“Racial Turnout Gap Grew in Jurisdictions Previously Covered by the Voting Rights Act”

Brennan Center analysis:

While in 2012, just before the Shelby County decision, the white-Black turnout gap was shrinking in the states we analyzed, and in many instances even briefly closed, this trend has reversed in the years since. In 2012, seven out of the eight states had Black voter turnout higher than that of white voters. In 2020, the reverse is true — in only one of the eight states was Black turnout higher than white turnout.

In a few states, this reversal is especially alarming. Louisiana, South Carolina, and Texas had higher turnout gaps in 2020 than at any point in the past 24 years. South Carolina’s white-Black turnout gap widened the most, expanding by a staggering 20.9 percentage points within the eight years since Shelby County. While Black turnout exceeded white turnout in 2012, white turnout was more than 15 percentage points higher than Black turnout in 2020.

 similar trend can be seen in the gap between white voters and all nonwhite voters. The total white-nonwhite turnout gap has grown since 2012 in all of the eight states likely to be covered under the VRAA. There is sufficient data to conclude that the gap has increased for Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas. In Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, the sample sizes in the available 2020 census data are too small for Hispanic and Asian voters to make much of a difference in an overall white-nonwhite turnout gap estimation that is distinct from the white-Black turnout gap in those states. Notably, North Carolina went from having a larger share of nonwhite voters represented in 2012 with a white-nonwhite gap of -9.3 percentage points to having a gap of 5.4 percentage points, a jump of 14.7 percentage points, far greater than the national average of 4.6 percentage points.

Overall, we see that the growth in the racial turnout gaps between 2012 and 2020 were even starker in the states likely to be subject to preclearance under the VRAA than those seen nationwide. Seven out of the eight states had white-nonwhite turnout gaps that grew more than the national rate of 4.6 percentage points between 2012 and 2020.  And in four out of the eight states to be subject to preclearance under the VRAA, the white-Black turnout gap grew more than the national rate of 10.3 percentage points from 2012 to 2020.

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