Even before a defiant Roy S. Moore stood at a lectern this month and refused to concede the Alabama Senate race, one political reality was clear: An extraordinary turnout among black voters had helped push Doug Jones to a rare Democratic victory in this state. That turnout, in which registered black voters appeared to cast ballots at a higher rate than white ones, has become the most recent reference point in the complicated picture about race and elections laws. At issue, at a time when minorities are becoming an increasingly powerful slice of the electorate, is how much rules like Alabama’s voter ID law serve as a brake on that happening. The turnout by black voters in Alabama raises a question: Did it come about because voting restrictions were not as powerful as critics claim or because voters showed up in spite of them?
Whether blacks and other minorities vote has become an evermore crucial element in the national political calculus. Minority voters, who lean overwhelmingly Democratic, were 29 percent of eligible voters in 2012 and 31 percent in 2016; by 2020, the figure is expected to rise to nearly 34 percent.
LaTosha Brown, an Alabama native and a founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund, which backed voter-mobilization efforts in the Senate contest, said the impact of voter suppression in Alabama was real, but that the policies were sometimes a motivating factor.