Black community sees high voter turnout; local official says “I felt a new energy”

Local leaders in Grand Rapids believe high Black voter turnout helped Michigan and Kent County flip to blue.
Posted at 8:38 PM, Nov 05, 2020

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Monica Sparks is already calling candidate Joe Biden president. She crossed her fingers, hoping that the title becomes official soon and she believes the record turnout among Black voters may make that happen.

“I’m very excited. I felt a new energy,” said Sparks who’s the chair of the Kent County Black Caucus. “It took a minute to happen. But I felt a new energy. We’ve had more volunteers than we’ve had in a long time. And I think just people really are feeling like they needed to be a part of the process no matter what side they were on.”

Official voting demographic numbers haven't been released. However according to multiple sources and early exit polls, 89 percent of Black voters in Michigan voted for former Vice President Joe Biden.

“I think we really showed what truly is the power of one vote,” said Kareem Scales, administrator of operations for the Greater Grand Rapids NAACP. “So those individuals in the community who have stated in the past that your vote doesn’t count, I think what we’re seeing today is a direct reflection of why it does and what we can do when we come together.”

Scales said the turnout was “amazing.”

The same polls showed that nationally 87 percent of Black voters voted for Biden, and 91 percent of Black women voters casted their ballots for him as well.

Sparks believes the strong turnout is not only what flipped Michigan from red to blue, or Republican to Democrat, the day after the Election as votes were being counted, but it helped to turn Kent County as well, which traditionally goes red.

“Oh absolutely the Black vote had something to do with that. You know, I say ‘bet on Black,’" Spark said. “The reason why is because when you looked at the debates and you saw President Trump and President Biden there, who did they talk about? They talked about the Black Vote. Why? Because they know how important that vote is. That vote can make or break a presidency period.”

Sparks added that within the last few months the Black Caucus has seen higher activity in getting people to vote. They had 112 volunteers who logged 560 hours of their personal time, 32,819 social media ads, 14,002 voicemail drops and 137 rides to the polls on Election Day.

“We got power,” said Stephanie Moore, who runs the Black Voters Matter Southwest Michigan chapter. “Once we learn the power that we have and implement it, we know we can change things especially to increase the quality of life for Black, Indigenous and People of Color.”

Moore spent months with the Black Voters Matter organization educating various communities throughout Michigan about the significance of voting and educating people on voter protection.

The NAACP spent much of the year doing the same, getting communities of color to be engaged as well. Scales said during the 2016 presidential election, many Black and Brown people weren’t active in the election. However, President Trump’s rhetoric and actions over the last four years changed that.

“Just seeing the divisiveness, obviously there was the conditions of the pandemic and how Black and Brown communities have been disproportionately impacted, I think all those things are what brought the community out.”

Scales said he hopes the high turnout continues for elections to come, whether local, state or presidential.

Sparks agreed. She continues to keep her fingers crossed, hoping that Biden will be named the next president in the coming days and she said she’s ready to hold him accountable.

“He had a plan for Black America and we want to see that plan fulfilled immediately,” Sparks said. “We don’t want to have to wait.”