Black/White Voting in the South

Black/White Voting in the South


Vol. 3, No. 1, 1980, p. 15

Early precinct returns from across the South show that Blacks went to the polls in record numbers on November 4 to give Jimmy Carter 80-90 percent of their votes. Also, Southern Black voters apparently turned out in greater numbers and voted more consistently for Carter than Blacks in the rest of the nation.

Breaking at least a 12 year trend, more than 65 percent of the registered Black voters may have turned out in both urban and rural areas in the region to cast their ballots. In places such as Birmingham (Ala.), Jacksonville (Fla.), and Baton Rouge (La.), predominantly Black precincts reported 60-70 percent turnout. At Hudson High School in Birmingham, for example, almost 79 percent of the Black precinct’s voters cast a ballot on November 4. At the same time, Black precincts in Montgomery (Ala.) and Atlanta (Ga.) showed returns more in the neighborhood of 45-55 percent.

While not as heavily populated, rural Black precincts showed almost a uniform pattern of high voter participation. In LaFayette Parish in Louisiana, mostly Black boxes showed 60-65 percent participation as did those in Gadsden County, Florida. At one precinct in Wilcox County, Alabama, where Black officials were elected for the first time to county commission and school board positions, the turnout was more than 95 percent.

Across the country most projections show that approximately 54 percent of the Black vote went to the polls. If so, Southern Blacks exercised the franchise in greater proportion than Blacks nationally.

Most who did go to the polls voted for Jimmy Carter. All reporting, targeted precincts in the South show that, without exception, 70-95 percent of the Blacks in poor, middle-class, or rich neighborhoods voted for Carter. In some voting places in both rural and urban communities, Reagan didn’t receive a single vote. In Birmingham, largely Black precincts often showed more than 90 percent support for Carter.

ABC News projected that roughly 80 percent of the nation’s Black voters cast ballots for Carter.

Despite the increased Black turnout, White voter participation in the South was probably even greater. Setting new records for regional voting in a presidential election, as many as three out of four registered Whites-and in suburban areas even larger at timesmay have voted November 4. This trend contrasts sharply with roughly a 50 percent national turnout.

While they went to the polls in droves, Southern White voters supported Ronald Reagan. Giving Reagan more than a clear majority, White voters in rural areas were, however, more loyal to their native son than urban and suburban Whites. Carter did carry a few of the predominantly White urban areas in Tennessee, Louisiana and a few other states; however, he lost most of them throughout the South and seldom carried suburban voters whose ranks have been escalating since 1976. In the suburban South, White Southerners voted Republican in percentages as large as 70-75 percent.

More than in any other election in recent history, the Southern registered voters believed it was important to go to the polls. As in the past, Black and Whites found their hope and vision for the future in different candidates.