This year, voting is more than just the core responsibility of citizenship; it is an act of defiance against malicious political forces determined to reduce access to democracy. Millions of ballots on Tuesday — along with those already turned in — will be cast despite the best efforts of Republican officials around the country to prevent them from playing a role in the 2012 election.
Even now, many Republicans are assembling teams to intimidate voters at polling places, to demand photo ID where none is required, and to cast doubt on voting machines or counting systems whose results do not go their way. The good news is that the assault on voting will not affect the election nearly as much as some had hoped. Courts have either rejected or postponed many of the worst laws. Predictions that up to five million people might be disenfranchised turned out to be unfounded.
But a great deal of damage has already been done, and the clearest example is that on Sunday in Florida, people will not be allowed to vote early. Four years ago, on the Sunday before Election Day, tens of thousands of Floridians cast their ballots, many of them black churchgoers who traveled directly from services to their polling places. Because most of them voted for Barack Obama, helping him win the state, Republicans eliminated early voting on that day. No legitimate reason was given; the action was entirely partisan in nature.
The author of that law, as The Palm Beach Post revealed last week, was Emmett Mitchell IV, the general counsel for the state Republican Party. Under his guidance, party officials in Florida got thousands of perfectly eligible black voters purged from the rolls in 2000, and got a law passed last year that limited registration drives and early voting days. A federal judge struck down the registration limits, but not before they drove down the numbers of new registrants.
3:02 p.m. | Updated MIAMI – In a state where legal action often goes hand in hand with presidential elections, the Florida Democratic Party filed a federal lawsuit early Sunday to force the state government to extend early voting hours in South Florida.
The lawsuit followed a stream of complaints from voters who sometimes waited nearly seven hours to vote or who did not vote at all because they could not wait for hours to do so.
Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, local election supervisors in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties, where queues sometimes snaked out the door and around buildings, said they would allow voters to request and cast absentee ballots on Sunday. Voters in three other Florida counties also will be able to pick up and drop off absentee ballots. State election law permits election offices to receive absentee ballots through Tuesday so long as they are cast in person.
But later on Sunday, Miami-Dade’s county election supervisor closed down the line for absentee ballots at its Doral office after two hours because too many people showed up. …
Last year, Mr. Scott and the Republican-controlled State Legislature pushed through a measure to cut early voting from 14 to 8 days and do away with voting on the final Sunday before Election Day. Because more Democrats cast their ballots early than Republicans, the move was viewed by Democrats as an effort to blunt Democratic turnout.
Do not hesitate.
Complaints about ballot access problems or discrimination can be made directly to the Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section in Washington, D.C., at 1-800-253-3931 or (202) 307-2767.
Also: Obama Campaign Voter Hotline 1-800-311-VOTE; or Election Protection 1-866-OUR-VOTE.
Free Syrian Army is all that stands between civilians and tanks
As Syria’s rebellious cities are bombarded and the regime’s tank crews prepare to move, only a rag-tag and poorly armed but determined army stands in their way.
The last straw for Captain Abu Mahmoud came when 13 of his fellow officers were lined up and shot by a Syrian firing squad. They had been identified as potential deserters – all officers have their own team of watchers from military intelligence to monitor their behaviour – and were executed just in case, he said.
He was headed at the time with his Third Division for Idlib in the north, scene already of many battles and massacres in this encroaching civil war. He turned tail, shook off his spies and went home.
In a fine example of how the paranoias of dictators eventually make themselves come true, he is now with the Free Syrian Army on the front line of the battle for Homs.
He is a helpless spectator as the Syrian tanks and artillery, which his Free Syrian Army cannot match, drop round after round of shell fire on to the defenceless citizens of the Homs neighbourhoods Bab al-Amr and Khalidiya, enclaves now to match the names of Sarajevo and Misurata.
Without the Pentagon study, it wouldn’t have passed. Without Obama keeping Lieberman inside the tent, it wouldn’t have passed. Without the critical relationship between Bob Gates and Obama, it wouldn’t have passed. It worked our last nerve; we faced at one point a true nightmare of nothing … for years. And then we pulled behind this president, making it his victory and the country’s victory, as well as ours.
I am so proud of how far our country has come, kicking and screaming, but here, finally, anyhow, in justice and decency.
We have so much more to be done.
My heart just breaks for those whose DREAM didn’t survive: 55-to-41.
And for those to whom we owe a debt that went shamefully unpaid: 57-42.