Black Pittsburgh plays critical role in 2020 Presidential Election


by Rob Taylor
Courier Staff Writer

When they said “every vote counts,” nowhere was that more accurate than right here in Pennsylvania.

Specifically, Allegheny County, where the African American vote was instrumental in putting Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden over the top, and sending Donald Trump, the current president, into political irrelevance.

After a Nov. 3 Election Night that ended up spanning the rest of the week, Biden finally was declared the winner of Pennsylvania on Saturday, Nov. 7, after he had caught up to Trump in the state’s overall vote count and then passed Trump the previous day. The Associated Press saw Biden’s more-than 30,000-vote lead in the state with 98 percent of the vote counted, and on Saturday, Nov. 7, at 11:25 a.m., called the state for Biden. Moments later, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and MSNBC projected Biden the winner of the presidential election, as Pa.’s 20 electoral votes placed Biden over the 270 electoral votes needed to win. Fox News proclaimed Biden the winner of the election 10 minutes after the other networks.

On Election Night, Trump originally had a 696,000 vote lead in Pennsylvania, and a lead in states like Michigan and Wisconsin, causing him to declare that he had won the election.

But he was spreading fake news.

As the days went on and the millions of mail-in ballots continued to be counted in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, Biden mounted a Kentucky Derby-style comeback. Television networks seemed happy to point out that many of the mail-in ballots left to be counted were from Milwaukee, Detroit, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, which have large numbers of Black votes. The vast majority of those Black votes were going to Biden, as viewers witnessed the tide turning in favor of Biden in real-time.

Before Biden was declared the winner in Pa., he was named the winner in Wisconsin and Michigan, which had the Trump camp shaking in their boots. By Thursday morning, Nov. 5, all eyes were on the Keystone State; its votes were ultra-crucial to Presidential Election 2020.

By Saturday morning, Nov. 7, it was all over. Biden had caught up to Trump and passed him, and with almost no Republican mail-in ballots to count, it was clear Biden would grow his lead. As of Tuesday, Nov. 10, Biden had a 45,000 vote lead over Trump, with 98 percent of the state’s precincts reporting.

In Allegheny County, 700,979 total votes were cast; Biden received 415,861, or 59 percent. Trump received 274,348 votes, or 39 percent. African Americans in the county overwhelmingly voted for Biden, meaning that the Black vote here in the Pittsburgh area (and Philadelphia) was the major factor in Biden winning the state. Biden is the president-elect, and his running mate, Kamala Harris, will become the first woman and first Black woman vice president in American history on inauguration day, Jan. 20, 2021.

JASMINE SIMPSON voted for the first time in a presidential election.

The New Pittsburgh Courier spent Election Day, Nov. 3, at various polling locations in Pittsburgh’s Black neighborhoods. From Dewayne Johnson, to Jasmine Simpson, to Devon Washington, Ahlexxus White and those in between, all the people interviewed by the Courier agreed on one thing; wanting Donald Trump out of the White House.

DEVON WASHINGTON voted on Election Day.

“I really don’t want Trump back in this office, I’m sorry,” proclaimed Washington, the Hill District resident, to the Courier’s J.L. Martello.

“We need Trump outta here,” exclaimed Johnson. “We need the right people in the (White) House, and so that’s why I voted.”



PITTSBURGH RESIDENTS DEWAYNE JOHNSON AND AHLEXXUS WHITE were among the many Black voters who voted on Election Day. (Photos by Courier photographer J.L. Martello)

The get-out-the-vote efforts in Pittsburgh’s Black communities prior to the election were fierce. Tim Stevens, President and CEO of the Black Political Empowerment Project, orchestrated an early-voting campaign that was seen on billboards and buses in the area.

The promotional messages clearly reminded African Americans to apply for, fill out, then mail-in their ballots, which would eliminate older voters’ chances of being in large Election Day crowds during the coronavirus pandemic.

The campaign worked. The Courier observed less people in the lines to vote on Election Day in areas like Homewood, East Liberty, the Hill District and Wilkinsburg; many of the Black voters had already mailed in their ballots or dropped them off at the “Block Party”-style events in October in Homewood, the Hill, and the North Side. The weekend events last month gave voters the opportunity to drop off their mail-in ballots at what was called a “satellite voting center,” flanked by a DJ and other outside vendors. Others came to the satellite voting centers to apply for, fill out and submit their mail-in ballots all at once.

People then received an “I Voted” sticker, which was proudly worn on their clothing for all to see for the rest of the day.

ROBYN BROWN voted on Election Day.

Allegheny County’s Elections Division recorded roughly 334,000 mail-in ballots returned prior to Election Day, which turned out to be nearly half of all the ballots cast in the county.
Though Pittsburgh resident Robyn Brown didn’t mail in a ballot, she was determined to cast her vote at Miller Elementary School in the Hill District on Election Day. “It’s good for everyone to vote because this depends on our future, not only for us, but for our children as well,” she told the Courier.

Simpson, a Hill District resident, voted on Election Day, “just so I could do my part and feel like I tried to help a little bit, at least.” She told the Courier: “How are we ever going to see the change in the world that we want if we don’t vote for the people who are going to bring that change?”

Brown and Simpson were not asked by the Courier to reveal who they voted for in the presidential election, but CNN exit polls showed that 94 percent of Black women in Pennsylvania said they voted for Biden. Only four percent said they went with Trump. Black men in the state said they voted for Biden at an 89 percent rate; 10 percent said Trump was their man.

White, who wasn’t old enough to vote in the 2016 election, said she was nervous casting her vote on Election Day. But what had her outright scared was the way the country was moving under Trump. “We need a change,” she told the Courier. “I needed to vote. It’s a need.”

“You want (the president) to control or do you want him to dictate?” Washington added. “I feel like Joe Biden should be able to step up and do better than Trump has.”

Most African Americans were “done” with Trump years ago, but as racial tensions grew in the country with the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May, Black organizations nationwide knew they had to do everything possible to get Black voters to the polls to vote Trump out. Trump initially refused to admonish the White police officer who caused Floyd’s death, then seemed to side with the police on many issues rather than with Blacks who died or suffered at the hands of White police brutality. Trump was a president who had public spats with legendary Black figures like the late Rep. John Lewis and Rep. Elijah Cummings. He claimed there were “very fine people on both sides” during a White supremacist rally in Virginia in 2017. Biden claimed earlier this year that Trump “fanned the flames” on the racial divide in the U.S.

DARON GREEN voted on Election Day.

Overall, the 2020 Presidential Election garnered the most votes in American history, at 147 million. Biden received 76 million, while Trump received 71 million, or eight million more than he received in 2016. The numbers proved that while Biden had immense support, neither racial division nor a perceived mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic stopped Trump from getting even more support than he did four years ago.

However, in the electoral college game, Trump didn’t get enough support in the “swing states,” like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Trump won those states, plus Georgia and Arizona, in 2016. But this time around, the Biden supporters in those states decided to turn Trump into a one-term president. Biden is leading in Georgia and Arizona as of Nov. 10, and won outright in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, thanks to voters like Curtis Parker, who came to the polls in the Hill District with his young son.

CURTIS PARKER voted on Election Day.

“We gotta make a change. It’s time to make a change,” Parker told the Courier. “Our voices gotta be heard. I’m here because of the Black vote. Black lives do matter. As I told my son, voting is the most important thing that you have to do in life. Your voice has to be heard. If not, they’ll choose for us, and we can’t accept that.”

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