As the Republican candidates make their way through the Southern United States, critics say that Black voters are being ignored and are not part of the political conversation.
In Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, where there is a large percentage of Black voters (nearly 30 percent of the electorate), Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney failed to reach out to potential voters or even give them the chance to be swayed.
The number of non-whites who have moved to the South over the last 10 years, coupled with traditionally large Black populations in the Deep South, offers a large potential trove of voters. Mississippi alone has a Black population of 38 percent while only 2 percent of Republicans are Black.
The same could be said for Alabama, where Blacks make up 26 percent of the state’s population. Only 2 percent of those who voted in the recent primary were Black.
In able to be flexible in their voting, many Blacks in Southern states choose to remain labeled as independents.
Recently, Charles Evers, a Black member of the Mississippi Republican Executive Committee, said that the GOP is snubbing Black voters, citing that 45 percent of the state’s voters were ignored.
“At this day and time, for them to do that to us is a slap in the face,” said Evers. “They came to Mississippi–all three of them–this weekend and haven’t gone to one town that I know of in District 2, which is the predominately Black district.”
Evers is the former mayor of the small town of Fayette, Miss., owns a radio station and is a known political activist. Black voter turnout that week was so low that it could not be determined which candidate Black Republicans preferred. In Georgia, Black participation totaled only 3 percent; in South Carolina and Florida, the number reached only 1 percent.
“We’re going to be aggressively courting all Americans in the fall, because this president’s economic policies have failed everyone in our country, regardless of race or gender,” said Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee. “The pro-economic growth, pro-family values message is on our side, and we are committed to doing a better job communicating that with voters across the country.”
In one interview, former Republican Party Committee Chairman Michael Steele said that the party could do more to reach out to the Black community by simply being seen.
“Show up in the community prepared to have meaningful discussions about issues that actually matter to [Blacks], like job creation, in a way that makes sense,” he said. “That’s why my very first official act as chairman [of the Republican Party] was to host a town hall meeting in Harlem. To me, that was a very important step to take.”