#BlackVotesMatter: Black Voter Support at 94% Propels Phil Murphy into New Jersey’s Governor Seat
Amelia Boynton, often called the matriarch of the voters rights movement, was clubbed and overcome by the gas and left for dead during the epic civil rights march known Bloody Sunday. It was March 7, 1965, and a 54 year old Amelia Boynton, future Congressman, John Lewis and 600 protesters attempted to cross the now famous, Edmund Pettus Bridge from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery to protest the denial of voting rights to Blacks in the state. They were met by local police forces – determined to thwart the protest by any means necessary. Mrs. Boynton an organizer of the march, who passed at the age of 104, in 2015, recalled the day,
“The police department came up and started beating us, and I stood up there, then finally I fell,” Boynton said. “I fell when the posse or whoever it was hit me, and it was below my shoulder, and I looked at him like I thought he was crazy, and he said, ‘Run.’ Then he hit me back at my neck, and I was unconscious. And I didn’t know what happened because I was unconscious.” As she lay unconscious, someone suggested they call for an ambulance. She said Clark (the Sheriff) refused. “He said, ‘I’m not sending an ambulance over there. If there’s anybody that is dead, let the buzzards eat them,’” Boynton said.
In 2015, she had a message for anyone who says they stand on her shoulders.
“Get the heck off of my shoulders and get to work.”
Despite the Fourteenth Amendment (1868) giving all male citizens over twenty-one years old the right to vote and Fifteenth Amendment (1870) affirming that the right to vote “shall not be denied…on account of race; it took the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to enforce the voting rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, In response to the civil rights political victories – Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voters Rights Act of 1965 – African-Americans exercised their right to vote with passion. Within months of the act’s passage, one quarter of a million new Black voters had been registered. By 1969, Tennessee had a 92.1% turnout; Arkansas, 77.9%; and Texas, 73.1%.
The enthusiasm with which African-Americans vote has diminished over decades, as evidenced in the decline in voter turnout (with exception of the 2008 Presidential election of Barack Obama). However, in response to the surprising, and in many Black communities, disappointing election of Donald Trump, there seems to be a renewed sense of responsibility and engagement. The effects of the re-awakening are never more apparent than in the 2017 gubernatorial election in New Jersey, where the influence and power of the Black vote was evident and validated.
On November 7, 2017, Phil Murphy became Governor-elect for the State of New Jersey. Murphy won the New Jersey gubernatorial race against Kim Guadagno by 14 points (56% to 42%). However, a review of exit polls, indicates that Murphy’s win can be directly attributed to the overwhelming support and strong turnout from Black and Hispanic/Latino voters. Murphy received 94% of the Black vote, and 82%f the Hispanic/Latino vote.
New Jersey has a White population of 72%, of which Guardano won 53% to Murphy’s 45%. The Black population in New Jersey is 10% and Hispanic/Latino is 13%. Consequently, the minority vote, and specifically, the black vote, was a decisive factor in the gubernatorial election. Murphy’s 94% support from Black voters is reminiscent of Barack Obama securing 93% of the Black vote to Mitt Romney’s 7% during the 2012 Presidential election, and far outperforms Hillary Clinton’s 88% received in the 2016 Presidential election against Donald Trump.
Despite record low statewide turnout, Murphy’s victory was helped by strong turnout in the northern part of the state. In Essex County, the third largest county in New Jersey by population, where Blacks are the largest racial demographic, representing 38.5% of the population, Murphy won 80% of the vote. In Hudson County, the fourth largest county in New Jersey by population, where Hispanics are the largest racial demographic, representing 43% of the population, Murphy also won 80% of the vote.
Murphy’s methodical and strategic campaign to engage and energize the Black community was successful, as proven by the exit poll data. His main headquarters are in Newark, New Jersey, where he received an early endorsement from Newark’s Mayor Ras Baraka, and numerous local politicians. President Obama issued his endorsement for Murphy at a hotel in downtown Newark, to a room packed with neighborhood residents rubbing elbows with dignitaries, clergy and staffers. Murphy was endorsed by 300 faith leaders and frequented many Black churches with his senior political advisor, Derrick Green. “Every vote was important to the Murphy,Oliver team and we spent considerable time in Black communities listening to concerns and sharing our vision to improve the lives of its residents,” said Green.
There were also historical implications of importance to the Black community associated with Murphy’s campaign. As a result of November 7th win, Murphy’s running mate, Sheila Oliver, will be the first African-American to serve as Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey. “It was gratifying to see the resilience of the Black community in weathering heavy rains to cast their vote for Phil Murphy, the candidate they believe will provide opportunities for personal economic stabilization and growth, reform the criminal justice system and stand strong against the idiocracy coming from the Oval office,” stated Green.
Black votes matter.
By Tanya Young Williams
Crisis Management Expert, University Lecturer, On-Air Legal Analyst, Host of In The Loop