Despite their considerable efforts the Republicans were not able to buy or steal the election after all. Their defeat was of almost Biblical nature. The people, Democratic supporters of the president, whose votes they had plotted, schemed, and maneuvered—unto nearly the very last minute—to deny rose up and said they wouldn’t have it. If they had to stand in line well into the night to cast their vote they did it. The lines were the symbol of the 2012 election—at once awe-inspiring and enraging. On election night, the Romney camp had at least four planes ready and aides had bags packed to take off as soon as a state’s result appeared narrow enough to warrant a challenge. But they ended up with nowhere to go. The Republicans’ effort to stop enough votes of Obama supporters to affect the outcome in any given state—even prevent the president’s reelection—failed. Obama’s margins, while narrow, were sufficient to render any challenge futile. So the nation was spared the nightmare of reliving Florida 2000, a fear that had gripped many until late Tuesday night.
Yet the fact that the Republicans’ voter suppression effort didn’t succeed doesn’t mean it didn’t cause a lot of damage: to individuals who had to struggle or weren’t able to exercise their right to vote; and to the soul of the democratic process. Small minded men, placing their partisan interests over those of the citizenry, had concocted schemes to subvert the natural workings of our most solemn and exhilarating exercise as a self-governing nation. By the time of the election, more than thirty states had passed laws requiring voters to present some form of identification, often a government-issued photo ID card that they didn’t possess and couldn’t obtain. The point was to make it more difficult for constituent groups of the Democratic Party—blacks, Hispanics, low-income elderly, and students—to exercise their right to vote.
Though most of these new ID laws had been put on hold or weakened by the courts, they nevertheless created a great deal of confusion on Election Day. Pennsylvania’s voter ID law had been suspended by a state judge on grounds that it couldn’t be properly administered by the time of the election, yet poll workers were permitted to ask for the IDs anyway, and some of them thought that voters were required to have them. In some parts of the country, confusion was sown deliberately: intimidating billboards appeared in predominantly black areas; the Wisconsin Republican party distributed misleading information to poll workers. There‘s no statistical proof, but this had to have kept some people from voting or caused them to cast erroneous ballots.
This was no sneak attack but a national, coordinated enterprise that could not go unnoticed. At first only a few voices were issuing warnings, but as Election Day neared it was well known that Republicans were conspiring to keep Democrats from casting votes that would be counted. Broadcast networks and newspapers were covering the story; where necessary public service announcements on the radio told people how to meet newly imposed requirements–for example, what form they needed. On election day, nationwide coalition of lawyers manned 5,000 call centers around the country, its phone line 1-866-OUR VOTE having been widely advertised, was flooded with roughly 100,000 calls, mainly from distressed voters saying that they had been told at the polling places that they weren’t eligible to vote. The Voting Rights lawyers’ group is conducting an investigation into whether there was a purge of voter rolls in Pennsylvania.