The New York Times reports today on a topic evident in Arkansas yesterday — the Democratic Party push to expand turnout among black voters, typically reliable Democratic votes.

Mike Ross, the Democratic candidate for governor, appeared with black legislative leaders yesterday. Republican Asa Hutchinson has a radio ad on black stations featuring anti-gay black baseball player Torii Hunter, a twofer in wedge voting issues with a black man carrying an anti-marriage equality message. The Republicans are trying to tear down Ross by raising a copyright claim (spurious, the Democratic Party attorney responds) about a radio ad Ross is playing on black stations that resembles a commercial featuring Michael Jordan years ago.

Support the Arkansas Blog with a subscription

We can't resist without our readers!

The UA poll this morning of “very likely” voters, with its broad support for Republicans, emphasizes the importance of a Democratic turnout effort among voters who typically aren’t expected in big numbers in a non-presidential year. The tactics bring up racial issues in strong terms that Republicans find unsettling. Truth hurts.

In the final days before the election, Democrats in the closest Senate races across the South are turning to racially charged messages — invoking Trayvon Martin’s death, the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., and Jim Crow-era segregation — to jolt African-Americans into voting and stop a Republican takeover in Washington.

The images and words they are using are striking for how overtly they play on fears of intimidation and repression. 

Such efforts have surfaced in Arkansas.


In Arkansas, voters are opening mailboxes to find leaflets with images of the Ferguson protests and the words: “Enough! Republicans are targeting our kids, silencing our voices and even trying to impeach our president.” The group distributing them is Color of Change, a grass-roots civil rights organization.

In Arkansas, black voters, for fears of repression, need look no farther than the Republican-majority legislature, which passed a vote ID law over a veto of Gov. Mike Beebe, who said it was unconstitutional. A unanimous Supreme Court majority said that it was. Yesterday, Mike Ross said he’d fight to prevent impediments to voting, which that law constituted. Even Hutchinson, while defending a need for identification, in an interview with the Democrat-Gazette attempted to appear moderate.

“You want to expand voter participation. You don’t want anything to interfere with that. If there are ways that we can make it better, then I am open to it to make sure it is not a burden on citizens. But it is essential for having integrity at the ballot box.”

No Republican has yet proposed an ID law that didn’t come with additional burdens. Which was the point of the law — to discourage poor voters (disproportionately minority) from voting.


Arkansas Republican media mouthpieces have been outraged at the campaign efforts. They don’t get it. They’ve never been burdened with, for example, the dangers of driving while black.

For many African-Americans, feelings of persecution — from voter ID laws, aggressive police forces and a host of other social problems — are hard to overstate. And they see no hyperbole in the attacks.

“It’s not race-baiting; it’s actually happening,” said Jaymes Powell Jr., an official in the North Carolina Democratic Party’s African-American Caucus. “I can’t catch a fish unless there’s a worm on the hook.”

PS — Arkansas is no different than other states, except in one key respect. With Republican help, we have Obamacare. Look at what happened in Mississippi, where, as Politico put it, 

The first year of the Affordable Care Act was, by almost every measure, an unmitigated disaster in Mississippi. In a state stricken by diabetes, heart disease, obesity and the highest mortality rate in the nation, President Barack Obama’s landmark health care law has barely registered, leaving the country’s poorest and most segregated state trapped in a severe and intractable health care crisis.

Tom Cotton promises to eradicate Obamacare from the land, including Arkansas. So there’s that to look forward to.