This morning, during this long weekend of gratitude, I'd like to thank a handful of those who battled the forces of suppression by exposing them, analyzing them and sicking the law on them. Without their efforts and the efforts of others like them, Nov. 6 might very well have turned out quite differently.
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law provided a constantly updated on-line resource for journalists and citizen advocates. These included guides and other publications that explained an array of subjects, including changes in voting laws, the impacts of redistricting, the benefits of same-day voter registration and requirements of ballot security. The center's team made proposals to improve the voting system and increase participation. It also joined others in litigation or initiated its suits own in a number of cases.
Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog not only spent time every day linking us to a trove of articles about voting and voter suppression, he also succinctly analyzed some of the more important cases and issues in language that non-lawyers could easily understand and lawyers could trust for expertise since it came from the co-author of the nation's leading casebook on election law. Hasen is the Chancellor’s Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine, and for a decade ending in 2010 served as founding co-editor of the quarterly peer-reviewed publication, Election Law Journal.
Ari Berman at The Nation and Rolling Stone. Before most observers paid any attention to the War on Voting, Berman was on the story, and he stuck with it week after week, sometimes several times a week to and beyond the election. Every time Berman turned his analytical and writing skills toward explaining the intricacies and outcomes of moves by secretaries of state, legislatures and the resistance in the War on Voting, he gave readers a clear understanding of what was happening, who was making it happen and what was at stake.
Brentin Mock and Aura Bogado at Voting Rights Watch 2012, a partnership of Colorlines.com and The Nation. Mock, senior reporter at VRW, turned his experience as an investigative reporter in New Orleans and Bogado, community journalism coordinator, turned her reporting experience in the United States and Latin America into story after story about the impacts of voter suppression on communities of color.
The Advancement Project educates, collaborates, advocates and litigates to remove obstacles to voting and protect citizen access to the ballot box. The project works together with local people and organizations to keep election procedures and laws on the up-and-up, dealing with a wide range of issues from registration to allocation of resources to individual precincts. Cooperation with election officials is always the goal, but the project does not shy away from confrontation when that is required.
Take Action Minnesota fought a fight—which, at first, nobody but its team thought could be won—against a proposed amendment that would have enshrined a vague voter-ID law in the state constitution. When TakeActionMinnesota started out, the vast majority of the state's citizens said in polls that they supported voter-ID. On election day, they rejected it. Much of that can be chalked up to a general repudiation of Republican policy and tactics in the state, and to the fact that some voters opposed the proposed amendment but not a voter-ID law itself. Much credit nevertheless goes to TAM for running a campaign acknowledging that voters have brains and that defeating the amendment did not require dumbing down the message.
Americans who stood and stood and stood in voter lines: All across the country, Americans stood in lines so they could cast ballots—early voting lines, registration lines, election day lines. Very long lines. Some people waited three, four, six, nine hours to vote. They stuck it out. Some no doubt did so because they knew, in states like Florida and Virginia and Ohio, that the goal of the suppressors had all along been to keep certain people from turning out in large numbers and that one way to achieve that was to make them wait. Unlike Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who left the line at his precinct before voting even began, these voters waited and waited to perform their part in a fundamental element of democracy.
As always, there are the unnamed and unsung. The poll worker who found a better way to serve disabled voters. The mother of three who took her children with her as she spent the day gathering up neighbors and others without transportation and shuttled them to the polls. The nursing-home volunteer who patiently explained the absentee ballot individually to dozens of men and women whose sight and hearing were no longer what they used to be. The hundreds of election officials who, no matter what the legislatures and secretaries of state were saying, saw their duty as being to ensure free and open access to the polls for every American citizen.
Thanks to them all.