By: Kat Stafford, Aaron Morrison and Angeliki Kastanis, Associated Press
When Eric Sheffield first saw Joe Biden take the lead in the vote count in Georgia, the 52-year-old Black man immediately thought about all the years he spent urging his Black friends and family to vote and all the times he saw his preferred candidate lose.
“Over the years, a lot of Black people have said, ‘Well, my vote doesn’t matter,'” the real estate development analyst in Atlanta said Friday. “This is proof that our vote does matter.”
Even as votes are still tallied, there’s little dispute that Black voters were a driving national force pushing the former vice president to the winner’s column. By overwhelmingly backing Biden and showing up in strong numbers, Black voters not only helped deliver familiar battleground states to the Democrat, but they also created a new one in the longtime GOP bastion of Georgia — potentially remaking presidential politics for years to come.
Activists pointed to the results as a repudiation of the racist rhetoric of President Donald Trump and an endorsement of Biden’s choice of Kamala Harris, the first Black woman on a major party presidential ticket, as his running mate. But they also credited their years of work organizing voters and signaled they intended to seek a return on their investment.
“We saw this early — we believed in us,” said Maurice Mitchell, a Movement for Black Lives strategist and national director of the Working Families Party — a progressive multiracial grassroots effort. “We believed in the power of Black voters and Black organizers in our movement.”
Black voters made up 11% of the national electorate, and 9 in 10 of them supported Biden, according to AP VoteCast, an expansive survey of more than 110,000 voters nationwide. Both figures are about on par with 2016, when Democrat Hillary Clinton also overwhelmingly won Black voters’ support but fell short of winning the White House, according to Pew Research Center estimates.
But when compared to Clinton, Biden drew more voters in critical areas with large Black populations. In Wayne County, Michigan, which includes Detroit, and in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, Biden added to his vote totals and his margins compared to Clinton, while Trump’s votes failed to match the Democratic gains. The increase in the Democratic vote in Milwaukee, about 28,000 votes, was more than the 20,000-vote lead Biden had in the state.
While votes are still being counted in Philadelphia, Biden had not surpassed Clinton’s 2016 total vote tally in the county. Still, he received at least 93% of the vote in the city’s wards where more than 75% of the population is Black, according to an Associated Press analysis.
Biden acknowledged Black voters’ role during his victory speech Saturday night, noting the “African American community stood up again for me.”
“You’ve always had my back, and I’ll have yours,” he said.
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