Determined to Vote!

Barack Obama
Barack Obama; drawing by John Springs

Despite their considerable efforts, the Republicans were not able to buy or steal the election after all. Their defeat was of an almost biblical nature. The people—large swaths of the public who have traditionally supported the Democrats—whose votes they had plotted, schemed, and maneuvered, unto nearly the very last minute, to deny rose up and said they wouldn’t have it. If they had to stand in line well into the night to cast their vote they did it. The long lines were the symbol of the 2012 election—at once awe-inspiring and enraging.

On election night, the Romney camp had at least four planes ready and aides had bags packed to take off as soon as a state’s result appeared narrow enough to warrant a challenge. But they ended up with nowhere to go. The Republicans’ extraordinary effort to block enough votes of Obama supporters to affect the outcome—in order to prevent the president’s reelection—failed. None of Obama’s margins of victory, though not particularly wide in some states, was sufficiently narrow to warrant a challenge. So the nation was spared the nightmare of reliving Florida 2000, a fear that had gripped many until late Tuesday night.

Yet the fact that the Republicans’ effort to manipulate the election’s outcome didn’t succeed doesn’t mean it didn’t cause a lot of damage: to individuals who had to struggle or weren’t able to exercise their right to vote; and to the democratic process itself. Small-minded men, placing their partisan interests over those of the citizenry, concocted schemes to subvert the natural workings of our most solemn and exhilarating exercise as a self-governing nation. By the time of the election, more than thirty states had passed laws requiring voters to present some form of identification, often a government-issued photo ID that they didn’t possess and couldn’t obtain easily, in many cases not at all. The point was to make it more difficult for constituent groups of the Democratic Party—blacks, Hispanics, low-income elderly, and students—to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote.

Though most of these new ID laws had been put on hold or weakened by the courts, they nevertheless created a great deal of confusion on election day. Pennsylvania’s voter ID law had been suspended by a state judge on the grounds that it couldn’t be properly administered by the time of the election, yet poll workers were permitted to ask for the IDs anyway, and some of them were under the impression that voters were required to have them. In some parts of the country, confusion was sown deliberately: intimidating billboards suggesting that photo IDs would be required appeared in predominantly black and Hispanic areas.

This was no sneak attack but a national, coordinated enterprise that could not go unnoticed. At first only a few voices were issuing warnings, but as election day neared it was well known that Republicans were conspiring to keep Democrats from casting…

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