No soon as night had morphed into day and voting booths were officially declared open for operations, voter complaint hotlines were lighting up all across the country with angst and confused voters reliving horror stories of the most diabolical efforts imaginable to criminally suppress their rights to basic citizenship.
Not too coincidentally all the mayhem was targeted at minority communities, heavily African American populated neighborhoods to be even more specific. With pre-election polls consistently pointing to a Barack Obama victory, 11th-hour tactics aimed at altering the inevitable ranged from would-be voters being harassed about photo IDs that held no legal bearing on their rights to suffrage to malfunctioning ballot machines that were suspiciously tabulating votes cast for Obama as pledges for Mitt Romney.
Yet, in the end, the machine that was the Obama re-election campaign was not to be derailed. Just know that the effort was truly genuine.
All day long, activists from such groups as the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the Election Protection Committee fielded tens of thousands of calls from handcuffed would-be-voters guilty of nothing more than simply seeking to exercise their hard-fought rights to suffrage.
From the break of dawn, self-appointed poll watchers and Tea Party group activists headed to the polls in black and Latino neighborhoods intent on causing mass confusion and simply suppressing vote efforts. In Pittsburgh, as many as 80 percent of voters targeted were African Americans, even though that demographic composed just 13 percent of that area’s overall electorate.
“What we’re seeing is a manifestation of a new Jim Crow in America… and I don’t think that’s an overstatement,” LCCR leader Wade Houston warned early in the day. “You are seeing lines longer than those in Baghdad and Kabul.”
In the hours leading up to the ballot, election officials were forced to ban the right-wing group True the Vote from even being able to monitor the day’s events in nearby Franklin County after the names of supporters and assigned monitors for its Voter Integrity Project were found to be forged.
The Houston-based group, which boasted of plans to send as many as “a million poll watchers into minority neighborhoods,” is now under investigation for fraud, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
"We've been concerned from the beginning that the efforts of True the Vote and aligned groups were going to be targeted largely in communities of color," said Eric Marshall, manager of legal mobilization for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "We've seen in the past where these kinds of tactics can lead to intimidation and harassment of voters."
As far back as 2010, True the Vote faced accusations and even a Department of Justice inquiry questioning whether their overaggressive tactics of scrutinizing the IDs and registration forms of minority voters, following them with camera phones and standing right next to them as they fill out paperwork were really meant to serve as acts of intimidation. In the days preceding the election, ABC News reported the group began dragging unsuspecting would-be minority voters in Cincinnati into court on the grounds of baseless challenges to their registrations and rights to vote.
“Nobody’s targeting African Americans anywhere in the country,” True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht told the New York Times. When pressed for as explanation as to the group’s bottom-line motivation, Engelbrecht admitted she only became concerned with voter fraud after Obama’s 2008 election. “I don’t know, something clicked,” she said.
The term ‘provisional ballot’ likewise became buzz-speak for the most blatant acts of suppression. Mere hours before polls opened, Ohio Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted laid out new and confusing requirements for submitting all such ballots.
With Ohio thought to be perhaps the most critical state of the entire election, Husted moved to muddle the waters even more by ordering poll workers to require voters to correctly record the form of ID provided to election officials or face the overwhelming probability of having their vote discarded. In conjunction with that move, Husted also chose to cut the state’s early voting hours by more than half.
“‘SoS’ used to stand for ‘secretary of state’ but under the leadership of Jon Husted, ‘SoS’ stands for ‘secretary of suppression,’ ”said Ohio State Senator Nina Turner. “Our secretary of state has created a situation, here in Ohio, where he will invalidate thousands and thousands of people’s votes,” added Brian Rothenberg, executive director of ProgessOhio.
In Florida, the if-you-can’t-beat-him-suppress approach also seemed to prevail. Under the directive of Gov. Rick Scott, the state legislature also drastically reduced the number of early voting days and ignored repeated pleas to make more voting facilities available and hire more election workers. A brief effort to allow in-person absentee balloting in the enclave of Miami-Dade ended with polls being randomly closed and cars of prospective voters being towed away.
“Prohibitively long lines where Democrats are in the majority are a net plus for Republicans,” said Marshall. “These groups will use the voter challenge process for the express purpose of creating lines and confusion.”
Glenn Minnis is a NYC-based sports and culture writer. Follow him on Twitter at @glennnyc.