Going into this election, we knew the obstacles the Black community would have to overcome. But, as America digests the final results of the general election, one thing is clear: the Black vote was resurrected and protected.
We knew how critical the Black vote would be in battleground states in determining this election’s outcome. And Black voters in Milwaukee, Detroit, Flint, Philadelphia, and Atlanta were positioned to decide who became the next president of the United States. Simply put, politicians are on high alert. They now know that people will use the power of their voice to elect those who will empower them, not leaders that seek to intimidate, suppress, or invalidate our most sacred democratic process.
For more than three years, we at the NAACP have been working to educate, organize, and mobilize Black voters because we know that Black Voices Change Lives. And based on what we know about this election cycle, our efforts and work were not in vain. In North Carolina, an important swing state that is a deciding factor in the outcome of the election, Black voters made up nearly 20% of early voting numbers. In Georgia, another vital swing state, Black voters made up 30% of overall votes cast, according to exit polls.
The Black vote is changing America’s electoral map. For the first time in decades, states like Arizona are reflecting the shifting voter demographic. Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania are still heavily contested because people are determined to have their voices heard and Black voter turnout is determining the outcome.
The NAACP has always recognized the power of the Black community. In one of the most consequential elections of our lifetimes, we were determined to make sure Black voters knew that their voices mattered and their vote would count. We needed to turn around the poor showing from 2016, and we did. The fact is, our participation in civic duties like the census and elections bears consequences not just in the immediate, but for generations to come. We cannot seek crucial policy reforms or protect the health and economy of the Black and minority community if we do not have a say in the democratic process.
During this election cycle, working with our partners and advocates, we were relentless in our efforts to mobilize Black voters in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Alabama.
We invested more than $15 million to engage our community and combat all forms of oppression and systemic barriers that could hinder the Black vote. We recruited 200,000 volunteers to make more than 675,000 calls. As part of our work, more than 16.5 million text messages were sent and we distributed (at a distance) more than 4.5 million pieces of literature. Moreover, we sent out more than 4.5 million pieces of mail and more than 400,000 direct voter contact emails. We did all this because we know and believe the Black voice matters.
We spent millions on radio and digital advertising targeting Black voters in 29 markets across the 10 key states, investing heavily with Black-owned radio stations. Our digital ads reached more than 18 million people across various platforms. And most importantly, we protected each person’s right to vote by providing more than 2,000 lawyers, law students, and paralegals staffing our election protection hotline.
These factors contributed to the highest Black voter turnout we’ve seen since the election of Barack Obama in 2012. Each of these 10 states will be integral to setting in motion the change our nation deserves. The Black community has been doubly impacted by COVID-19 and numerous social justice issues that have been neglected by those who are supposed to represent us, and it is time for a change.
As former Vice President Joe Biden becomes the next president of the United States and Sen. Kamala Harris becomes the next vice president, the Black vote made it possible. And the Black community will hold the president, vice-president and all our leaders accountable to ensure that our civil rights are protected and our communities free of oppression. We turned out to change this country’s direction, and we will continue to use our voices to bring about the change we want to see in America because our lives depend on it.
Derrick Johnson is president of the NAACP.