BME voters critical in US election


2012 is to be a big year in US Politics with November 6th deciding who will become the next President of the United States. The US Presidential election is critical as it will as define what kind of country America wants itself to be and determine the fate of not only the American economy, but the global economy too.

In this election, Black and minority (BME) voters have the potential to make a crucial difference in terms of who wins that race between Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney as well as a number of other congressional and local elections which will be taking place across America on 6th November.

BME voters make up about a quarter of registered voters in the United States, and many reside in states that will be of significant importance to deciding the Presidency. These include key battleground states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida where the BME population averages 29%. It is believed that the proportion of BME voters in America will only increase in the coming decades, making the input of minority groups to political discourse ever more important.

The importance of BME political participation carries on from a trend that was first noticed at the last Presidential election in 2008, when successful voter registration drives resulted in increased voter turnout, particularly from BME voters, many of whom took advantage of early voting in states where it was available. Many voters were fired up by the Obama campaign, while others are aware of the importance of the choice faced at the time. This trend looks set to continue this year, with the choice being presented to the electorate encouraging many voters to play a vital role.

Both major parties have recognised this, and have tried to reach out to various BME groups. The Democratic Party is known for its historically solid support amongst African-Americans and support from various Hispanic communities. The Republican Party has traditionally had more difficulty in gaining BME support in the past, but is pushing for Hispanic voters in this election, building on its experience of maintaining the support of Cuban-Americans.

This recognition of the BME vote is shown in the role that BME politicians have had in the National Conventions that have taken place to nominate both candidates in the election. Over the past fortnight, BME politicians from both sides of the aisle – including Democratic Congressman and friend of OBV, Emanuel Cleaver, have spoken for their parties and their respective Presidential candidates to the convention floor.

Looking more closely to home, as conference season approaches in the UK, it is easy to notice the lack of BME leadership within the major parties here in comparison to the clear presence BME figures have within the American parties. Perhaps the impact of the BME vote in the US election, will not only help to decide the political make up of their country, but also serve as an example to the UK of how we can make our democracy more representative.

Robert Austin