. It claims that if minority voter registration could be increased by 30 or 60%, the political calculus in the South would change to favor Democrats.
Jealous illustrated what this could mean in the Peach State in this MSNBC op-ed:
As just one example, consider Georgia. The state’s two most recent governors, Sonny Perdue and Nathan Deal, won their races with scant support from communities of color. Once in office, they governed accordingly. Governor Perdue introduced one of the nation’s first strict photo voter ID laws, while Governor Deal has turned down Medicaid expansion and signed one of the strictest anti-immigrant laws in the country.
On the other hand, the average margin of victory in Georgia over the last three elections was minimal: just over 260,000 votes. So what would it take to give voters of color in Georgia a voice?
Our report found that a massive wave of voter registration could shake up the political dynamic. If organizers were to register 60% of unregistered black voters in the state – and those voters then turned out at previous levels – it would create a corps of 290,000 new black voters. That is 30,000 more than the average margin of victory for a governor in the state.
Looking at the numbers, Jealous appears to be correct in his estimate. The table below shows the voting age population and the number of registered and unregistered voters. Population stats are based on 2012 American Community Survey numbers, while registration numbers are for 2013 from the Georgia Secretary of State’s website. with 79% of registered African-Americans voting in the 2012 Presidential election, by my numbers, it would provide a cushion of over 5000 votes. (559,881*.6 * .79 = 265,289) I’ll attribute the difference between my figure and the report’s to slightly different population and registration estimates.
There are, however, several things that are not taken into account. First is that minority voter turnout in non-Presidential years is lower than it is in Presidential years. In 2010, for example, slightly over 50% of African American registered voters participated in the general election. To make that 5,000 vote margin with a 50% turnout rate, 94% of the unregistered African American voters would need to become registered.
In addition, there’s a built-in assumption that 100% of newly registered minority voters would pull a Democratic ticket. The Democratic lock on people of color isn’t quite that strong. And finally, the projection ignores the possibility that the number of registered–and likely Republican–white voters will grow as well.
While it may be more of a challenge for Democrats to use minorities to flip Georgia from red to blue than what the report estimates, that doesn’t mean the GOP can afford to rest on its laurels. While there’s plenty of cushion for the GOP to register additional voters at the same rate a minority registration drive would cover, at some point, Republicans will need to come up with an answer to minorities’ desire for social justice.
Georgia Population, Eligible Voting Age Population and Registered Voters, 2012-2013
|Population Type||Population||Vtg Age Pop||Registered||Pct||Unregistered|
|Black or African American||2,942,480||2,040,645||1,480,764||72.6%||559,881|
|Hispanic or Latino||853,600||230,725||84,458||36.6%||146,267|