Motivated by concern over voting rights, racism and hate crimes, Black voters surged to the polls in 2018, suggesting that a focus on issues that matter to Black voters belongs at the heart of a successful 2020 base voter engagement strategy, according to a new BlackPAC poll of voters in key battleground states.

Black voters highlighted the economy (79 percent), voting rights (79 percent), division and racism (70 percent), hate crimes (72 percent), and government corruption (77 percent) as top concerns, distinguishing them from white voters. All groups cited healthcare, Social Security/Medicare, and the economy as major issues.

“2018 showed the power of a deeply engaged Black electorate. Black voters want courageous leaders who will take a stand against division and racism, and fight for the issues that matter to their communities,” said Adrianne Shropshire, Executive Director of BlackPAC. “To win in 2020, candidates must be able to speak to and mobilize all of the progressive base, including voters of color.”

Despite attempts to suppress the vote in many states, Black voters surged to the polls to vote in 2018, many for the first time. Forty percent of Black voters in the 2018 midterms did not participate in the 2014 midterms and Black voters accounted for as much as 27 percent of the Democratic electorate in some states, according to our post-election poll.

“Black voters saw Trump and Republican lawmakers silence their voices and undermine their communities – and they responded in force. The 2018 midterm electorate was much more diverse than the 2010 and 2014 midterms,” said brilliant corners President Cornell Belcher who conducted the poll on behalf of BlackPAC. “Our poll shows Black voters want leaders who will call out racism and white supremacy for what it is.”

We are potentially facing a crisis of validity in our democracy. A 53 percent majority of Black voters think people being improperly denied the right to vote impacted the outcome of the election. In Georgia, the heart of this year’s voting rights battle, 77 percent of Black voters believed that voter suppression efforts impacted the election outcomes in their state.

Wait times were also a significant barrier to voting access for the Black electorate. The poll found 27 percent of Black voters waited over 20 minutes to vote compared to just 18 percent of White voters. In Georgia, 42 percent of Black voters waited over 20 minutes to cast their ballot. Across states, four percent waited for one to two hours. That means more than 275,000 Black voters likely waited more than one hour to vote in these states.

Long-term, holding voters engaged in a process that they feel isn’t fair or is indeed rigged against them will be a challenge. We must strongly and affirmatively continue our efforts to secure the fundamental right to vote and make sure every vote is counted.