What should be on Black voters’ radar ahead of 2024 elections

The 2024 election is just over 300 days away, with plenty of races and policy issues for Black voters to dive into in the months ahead. 

In addition to the likely repeat matchup between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump to determine who will run the White House for the next four years, elections across all 50 states of America will determine political leadership on the state and federal levels for the next two to six years. 

In the backdrop of this year’s elections are rising tensions related to race in America, as conservative groups and lawmakers target diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in education and business. Additionally, several court cases and ballot measures will decide critical issues, from voting rights to abortion and reproductive freedoms.

Here’s what Black voters should know heading into the 2024 elections on Nov. 5.

Republican field hostile toward Black America

(Left to right) Republican presidential candidates Former President Donald Trump, Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis. (Photo: Getty Images)

Since the rise of Donald Trump’s presidency in 2016, racist and hate-fueled violence has seen an uptick in America. Democrats and activists have placed some of the blame on Trump’s policies and rhetoric, from referring to Black Lives Matter as a racist organization to threatening Black and brown protesters with “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons.”

Trump is now seeking to return to office amid four criminal indictments, including a federal election case in which he falsely claimed that voter fraud in the 2020 election is why he lost his reelection bid to Biden. 

Many of the votes Trump and his attorneys attempted to invalidate in failed legal challenges in 2020 were those of largely Black voters in urban cities in states like Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. 

Trump’s false voter fraud claims also led to a violent and deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, where majority-white Trump supporters waved confederate flags and erected a noose – two symbols representing America’s history of slavery and racial violence.

False claims of voter fraud from Trump and his allies have also led to an increase in violent threats against election workers. Most notably, mother and daughter Ruby Freeman and Shay Moss, two Black female election poll workers in Georgia, were awarded $148 million in a defamation lawsuit against Trump’s former attorney Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani and Trump made false claims that Freeman and Moss had committed voter fraud, including that they added illegal ballots to the voting precinct’s tabulation.

If Trump is somehow defeated in the Republican presidential primary contest (which is unlikely), other Republicans deemed hostile to Black America and racial progress could rise to the top.  

Nikki Haley, former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador, recently caught flak for refusing to say slavery was the cause of the U.S. Civil War. The rising Republican presidential candidate has previously decried what she described as a growing “woke ideology” in schools. Similarly, presidential candidate Florida Governor Ron DeSantis led an “anti-woke” agenda in the Sunshine State that includes dismantling DEI programs, banning an African-American AP studies program, and sanctioning a history curriculum that teaches middle school students that enslaved Black people benefited from slavery

Voting rights for Black voters in question

The Poor People’s Campaign rallied and marched on Aug. 3, 2021, in Washington D.C., where faith leaders, low-wage workers, and poor people from around the country protested for the U.S. Senate to end the filibuster, protect voting rights, and raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. Hundreds were arrested in a non-violent act of civil disobedience outside the Hart Senate building. (Photo by Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Since the results of the 2020 Census, Republican-controlled states across the country have enacted laws restricting access to voting and have drawn federal maps that advocates and legal organizations have deemed racially discriminatory.

State lawmakers have passed laws restricting access to voting by mail and absentee voting, imposed stricter voter I.D. laws, and enacted new barriers to applying for mail ballots, among other actions. One controversial 2021 voting law enacted in Georgia prohibits the passing of food and water to voters standing in long lines outside voting precincts. 

As laws restricting access to the ballot climbed recently, so too have lawsuits challenging them. 

However, since the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court have weakened once-enforceable provisions to protect the voting rights of Black voters, including the most recent appellate court decision in November 2023 that ruled that private citizens and civil rights groups can no longer sue states under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. That decision is expected to be taken up by the Supreme Court. 

Section 2 prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate based on race, color, or the language of minority groups. If the ruling stands, only the U.S. attorney general, appointed by the president of the United States, will have the authority to bring lawsuits under Section 2 of VRA, making who occupies the White House more important.

Additionally, Republican-controlled state legislatures have been repeatedly sued for racial gerrymandering, which is the practice of drawing congressional maps that dilute the voting power of Black voters. Some lawsuits brought under the Voting Rights Act have proved to be successful, like in Alabama, where a federal court ordered that a second majority-Black district be drawn to more accurately reflect the voting population of Black people in the state. 

Other racial gerrymandering cases remain pending in Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, Florida, and North Carolina ahead of the 2024 elections, though it is unclear how many will be resolved before Nov. 5.

Black women could make history in U.S. Senate

(Left to right) U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, candidate for U.S. Senate in California; Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, U.S. Senate candidate in Delaware; and Angela Alsobrooks, U.S. Senate candidate in Maryland. (Photo: Getty Images)

For the first time in U.S. history, more than one Black woman could serve in the United States Senate. At least three Black women are top contenders for Senate seats across the country this November.

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee is seeking a bid for a U.S. Senate seat in California. A former Black Panther Party member, Lee has served in the House of Representatives for 25 years. The 77-year-old progressive notably was the only member of Congress who opposed the Iraq war in 2001.

Though Lee is well respected in Congress and served in leadership as co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, she faces a highly competitive primary against her fellow Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter, and Republican Steve Garvey and others.

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester is seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in Delaware. A close ally to President Joe Biden, Blunt Rochester is expected to easily win the open Senate seat vacated by Senator Tom Carper. Blunt Rochester, elected to Congress in 2016, served as co-chair of Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign and a member of the vetting committee for Biden’s vice presidential candidate selection, which ultimately selected Harris.

