With early voting hours cut by Republican officials in Florida and Ohio, extraordinarily long lines are greeting voters in the states that will likely decide the 2012 presidential election.
Democratic strategist Bob Shrum calls the several hours some voters are spending in line waiting for their right to vote a “poll tax,” harkening to a Jim Crow-era restriction used to keep African-Americans from voting. Poll taxes were specifically banned by the 24th Amendment.
It’s no coincidence that long lines are being reported in urban areas made up of predominantly Democratic-leaning voters. For more than a year the “GOP War On Voting” has aimed to intimidate and shrink the number of Obama supporters who end up at the polls today.
Voters determined to cast their votes do not seem to be leaving the lines. However, a study conducted after the 2004 election suggested that up to 3 percent of voters in urban and college areas left the line because of the long waits.
Voting machine malfunctions in heavily Democratic areas were reported across Ohio this morning, creating long lines in the morning. The machines appear operable now but reports say that while they were down, poll workers handed out provisional ballots “like candy” to keep the lines moving.
Ohio’s Secretary of State, Republican Jon Husted, recently put new restrictions on provisional ballots that could swing the election if the results are close enough.
True the Vote, a right-wing “voter integrity” group that targets minority areas, has been banned from polling places in Columbus and may be investigated for forging the signatures they needed to monitor voters.
In Pennsylvania, confusion over a voter ID law that has been temporarily stayed by a federal court has led to Republican poll “observers” demanding that voters show their ID before entering their polling places. Voters are not required to show ID, but poll workers are allowed to ask for it, creating undue confusion across the state.
A judge has issued an order for Republicans to stop harassing voters but the GOP also received a court order to have 75 of their credentialed “poll inspectors” allowed into polling places across Philadelphia.
In areas hit by Superstorm Sandy, displaced voters are scrambling to find a way to vote. New York and New Jersey are allowing residents to vote at any polling place they can make it to, creating unexpectedly long waits in some areas.
As some Americans are forced to donate half a workday to democracy, Fox News is fixated on a mural of President Obama in one polling place in Philadelphia that they claim hasn’t been properly covered up—and, of course, the one requisite one New Black Panther. Perhaps if it were mostly Romney voters waiting on those lines, they’d be telling a different story.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster