What’s behind fewer African-American voters at the polls

John Mohammad likes to say, “I’ve been around since Jim Crow was a little-itty boy.”

Like the majority of African-Americans in their 70s, Mr. Mohammad, a retired math professor at Morehouse College in Atlanta, saw the Democrats as liberators for striking a deal on civil rights in the mid-1960s. He’s been a staunch Democratic voter ever since – until, he says, now.

“I’m done voting,” he says, because it doesn’t do any good. Then adds: “Maybe you gotta be black to understand.”

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Disillusioned by what he calls unmet promises of the Obama era, evidence of state-sponsored disenfranchisement at the polls, and the rise of a new ethno-nationalist vanguard in Washington, he has joined the ranks of what some have called the vanishing black voter.

By one measure, 14 percent fewer African-Americans than expected voted in a Georgia primary in April, with men being more unlikely than women to cast a ballot. That dip happened even as Asians and Latinos voted in surprising numbers for Democrat Jon Ossoff, a political neophyte on the threshold of flipping a deeply red district to blue. Mr. Ossoff faces Republican Karen Handel in a June 20 runoff to replace Tom Price, the new Health and Human Services secretary.

African-American voters interviewed cite a range of reasons: from a sense of disillusionment as the Trump administration works to undo the policies of the Obama White House to a feeling that the candidates aren’t talking to them, or about the issues they most care about. Beyond the race for the Sixth, voting experts say, is the dampening effect of voter-ID laws and other measures passed in GOP-led states such as North Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin – fueling a sense among black voters that the game is rigged.

“The idea that fewer African-Americans show up to vote [in the post-Obama era] is not shocking,” says David Lublin, a political scientist who studies voter behavior at American…

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