Students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities—a group that was once on the frontline in the war for voter equality during the Civil Rights Movement—are no longer easy, dependable votes for the Democratic Party, as their low turnout rate in 2016 illustrates, the Miami Herald reported.
“I don’t think there’s any fear of young Democrats leaving and joining the Republican Party. But what you do have to worry about is apathy when you’re taken for granted. Nobody wants to be taken for granted,” said Bakari Sellers of the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics.
As with other segments of the African-American population, voter turnout declined sharply in 2016 after two presidential elections that included President Barack Obama. Voter participation from the estimated 300,000 HBCU students plummeted by nearly 11 percent from 2012 to 2016, a national survey from Tufts University found. The apathy, Democrats fear, will continue for the 2018 midterm and the 2020 presidential election. Some experts predict that turnout among Black voters under age 35 could fall by up to 35 percent next year—that’s about 25.4 million votes.
The consequences of Black college students staying away from the polls are obvious: continued Republican control of the White House, Congress and state legislatures. There’s an overwhelming sense that the party is not listening to the concerns of young African Americans. Steve Phillips of Democracy in Color is calling on the Democratic Party to invest more in outreach to Black voters and recruiting candidates who appeal to Black voters, and invest less on attracting the White swing vote, according to the news outlet. Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee is touting its success in the Virginia gubernatorial race at reaching Black voters as evidence that the party is trying to right the ship. But most agree that the party has a lot of work ahead.