The Republican push to make it more difficult to vote this year — seen by many as a racially tinged attempt to keep Democratic turnout down — could not have failed more spectacularly, a top African American activist told a left-leaning think tank Tuesday. Chanelle Hardy, a vice president at the National Urban League, told an audience at the Center For American Progress in Washington that, as conservatives had suspected, there was a drop-off in enthusiasm among the African American electorate between 2008 and 2012. Republicans based a lot of their strategy on enthusiasm dips like these, assuming that Obama wouldn’t be able to maintain the same level of minority turnout he had enjoyed in 2008. Unfortunately for those Republican strategists’ plans, however, other Republicans in legislatures across the country were on a quest to impose restrictions on voting, chasing the ghost of in-person voter fraud.
Those Republican legislators flipped a switch with the African American vote, Hardy said, rekindling whatever enthusiasm had waned after 2008’s historic Obama win.
“We’d been struggling for many years in our communities with how we make the argument that our parents and grandparents had handed down to us: ‘you must vote, because people fought and died for you to have the right to vote.’ It starts to become a little less motivating the further away you get away from those really visceral memories of what it took to get to the polls,” Hardy said. “But then you bring back a 35 state assault on our ability to vote and it starts getting really reminiscent. All of the things our parents were telling us and our grandparents were telling us become visceral to a new generation.”