Black women vow to be a powerful voting force again this year

Jamia Wilson is supremely proud of this fact: In 2008 and 2012, black women voted at a higher rate than any other group. Four years ago, 74 percent of eligible black women went to the polls — and 96 percent voted for President Obama.

Some pollsters and pundits are betting against a three-peat of that level of turnout in this year’s election because Obama, whose historic campaign and presidency electrified black voters like never before, will not be on the ballot. Wilson and other black women active in politics are determined to prove them wrong.

But they aren’t looking to the political candidates for inspiration. In interviews, they said the motivation to head to the ballot box will come from the energy generated by efforts to confront racism and other forms of economic and social inequality. The Black Lives Matter movement (which was launched by women), the campaign for higher wages in low-paying industries dominated by women of color and various online spaces in which women are sharing information and opinions all feature black women organizing, motivating and fighting to retain their political influence.

“Sisters are going to represent,” said Wilson, a writer who also works for a nonprofit women’s organization. “We are in a time of urgency and we have to take urgent action.”

The importance of black women in the Democratic Party is not lost on the candidates, notably Hillary Clinton, who has built a network of volunteers, surrogates and paid staff members to reach out to these voters. It was black women and other women of color who were responsible for Obama winning the female vote in 2008 and 2012; most white women (and white men) voted for the Republican presidential nominee in each of those years.

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