The black voter turnout rate in the 2012 election was, for the first time, higher than the white turnout rate, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.
While the number of minority voters rose overall in the November election, blacks voted more than other minority groups in 2012. White voter turnout dropped.
Until the Census Bureau reports in a few months, however, definitive figures will not be available. If blacks showed a higher voter turnout than whites, it would be the first time in the history of blacks having the right to vote, since the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Despite concerns over new voter-identification laws in many states, minority voting was at a historic high. If 2012 voter turnout had been at the same rate as 2004, when black turnout was lower, Mitt Romney would have won, according William H. Frey, a demographer for the Brookings Institutions who analyzed data from the 2012 election for the Associated Press.
New voter-identification measures, which led some organizations to accuse Republicans of “voter suppression,” may have been responsible for motivatings so many blacks to turn out.
"The 2012 turnout is a milestone for blacks and a huge potential turning point," said Andra Gillespie, a professor of political science at Emory University. "What it suggests is that there is an `Obama effect' where people were motivated to support Barack Obama. But it also means that black turnout may not always be higher, if future races aren't as salient."
Republican leaders have recently purported the grim outlook if the GOP does not double down efforts to engage black and other minority voters.
Whit Ayres, GOP consultant to Floridao Sen. Marco Rubio, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, said the Republican Party needs "a new message, a new messenger and a new tone."
"It remains to be seen how successful Democrats are if you don't have Barack Obama at the top of the ticket," Ayres said.
Republican support for immigration reform complicates efforts to woo minority voters. In 2026, Latino voters could be as high as 16 percent. With nearly 11 million immigrants the country illegally, who could be on a 13-year track to citizenship, the white vote could shrink to less than 64 percent.