Doug Jones just became Alabama’s first Democratic senator in more than two decades, and the state’s black voters and their aggressive organizing efforts played a big part in delivering the win in the special election Tuesday night.
The former prosecutor, who put the culprits of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing behind bars, certainly benefited from recent reports that his far-right Republican opponent Roy Moore had sexually assaulted and harassed underage women years before, which exit poll data say dampened enthusiasm for Moore. But a turnout surge among black voters in the special election, combined with an increase of the white voting share, appears to have put Jones over the top.
Blacks account for 26 percent of the state’s population but comprised 28 percent of the electorate Tuesday, according to Washington Post exit polling. 98 percent of black women voted for Jones, as did 93 percent of black men, which is slightly better than how President Obama did in Alabama in 2012 (the last time exit poll data was taken in the state). This is especially impressive, given Alabama’s strict voter ID laws — civil rights groups reported hundreds of calls about potential vote suppression at polling places Tuesday — and the high rate of incarcerated black men in the state. But Jones’ near-unanimous support from black voters doesn’t tell the whole story.
In 2012, President Obama won 15 percent of Alabama’s white vote against Mitt Romney. This time around, Jones won 30 percent of Alabama’s white voters, with “particularly large gains among white women and those with college degrees,” according to the Post.
Roy Moore, a conservative Christian and a former state Supreme Court justice, was also weakened by a slight drop in his base’s turnout. White evangelical Christians were less represented in the electorate this time around, making up 44 percent of the vote on Tuesday instead of their 47 percent figure in 2012 and 2008.