Decisions to limit early voting to weekdays also stirred ire, as did a widely reported comment by Doug Preisse, chairman of the Republican Party in Franklin County, who said in an e-mail to the Columbus Dispatch, “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.”
When the Obama campaign successfully sued to open polls on the final weekend of the early-voting period, black voters thronged many polling stations.
The story was similar, if less dramatic, across much of the nation as black voters maintained or heightened their enthusiasm levels from 2008, when Obama was elected the nation’s first black president. Their staunch support helped protect his vote totals as white support shifted to Romney; 95 percent of the Republican’s voters in Ohio were white, exit poll results show.
African American voters expressed far more optimism about the state of the nation. In exit polls, 86 percent of black voters said the country is headed in the right direction, and 70 percent expressed confidence that the economy is getting better. Fewer than half of voters overall expressed either sentiment.
Only 9 percent of black voters said their family’s financial situation is worse than it was four years ago — despite government data showing African Americans have been among those hit hardest by the recession — compared with 32 percent of voters overall.
Still, 47 percent of black voters said unemployment is the most important economic problem facing people like themselves.
African American voters had more concrete relationships with Obama in this election and had benefited from his first term, said David Bositis, a researcher with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. Obama’s health-care overhaul, in particular, offered a disproportionate benefit to African Americans, 36 percent of whom previously lacked health coverage, as opposed to whites, 12 percent of whom lacked coverage, he said.