Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Data leak: 2016 Trump campaign listed 3.5 million Black people it wanted to stop from voting


Igor Derysh
,Salon•September 29, 2020

President Trump's 2016 campaign identified more than 3 million Black voters it wanted to deter from casting ballots in the presidential election, according to a massive data leak obtained by the British news outlet Channel 4.

The leak revealed that the campaign compiled data on nearly 200 million voters and divided them up into eight different categories. One category, titled "Deterrence," listed 3.5 million Black voters.

The leak shows that the campaign disproportionately targeted Black voters in its "deterrence" strategy aimed at lowering voter turnout among likely supporters of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. More than 60% of people on the list in Georgia were Black, for example, even though Black people are around one-third of the state population. Black people made up 46% of the "Deterrence" list in North Carolina even though they make up just 22% of the population. In Wisconsin, Black voters made up 17% of the "Deterrence" list, even though just 5.4% of the state's population is Black.

In all, about 54% of the people on the "Deterrence" list were people of color, according to Channel 4. Other categories of voters that the campaign sought to turn out were "overwhelmingly white."

The people on the list were described publicly by Trump's top data scientists as people the campaign hoped "don't show up to vote." The campaign worked with the controversial British data firm Cambridge Analytica, now defunct, to compile the data, which was used to target certain Facebook ads to voters. Voters on the "Deterrence" list were targeted with negative ads attacking Hillary Clinton.


Though Trump lost the Black vote by more than 80 points in 2016, reduced Black turnout has repeatedly been cited as a key reason why Clinton lost several states Democrats had previously carried for decades, most notably Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. About 2 million Black voters who backed President Barack Obama in 2012 did not turn out to vote for Clinton.

The new report "has exposed the ways in which the Trump campaign used targeted digital ads to intentionally and methodically deter Black Americans from voting," said a spokesperson for the African American Policy Forum, a social justice think tank. "This is twenty-first century voter suppression."

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