Racial Gap in Georgia Primary

From Brennan Center for Justice:
Despite High Voter Turnout, Racial Gap Persisted in Georgia Primary.
Georgia’s 2022 primary saw the state’s biggest turnout gap between White and Black voters!

High voter turnout does not mean equal participation in Georgia! Don’t be fooled by commentators suggesting that increased turnout undermined claims that Senate Bill 202, an omnibus law with numerous restrictions on voting access, was interfering with anyone’s right to vote. As stated in Kevin Morris’ August 15 article ” That is not a fair conclusion — we cannot know the effect of a new law simply by looking at the topline turnout numbers, especially in a primary. For one thing, voter turnout is impacted by many variables, and there were numerous reasons to expect high turnout in Georgia in 2022, including massive increases in campaign spending.
[An] analysis of overall voter turnout leaves something else out too. Historically, even when overall turnout has gone up, the gap between turnout by white voters and nonwhite voters has persisted. In fact, in recent years, that gap has grown in many parts of the country.  Research has shown that restrictive voting policies often harm communities of color the most.”

The Dept of Justice and other organizations have sued Georgia based on the theory that S.B. 202 deliberately targeted Black voters. Because in the last 25 years, there have been more violations of the law against racial discrimination in voting in Georgia than in any other state except Texas, turnout numbers alone provide information on tell what effect S.B. 202 has had.

Brennan Center research show the White/Black racial turnout gap grew along with primary turnout. White turnout has exceeded Black turnout in every election except for 2020 and 2022 was the widest in a decade. 28 percent of Georgia’s white citizens aged 18 and older voted, that number was just 22 percent for Black Georgians — a 6 percentage point gap. Previously the gap never exceeded 3.5 percentage points. The gap is particularly significant considering the number of Black candidates in 2022.

“Higher engagement in the Republican primary this year probably contributes in part to the expanding racial turnout gap, as Republicans are disproportionately white. However, it’s unlikely this was the sole driver of the increased racial turnout gap for two reasons. First, turnout went up considerably in both the Democratic and Republican primaries. Second, the open primary system in Georgia allowed Democrats to vote in the Republican primary. The number of Democrats participating in the Republican party was apparently quite high, leading some Republican legislators to push for an end to open primaries.”

Brennan Center is not saying that S.B. 202 was the cause of this trend reversal, though it’s certainly possible that it was a contributing factor, as one early analysis makes clear. “Instead, what this analysis illustrates is that a single, simplistic number — overall turnout — is a poor proxy for measuring the accessibility of the ballot in a given state. And given that primary voters are the least likely to be impacted by new voting restrictions, the high level of turnout in the primary tells us very little about what to expect this fall.”

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