What’s driving Black voters to North Carolina polls?

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Standing outside the Roberts Community Center, which also serves as an early-voting site in Wake County, Abraham Jones explained what he tells young voters.

“Look at two pictures. If you’re trying to decide on two pictures in life, look at one that’s going to possibly be conducive to improving your lifestyle and you’ve got to make that decision yourself,” he said.

The change Jones talks about is what’s driving African-American voters like himself to the ballot box.

President Donald Trump’s handling of race relations is among the list of issues Black voters are thinking about, according to April Dawson, who is a law professor at North Carolina Central University.

“There’s frustration in the way the economy has been handled. And we know, as far as economic issues, they are felt more heavily in the African American community,” Dawson said. “There is frustration in the way COVID has been handled, and we know African Americans are more susceptible to COVID and complications related to COVID than their white counterparts.”

By Tuesday morning, one week before Election Day, around 700,000 votes were already cast by Black voters in North Carolina, accounting for about 47 percent of the group. Black turnout in both races involving Barack Obama outpaced white voters by 2 percent, but turnout dropped in 2016 to about 7 percent behind white voters.

Dawson said the use of the Obamas during this cycle is heavier for a reason.

“I think they were kind of asleep at the switch. They underestimated those who would vote for Donald Trump and that’s not going to be the case this time,” she said. “If Joe Biden doesn’t win, it won’t be because people didn’t go out there and encourage folks to vote.”

Dawson credited the push to vote by mail for the high numbers already seen.

“Not that you couldn’t in the past cast your vote with absentee or voting by mail, but because of COVID, that avenue for voting has opened up an education about that means of voting,” Dawson said.

Alphonza Shire agreed: “I think it’s so important to vote because that’s the only way we are going to make a change. If you don’t come out and vote, you’re not going to make a change.”

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