Dave Richards arrived at his polling place before dawn, carrying a blue lawn chair and a giant bottle of water.
It was about 6 a.m. on October 12 — the first day of early voting in Georgia — and the business consultant was ready for a long wait in the Atlanta suburb of Smyrna. After three hours in line, Richards, 51, voted in what he called the most crucial election of his lifetime.
“This election is more important than the 2008 one for Barack Obama. That 2008 one was for change and making history. This election is for saving the US,” Richards said, citing concerns about racial justice and suppression of Black voters. “The racial divide that is going on, we need someone who is going to be a leader for everyone, not just their base.”
Across the country, Black voters are turning out in huge numbers. The stakes this year are especially high, they say, and nothing less than their health and safety is on the ballot.
In interviews with CNN, they said they’re worried about racial injustice and police brutality, they feel devalued by a President who has hesitated to condemn White supremacy and they fear losing health benefits if the Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act.
Many said this feels like the most important election of their lifetimes.
During a raging pandemic that has killed more than 223,000 Americans and ravaged Black communities, many Black voters could have mailed in their ballots. But after recent headlines about postal workers dumping undelivered mail and President Donald Trump’s debunked claims questioning the integrity of mail-in ballots, many don’t trust that process.
“The pandemic did not scare me,” Richards said. “The way that 45 (Trump) was talking about mail-in voting and lying about it, I wanted to do it (vote) in person.”
Many Black voters say they don’t trust Trump
So far this fall, African American voters are rushing to the polls at much higher rates than they did four years ago, when
Hillary Clinton was on the ballot.
By Tuesday, more than 601,000 Black Americans had voted early in Georgia compared with about 286,240 two weeks before the 2016 election. In Maryland, about 192,775 had voted compared with 18,430. And California had over 303,145 — up from more than 106,360 two weeks before the election four years ago. That’s according to Catalist, a data company that provides analytics to Democrats, academics and progressive advocacy organizations.
Keith Green, 65, went to the polls last week in Overland Park, Kansas, to vote in person — for several reasons.
“We have a racist President who lies too much,” he said. “He keeps on saying he doesn’t trust the Democrats. Well after everything that has gone on with the ballots, I don’t trust the Republicans.”