The Large Gap in African American Voting Rates Between the States

Earlier this month, JBHE published a post on the voter participation rate in the United States for the 2020 presidential election. The Census Bureau data showed that in 2020, 69.8 percent of all non-Hispanic Whites voted compared to 58.5 percent of African Americans. In 2012, when Barack Obama was running for reelection, for the first and only time in U.S. history, the Black voter participation rate was higher than the rate for Whites.

In 2020, the voter participation rate varied considerably from state to state. In Mississippi, 72.3 percent of the Black adult population cast a vote, the highest rate of any state in the nation. This was nearly three percentage points higher than for the non-Hispanic White population in the state. Other states where 65 percent or more of Black adults cast ballots were Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. In Tennessee, the Black voter participation rate was higher than the rate for Whites. In the District of Columbia, 76.7 percent of Blacks and 84.9 percent of non-Hispanic Whites cast their vote.

In Massachusetts, only 29 percent of adult African Americans cast a vote. This was 40 percentage points below the rate for Whites. Perhaps the fact that Massachusetts has reliably been in the Democratic column since the Reagan landslide in 1984 has produced a great deal of voter apathy among African Americans in Massachusetts.

Other states where fewer than one half of all eligible African Americans voted in 2020 were Arkansas, Iowa, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Wisconsin.

Note: States with very small percentages of African Americans in their population were not included in the statistics.

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