Baltimore County Executive Angela Alsobrooks is seeking the Democratic nomination for Senate in Maryland. Alsobrooks is a favorite to win the Senate seat and has picked up endorsements from Maryland Governor Wes Moore, a number of members of Congress, and dozens of Maryland state lawmakers. 

Missouri State Senator Karla May is seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in her state in a longshot bid to unseat Republican Senator Josh Hawley. Her biggest competitor in the primary race is Lucas Kunce, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who most recently served as director of national security at the American Economic Liberties Project.

May was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in 2010 and was elected to the Missouri State Senate in 2018 after reaching a term limit in the House. Before her political career, she served as a union representative for Communications Workers of America.

Before Senator Laphonza Butler, D-Calif., was appointed by California Governor Gavin Newsom in October 2023 (Butler will not run for election in November), a Black woman had not served in the Senate since Vice President Harris stepped down from her California Senate seat in 2021 to assume her historic role in the Biden administration. 

Only one other Black woman has been elected in the U.S. Senate: Former Senator Carol Moseley Braun in Illinois.

If more than one of the current Senate candidates is elected in November, it would see a historic moment of representation for Black women, albeit still disproportionate when considering the overwhelmingly white chamber of Congress. 

2024 could see more Black “firsts”

(Left to right) U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, who is running for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in Texas, and former U.S. attorney Nick Brown, who is vying to become attorney general in Washington state. (Photo credit: Getty, U.S. Attorney’s Office)

In addition to Senate candidates Lisa Blunt Rochester, Angela Alsobrooks and Karla May aiming to become the first people of color and Black women elected to the U.S. Senate from their states, two other Black “firsts” could occur in November.

U.S. Rep. Colin Allred is running for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in Texas. If elected, Allred, a former professional football player turned lawyer and politician, would become the first Black person elected to the Senate in the state of Texas.

And in Washington state, former U.S. attorney Nick Brown vies to become the first Black person elected as attorney general. The Morehouse College and Harvard Law School graduate was also a contestant on the second season of “Survivor” in 2001. Brown’s legal work includes serving as a judge advocate general and other legal roles for the United States Army. He also served as general counsel to Washington Governor Jay Inslee.

Ballot measures to determine access to voting and reproductive care

A view of voting booths at the Santa Clara County registrar of voters office on Oct. 13, 2020, in San Jose, California.(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Election Day will also see voters weigh in on important ballot measures that could advance voting rights and abortion access in their states.

Following the controversial Supreme Court ruling that ended nearly 50 years of federal abortion protections through the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, reproductive rights have become a hot-button issue in the country.

Nearly two dozen states have enacted strict abortion bans following the SCOTUS ruling, including in states with large Black populations like Texas, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Virginia, and Louisiana. 

However, in states where abortion access was on the ballot, like Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, California, Virginia and others, reproductive health advocates saw major victories. Democrats and abortion rights advocates are hoping to see that trend continue as Maryland and New York voters will get the opportunity to vote on a ballot measure that would enshrine abortion rights into the state constitution.  

Voters nationwide will also be presented with ballot measures to reform voting in their states. Voters in Nevada and Oregon will get the opportunity to establish ranked-choice voting, and in a ballot measure in Connecticut, could authorize the state legislature to provide by law no-excuse absentee voting.  

Racial bias in AI technology during election season

Members of the group Initiative Urheberrecht (authors’ rights initiative) demonstrate to demand regulation of artificial intelligence on June 16, 2023, in Berlin, Germany. The group, which represents creative professionals in fields such as photography, film, illustration, design, dance, literature and gaming development, is advocating for fair copyright legislation by the European Union against generative artificial intelligence. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

As AI technology quickly advances and reaches the fingertips of everyday Americans, lawmakers and tech policy experts are raising the alarm about its growing dangers during the election year. 

Politicians and industry leaders say they are particularly concerned about the risk of racial bias and how AI could be used to spread disinformation and misinformation to Black voters ahead of Nov. 5. 

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer told theGrio last year that AI-generated deepfakes (manipulated facial appearances), political ads, and chatbots have been particularly concerning as the 2024 elections ramp up. 

Though Schumer and other senators are working with experts to draft AI election legislation focusing on racial bias, it is unclear whether any such bill would be introduced and passed in Congress before Election Day. In the meantime, it appears that legislation on the state level could happen more quickly.

Melanie L. Campbell, president and CEO of the Coalition on Black Civic Participation, said during a recent meeting with Schumer and Black media outlets on the dangers of AI that the risks for Black voters during the 2024 elections keep her and other civil rights leaders up at night. 

“This election will determine what kind of democracy we will have or not have [and] AI will have an impact on that,” said Campbell.

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The 2024 elections are approaching and Black voters have plenty of important races and policy issues to consider. This includes the likely presidential rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, as well as elections at the state and federal levels. There are rising tensions related to race, including attacks on diversity and inclusion programs, court cases on voting rights and other critical issues. The Republican field appears hostile toward Black America, including false claims of voter fraud and threats against election workers. There are also concerns about voting rights for Black voters due to restrictive voting laws and racial gerrymandering. The 2024 elections present the opportunity for more Black women to serve in the U.S. Senate, and there may be historic “firsts” for Black individuals in other elected positions. There will also be ballot measures related to voting rights and abortion access. Additionally, there is growing concern about racial bias and AI technology during the election season, particularly in spreading disinformation and misinformation to Black voters.

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