The 30 percent Black-voter turnout in Alabama’s special senate election resulting in Democratic candidate Doug Jones’ victory is unfathomable to some, like Republican candidate Roy Moore, who lost but refuses to concede, and pro-Donald Trump online radio host Bill Mitchell who has decided to spread rumors.
In a current environment where about half of people age 49 and under say they get their news online, according to a 2016 Pew Research Center survey, rumors can be easily believed. Mitchell is using his platform to say that Blacks were brought from Mississippi to Alabama to vote in Tuesday’s election.
He tweeted the following to his more than 300,000 followers, and the tweet received more than 10,000 likes:
I am hearing rumors that black voters from MS were encouraged to cross over into AL and vote. Anyone else hearing this? Anything to it? That might explain the 30% turnout higher than population percentage. Just reporting the rumor.
— Bill Mitchell (@mitchellvii) December 13, 2017
Mitchell’s YourVoice America is an alternative right-wing online radio show, which resides in “a new-media ecosystem” that “exists outside of traditional newspapers and cable news networks,” according to Media Matters.
On the evening of the 2016 presidential election, Mitchell “claims to have received thankful direct messages from Trump’s two sons, Eric and Donald Jr., as well as campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, thanking him for his enthusiasm and analysis over Twitter. ‘I won’t tell you what they said, but it was very nice and appreciative,’ he said,” according to BuzzFeed.
Voter suppression efforts took place during Tuesday’s election. Civil rights organizations received hundreds of complaints of voter suppression, and “residents and reporters took to social media to report tactics used to intimidate minority voters or force them to cast provisional ballots,” according to Mother Jones. Due to restrictive voter ID laws, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had to intervene Tuesday on behalf of a Black man in Mobile prohibited from voting. He had both a driver’s license and passport.
Despite voter suppression efforts, Blacks in Alabama supported Jones across the board: 98 percent of Black women, 93 percent of Black men, and as a whole, 96 percent of Blacks voted for him.
Twitter users are overwhelmingly slamming Mitchell’s rumor in clever ways.
Here are a few responses:
I, a Black, was bussed from D.C. with a convoy of 739 buses holding more than 35,000 BLACKITTY BLACKS, on Monday night. We were personally escorted by Barack Obama, Megatron and Black Panther. We all voted 19 times each. Happy Kwanzaa!
— Asia Chloe Brown (@AsiaChloeBrown) December 14, 2017
I refused to take the yellow bus from IL due to, well I’m fabulous, so I rode in a multicolor WV Bus and voted 34 times (30 for Jones, 3 Michelle Obama, 1 for myself of course)
— trebienbeauty (@trebienbeauty) December 14, 2017
Yes, I can confirm these rumors. It was I, the reincarnated ancestor of Harriet Tubman, with rifle in hand, who brought a fleet of Mississippi Negroes across the border on the Underground Railroad, which was made of engines, boxcars, tracks and good, liberty-loving white people!
— Stacey Patton (@DrStaceyPatton) December 14, 2017
I was sent this secret footage of Black women sneaking into Alabama to vote for Doug Jones. 🤫 pic.twitter.com/umdByzippP
— K.R. Whalen (@KR_Whalen) December 14, 2017
Grassroots Movements in Alabama
Mitchell knows about the power of grassroots movements in elections. On Nov. 8, 2016, he tweeted in support of Trump:
Yard signs matter.
Social media matters.
Flash polls matter.
— Bill Mitchell (@mitchellvii) November 9, 2016
So the rumor he’s spreading is to bait his followers. Blacks in Alabama overwhelmingly came to the polls due to grassroots organizing.
Alabama State Rep. Laura Hall told DiversityInc that Blacks in her district were inspired by last month’s elections in Virginia and New Jersey, when Black voters helped Democrats win in special elections.
“I said, we ought to do that in Alabama and certainly there were other people thinking the same way,” Hall said. “That election night probably just increased the motivation for what had already started.”
Laura Hall (D-Huntsville) talked with DiversityInc about Madison County's grassroots efforts to support Doug Jones in the senate race.
The hashtag #WeVote was used to encourage people to get to the polls to vote for Jones. The Democratic Party, local chapters of the NAACP and voting rights organizations fought against structures in place that keep Black voters away from the polls by actions such as targeting awareness campaigns at people who might not have had proper identification.
According to The Atlantic, the grassroots efforts used “immediately become a case study in how to do so in a region that has, since the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision curtailing the 1965 Voting Rights Act, become a bastion of new voter-suppression laws, including new voter-ID laws.”