“This election is more important than the 2008 one for Barack Obama. That 2008 one was for change and making history. This election is for saving the US,” Richards said, citing concerns about racial justice and suppression of Black voters. “The racial divide that is going on, we need someone who is going to be a leader for everyone, not just their base.”
Across the country, Black voters are turning out in huge numbers. The stakes this year are especially high, they say, and nothing less than their health and safety is on the ballot.
Many said this feels like the most important election of their lifetimes.
Many Black voters say they don’t trust Trump
So far this fall, African American voters are rushing to the polls at much higher rates than they did four years ago, when Hillary Clinton was on the ballot.
By Tuesday, more than 601,000 Black Americans had voted early in Georgia compared with about 286,240 two weeks before the 2016 election. In Maryland, about 192,775 had voted compared with 18,430. And California had over 303,145 — up from more than 106,360 two weeks before the election four years ago. That’s according to Catalist, a data company that provides analytics to Democrats, academics and progressive advocacy organizations.
Keith Green, 65, went to the polls last week in Overland Park, Kansas, to vote in person — for several reasons.
“We have a racist President who lies too much,” he said. “He keeps on saying he doesn’t trust the Democrats. Well after everything that has gone on with the ballots, I don’t trust the Republicans.”
Some prominent Black Republicans, including Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina and Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Jay Cameron, have sung his praises.
Green said the Trump administration has left him worried about the future for his daughter and his two grandchildren. He believes Trump has emboldened White supremacists and set the nation backwards on the path for civil rights and equality.
“The last four years have been so bad,” he said. “We can’t stand four more years of that.”
Other concerns include health care and the makeup of the courts
Wilburn Wilkins, 61, woke up early on October 7, put on two masks and headed to a voting center in Joliet, Illinois, with his wife. Although the retiree has pre-existing conditions, he wanted to vote in person.
“We have a President who is totally tearing apart our whole democratic Constitution,” Wilkins told CNN. “Many people are dying because he is ignoring the Covid pandemic, ignoring the fact that people are unemployed, need financial resources. We need a change.”
Like Green, he believes the White House’s decisions have undermined Black people and other minorities.
“The nomination of a conservative to the Supreme Court, stacking of lower courts in order to have cronies to carry out conservative ideas, most likely will affect Black and Brown people,” Wilkins said. “They’ll affect things such as civil rights, Obamacare — all of these things have the potential to negatively impact minorities. “
There’s a lot at stake in this election, said playwright and composer Nolan Williams Jr., 51, who lives in Washington, DC, and plans to vote in person on Election Day.
“For African Americans in this country, voting is the most effective way for us to effect the change we seek. Given the events of this summer, it is crucial for our community to translate our social protests into political action,” Williams said, referring to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the unrest that followed.
“Health care, fair housing, including equal access to home loans, poverty, the environment, meaningful reforms to our justice system, and improvements in community policing are all issues that make this election uber critical,” he said.
Some voters are mistrustful after the 2018 election
Kee-Kee Osborne, 42, of Mableton, Georgia, said that’s one of the reasons she voted in person this month — to make sure her voice counts.
“For me, the outcome of this election will be the difference between truth and deception, decency and dishonor, inclusion and intolerance,” said Osborne, who works as an information technology manager.
“The words, actions, and policies from the current (Trump) administration have deepened the marginalization of Black people over the last four years. It is imperative for our community to be engaged in the process because we have an opportunity to vote for change on every level.”
“I wanted to make sure I personally deliver my vote,” she said. “This election is so important to Black people because of current events like the killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor (and) the way the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected Black people,” she said. “This has exposed the long-standing institutional racism and racial inequalities that exist in America.”
But for Gakere, the most important issue is preserving health care under the Affordable Care Act.
“We have family members with pre-existing conditions, and we feel that it’s at risk of being overturned,” she said.
With Election Day on the horizon, Wilkins has a message for Black voters.