Voter Suppression Foes Lay Foundation for Nov. 6

Barrington Salmom | 10/2/2012, 11:05 p.m.

Significant Numbers Register to Vote

When a Republican-dominated U.S. Supreme Court selected George W. Bush as president in 2000, experts, political pundits and others said they hoped the debacle of hanging chads, ineligible ballots and purported electoral improprieties would not be repeated.

But 12 years later, there are growing fears that the Nov. 6 elections might be fraught with similar issues and problems that could throw the result of the race between President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney into doubt for weeks after balloting is completed.

So in an effort to fight against a sustained voter suppression effort by Republicans and to ensure that the election results aren't close, members of the Congressional Black Caucus [CBC], the American Civil Liberties Union and a range of organizations across the country took part in National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 25. It is estimated that voter suppression could potentially cost as many as five million votes.

"I appreciate that we have a very important job to do leading up to Nov. 6," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told thousands of participants at the CBC's recently concluded 42nd Annual Legislative Conference. "Right now, we have a challenge to succeed in meeting this new age of discrimination ... our names are on the ballot but there's nothing less on the ballot than our honor."

"Our strength is our vote which is why it's under attack."

National Urban League President Marc H. Morial agrees.

"These new laws are a thinly-veiled attempt to drive down turnout among people of color, senior citizens and students," Morial said, noting that new laws have been introduced in 41 states since 2010, and passed in 17 states and appear to target very specific voting blocs. "While some of the laws have been struck down by the courts, millions of people could face new hurdles when they go to cast their ballots. We want to make sure everyone is properly registered and prepared."

On National Voter Registration Day, besides CBC members, volunteers, representatives from organized labor, celebrities, and organizations such as the Fair Elections Legal Network, the League of Women's Voters, Non Profit Vote and Voto Latino hit the streets on a "single day of coordinated field, technology and media efforts" to create a blanket of awareness of registration opportunities.

It is provisional balloting that could cause election officials heartburn. The new voting laws in key swing states could force a lot more voters to cast provisional ballots in November. Delays of results in close races might not be known for days or weeks while election officials pore over ballots and campaigns stake out positions over which votes should be counted.

It is expected that the new laws in competitive states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Virginia and Florida could easily leave the eventual outcome of the election in doubt, particularly if the vote is close. Meanwhile, recently implemented laws in Tennessee, Kansas and South Carolina could precipitate delays in the release of results in local and state elections.

Voters cast provisional ballots because they failed to update their voter registration; their right to vote may be challenged; or because they didn't bring proper ID to the polls.