It was a close call, but Democrat Doug Jones clenched the Alabama Senate seat against Trump-endorsed Republican candidate Roy Moore. Moore has been accused of sexual misconduc and said America was last “great” when slavery was legal.
A preliminary exit poll conducted by Edison Research for the National Election Poll, The Washington Post, and other media showed that a strong turnout among black voters played a key role in electing Jones. And according to early reports, 98 percent of black women cast their ballots for the Democratic candidate.
“Doug Jones would not have won today without the turnout we saw from African-American voters,” Symone D. Sanders, a Democratic strategist, told Newsweek. “Black women have been absolutely clear in their support for Democratic policies and Democratic candidates. It’s high time for Democrats … to invest in that effort.”
Voter suppression be damned!
If confirmed, these figures are important because the state of Alabama has one of the strictest voter ID laws in any U.S. state. In 2011, Alabama passed a photo ID law which requires voters to have at least one of several specific kinds of photo ID in order to be able to cast the ballot.
While the law is manifestly about cracking down on “voter impersonation,” research shows this is really rare. Some campaigners and activists such as Scott Douglas, executive director of the Greater Birmingham Ministries, claim the law “is nothing but a naked attempt to suppress the voting rights of people of color” who are less likely to have a photo ID they can use to vote.
In an interview with Newsweek, Sanders said it was the grassroots, on-the-ground efforts of Jones’s African-American supporters that helped bring black voters to the ballot box on Tuesday and push Jones across the finish line. But if Democrats want to carry their 2017 successes into the 2018 midterms, they can’t count on black women alone to carry the party.
“Black women have been attempting to save America since the dawn of time,” she said. “That doesn’t mean we should allow the fate of America to be laid at the feet of black women—it has to be a multicultural effort.”
Jones’ win is also significant because of his history of fighting for civil rights in the red-state.
“It’s no coincidence that Selma, where blood was shed in the struggle for voting rights for Black people, pushed Doug Jones ahead for good,” Bernice King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter, tweeted following Jones’s win. Selma, Alabama—the site of 1965’s “Bloody Sunday”—was among one of the Democratic candidate’s strongholds with black voters.
As Newsweek reported, the Jones camp had tried to leverage the candidate’s civil rights record to appeal to African-American voters in the state. When he served as a prosecutor, Jones was responsible for convicting members of the Ku Klux Klan who bombed a Birmingham, Alabama Baptist church and killed four young girls.
“I’m very humbled and honored to have played a part in the civil rights saga, if you will, many years after the fact,” Jones said during a campaign rally in Montgomery, Alabama, another famous site of the civil rights movement.