In the past, Black voters have been the least likely to use mail-in ballots, but that could be changing based on evidence from states like North Carolina, which was the first in the country to make the ballots available, and also battleground states like Georgia and Pennsylvania.
Democrats are looking for a boost from Black voters to push back against Republican efforts to take electoral votes. Because the coronavirus pandemic could hinder in-person voting, mail-in ballots present an alternative to polling places for African Americans.
“I want to make sure my vote got in and it counted,” Shirley Dixon-Mosley, 75, a retired teachers aide, told the Associated Press. She lives in Charlotte, N.C., where early voting has been happening earlier in September.
Black voters make up 21 percent of registered voters in North Carolina. So far in early voting, they have cast 16.7 percent of more than 173,000 ballots that have been returned. That’s an increase over the 9 percent reported in 2016, the AP reports.
There is still a caveat: Black voters in North Carolina are reportedly four times more likely than whites to have their ballots not accepted because of missing witness information. About five percent of absentee ballots sent in by Black voters fall under that category, but only 1.3 percent of ballots sent by white voters do.
For people like Jeffrey Brooks, 49, who lives in Durham, that normally votes in person, that has been a source of confusion because he did not get a family member to sign as a witness when he recently tried to use a mail-in ballot although it is a requirement.
“I didn’t know that,” he told the AP. “I thought it was just for young people. I didn’t get them to sign it because I did it at home. I didn’t know you had to have a witness.” He has until Nov. 12 to correct his ballot and resubmit it to his county elections board.
Still, mail-in voting is a strategy that can work for Black voters and the North Carolina Democrats are trying to make that easier for them. Older Black voters, activists believe, are their most reliable bloc. Now activists want them and others to utilize the option which could make a serious difference in the election.
“There’s been a big push to get Black voters to use the option of vote-by-mail,” said Adrianne Shropshire of VoteBlackPac, a voter advocacy group targeted at African Americans, told the AP. “The problems that people are having is related to the fact that this is new to people.”