Republican lawmakers and conservative activists undertook a concerted effort
to keep minorities, students and those with lower or fixed incomes (including many of our seniors) from voting. One GOP official in Ohio said early voting cuts were necessary to check the power of "the urban -- read African-American -- voter-turnout machine."
A leader of the Tea Party group "True the Vote" said he wanted to make the experience of voting "like driving and seeing the police following you."
The Republican House speaker in New Hampshire said restrictions on college students voting were needed because "voting as a liberal ... that's what kids do."
To reduce turnout among these groups, Republican officials deployed a variety of tactics. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted
and Florida Governor Rick Scott
slashed the amount of time available for early voting, which is disproportionately utilized
by minority and low-income voters. GOP legislators in Pennsylvania enacted a photo ID law, and then failed to establish adequate procedures
for allowing more than 700,000 Pennsylvanians who lacked photo ID to obtain one. Voter purges attempted by Gov. Scott and Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler targeted thousands of lawfully registered voters
. "True the Vote
" -- surely a leading candidate for the Newspeak Award -- challenged minority voter registrations on an unprecedented scale....
Yet the untold story of the 2012 election is not the efforts of lawyers or activists, but the unyielding determination of everyday ordinary citizens determined to cast their ballots. They won on Tuesday. Here's why.
When Secretary Husted tried to change election rules last year, Ohioans responded by gathering 300,000 signatures
toward a referendum that successfully suspended the law. After we successfully restored access for the last three days of early voting, the African-American community participated in record numbers, aided by a massive turnout for Souls to the Polls
on the Sunday before Election Day. Overall, the African-American share of the Ohio electorate was more than one-third higher
than in 2008.
In Florida, 150 black pastors organized "Operation Lemonade"
-- named for the "lemon" they were handed when Gov. Scott cut early voting. Although the state reduced the number of early voting days from 14 to eight, and eliminated voting on the Sunday before Election Day, nearly as many voters -- 2.4 million in all
-- voted early as in 2008.
On Election Day, voters stood with determination in unconscionably long lines, some that stretched for up to seven hours
. Though some voters were elderly, frail, missing work, or simply exhausted, theyrefused to leave
, undeterred by the line and in fact galvanized by the bad intent. Voters and activists used social media to stand in solidarity as the hashtag #StayInLine
quickly began trending on Twitter. People were so determined to vote that many polling places ran out of provisional ballots
When the dust settled, the very groups targeted for suppression and intimidation had voted in record numbers. Compared to 2008, African Americans, Hispanics
, and people under age 29
all represented a greater share of the national electorate.