The Growth of Women of Color in the Electorate

Women of color are a key voting bloc with the potential to affect elections and public policy, writes Maya Harris.

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idea light bulbOne of the intriguing questions that lingered in the aftermath of President Barack Obama’s 2008 election was whether the voters who turned out to elect him were a historic but transitory phenomenon or whether they foreshadowed a dramatic and perhaps permanent change to the electoral map. At the center of this new electoral constituency were voters of color and, specifically, women of color. (see Text Box) In 2008, women-of-color voters turned out in historically high numbers and overwhelmingly voted Democratic, a phenomenon that was likely crucial to Democrats winning both the White House and Congress. In 2012, black women voted at a higher rate than any other group—across gender, race, and ethnicity—and, along with other women of color, played a key role in President Obama’s re-election. The following year, turnout by women of color in an off-year election helped provide Terry McAuliffe (D) the margin of victory in the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial election. Notably, both President Obama and Gov. McAuliffe lost the white women’s vote but overwhelmingly captured the votes of women of color.

As the 2008, 2012, and 2013 elections demonstrated, women of color are a key, emerging voting bloc with the potential to significantly affect electoral outcomes. In the past two years, more than 2 million women of color have joined the vote-eligible population. As more people of color participate in elections, demographic trends suggest that women of color will become increasingly prominent electoral players.

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