America’s Black women vote at high rates and are politically active, but remain underrepresented in elected positions relative to their population size. And they’ll have to continue protecting their ability to cast ballots, according to “The Status of Black Women in the United States,” a report released in June. That’s because the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 weakened the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The status report was coauthored by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington and the National Domestic Workers Alliance in New York.
Black voter registration and turnout rose after 1965. Before that, Black men were granted the right to vote in 1870 by the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, but American women couldn’t go to the polls until 50 years later. Black women founded suffrage groups in the meantime. The 19th Amendment in 1920 gave all women the right to vote. The Black community as a whole, however, continued to face obstacles to voting, including literacy tests, poll taxes and sometimes violence—especially in the South. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 paved the way for higher registrations.
Black women voted at stronger rates than other population groups in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, with Barack Obama on the ballot. In 2012, 66.1 percent of Black women 18 and older voted, versus 57.1 percent of Black men and 64.5 percent of white women, the SOBW report said. But things changed in 2016, when voting by African Americans fell for the first time since 2004. Blacks accounted for 11.9 percent of voters in the 2016 election, down from 12.9 percent in 2012. In 2016, 64.1 percent of Black women voted, according to the Pew Research Center this May. (Louisiana Weekly)