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25 million Black and Latino Voters are Missing or Incorrectly Listed in U.S. Voter Databases

An eye-opening report titled “Surfacing Missing Voters: Addressing Data Systems, Tools, and Engagement Models that Invisibilize Black and Brown Communities,” authored by Miriam McKinney Gray for the Democracy & Power Innovation Fund (DPI), has unveiled a concerning reality: Nearly 25 million Black and Latino eligible voters are effectively absent from voter databases, making them virtually unreachable by traditional outreach methods. 

The revelation is crucial as America heads toward the all-important November general election between Democratic incumbent Joe Biden and the twice-impeached and four-times indicted former president Donald Trump.

Drawing from U.S. Census data and a recent Stanford study, the report estimated that approximately 24.76 million Black and Latino voters are either missing or inaccurately listed in databases sold by vendors.

The disparities revealed in the report are stark, with 40 percent of Black and Latino individuals missing from voter outreach efforts, compared to only 18 percent of white individuals. The paper-thin margins seen in recent crucial races serve as evidence that such glaring disparities in representation could significantly impact the results of future elections. During the 2020 election, Biden beat Trump in the popular vote by approximately 81.2 million to 74.2 million votes, or a 51.3 percent to 46.9 percent margin.

“For instance, almost half of eligible Black and Latino voters won’t be seen or contacted by traditional campaigns. This is a five-alarm fire for our democracy,” said Miriam McKinney Gray, founder and CEO of McKinney Gray Analytics, who analyzed the data based on U.S. Census records and a Stanford study.

“The only way many people will learn about the election is through independent power-building organizations. Groups like Voces de La Frontera in Wisconsin and Detroit Action are using friends-and-family organizing to find missing voters and manually rebuilding lists of voters who have been wrongly purged from government voter rolls.”

Twenty-five million Black and Latino people “are invisible to the very campaigns that want their support. From our research on Black values, we know who they are and the tools needed to reach them,” said Dr. Katrina Gamble of Sojourn Strategies. “It’s not too late to change course, but that takes breaking barriers that campaigns have blindly accepted for decades. We think democracy is worth it, and so are the people who have been excluded.”

Gamble is conducting groundbreaking nationwide research into the differences in values and political behavior of the Black electorate and analyzing clusters or segments of Black voters for the first time.

All involved said the report spotlights the systemic marginalization of Black and brown communities within the ostensibly inclusive, data-driven digital systems of voter engagement prevailing in the United States. It identifies aggressive voter purges and biases inherent in vendor-generated models appended to voter files as key factors exacerbating this invisibility.

According to the Democracy & Power Innovation Fund report, “One serious consequence of missing or incorrect data in purchased voter databases is that it distorts the algorithms that assign vote propensity scores to individual voters.”

“Traditional campaigns regularly and intentionally leave out people with low vote propensity scores, deeming them not worth the investment. To put it plainly, this approach is wrong,” stated Ranada Robinson, Research Director for New Georgia Project.

Similarly, Prentiss J. Haney, Senior Advisor to the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, highlighted the limitations of relying solely on political industry databases, noting that such dependence leads to the exclusion of millions of Black and Latino voters and inaccurate race modeling.

To address these disparities and ensure a more equitable electoral process, the report proposes philanthropic investments in community-based data collection, support for antiracist modeling efforts, and adopting broad relational organizing strategies.

The report called for concerted efforts to rectify the systemic biases ingrained within existing data systems and engagement models. The author asserted that a failure to address these issues risks perpetuating the disenfranchisement of marginalized communities and undermining democratic principles.

“The people unseen by voter files are still capable, if organized, to make moves and wield their latent power,” added Joy Cushman, Senior Advisor to DPI. “People deemed ‘low propensity’ by models and the political industry are defying the odds and still turning out to vote. And many are doing even more than that: they are becoming active members and leaders in power-building organizations, mobilizing their friends and family to vote as well.”


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