New Jersey among top states with highest Black political engagement

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Top row - Attorney General Sheila Oliver (State of NJ photo), Newark Mayor Ras Baraka (City of Newark photo), Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (U.S. Congress photo), Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp (City of Plainfield photo), Bottom row - Congressman Donald Payne Jr. (U.S. Congress photo), Penns Grove Mayor LaDeen Thomas (City of Penns Grove photo), New Jersey Democratic State Committee Chairman John Currie (NJDSC photo), Assemblywoman Shavon E. Sumter (NJ State Assembly photo)
By Bradford Mason
Managing Editor

With a Black State Attorney General, a Black chairman over the State Democratic Committee and numerous Black mayors, it's no surprise that New Jersey is one of the top 10 states with the highest African American political engagement.

Personal finance website WalletHub released the results from its report with on political involvement of Black Americans. New Jersey placed No. 7 after Delaware.

Taking the top spots were South Carolina in third place, Ohio in second and Minnesota in first. With the Democratic presidential candidates vying to become to party's nominee, New Jersey is hotspot to get Black votes.

To determine where Black Americans are most engaged in the political process, WalletHub compared 49 states across six key metrics. They include Black voter turnout and registration during the most recent midterm and presidential elections as well as the proportional representation of Blacks in the state legislature and national party conventions.
Source: WalletHub

According to WalletHub, New Jersey ranks first in proportional representation of Blacks in State Legislature and in National Party Conventions. The Garden State ranked 14th in Black voter registration during the 2018 Midterm Elections and 16th in voter turnout in the 2018 Midterm Elections.

"I think candidates who speak directly to African American communities can be very effective, as can aggressive voter registration drives, and get-out-vote efforts aimed at Black communities," said Northeastern University associate professor, Dr. Patricia Davis. "I also think social media can be very instrumental in turning out younger Black voters, particularly if it is used to mobilize them around the issues of specific importance to them."

Sociology professor Dr. Noel A. Cazenave said that candidates are still having a hard time connecting to Black voters. As the 2020 election gets into full swing, Cazenave said finding out the true concerns of Black voters goes beyond doing polls.

"A major problem is the lack of candidates and platforms that truly articulate our concerns," he said. "Having to continuously vote for 'the lesser of two evils' is not a great motivator; neither is fear. All too often the only choice we have is to vote against someone who we fear rather than to vote for someone we are actually excited about. That fear-driven strategy did not work for the Democrats in 2016 and it won't work in 2020."

New Jersey has several in influential positions including State Attorney General Sheila Oliver,  U.S. Sen. and former Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker and New Jersey Democratic State Committee Chairman John Currie.

The state also has a high number of influential Black mayors including Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp and East Orange Mayor Ted R. Green.

LaDaena Thomas made history in January when was sworn in as the first African American woman mayor of Penns Grove.

Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. is one of only two Blacks representing New Jersey in the U.S. Congress and was voted New Jersey’s most popular member of the House of Representatives.

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