The Rights of Voters Got a Lot of Attention in '12 -- Here Are 10 Things We learned
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7. People of color were self-motivated to vote, not just motivated by Obama.
As I wrote previously, people didn’t wait hours in line just to vote in the guy known for deporting the most immigrants or failing to make a dent in black unemployment. There was a deeper dedication at play. Our community journalist Noni Grant said that while in the field she asked several people why they felt it was important to vote. The overwhelming response was “black folks have fought and died for the right to vote.” The history of civil rights and voting rights in America is still within the active memory of many people of color, and so this was a civic-duty calling, especially in the face of such a vocal and overt suppression effort.
8. A lot of people didn’t vote, because they couldn’t, because of felonies.
In Florida and Virginia alone, felony disenfranchisement kept almost two million people from voting this November. And even though the process in Virginia for restoring rights to those with felonies was streamlined by the governor, it is still cumbersome enough that many weren’t able to apply for rights restoration in time. Rosana Cruz, of New Orleans-based Voices Of The Ex-offender wrote about this problem saying, “Nearly half a million people in the five Gulf states didn’t vote today, because as formerly incarcerated people, people on probation and parole, or currently incarcerated people, they’ve been denied that right. That number doesn’t count the Formerly Incarcerated People who don’t even know if they have the right to vote, because the laws blocking voting rights vary from state to state.”
9. Hundreds of thousands of votes still haven’t been counted.
In Arizona, Florida and Pennsylvania, there are still outstanding ballots to be counted. Many voters in these states got to the polls only to find that their names were not listed, even though they were certainly registered. In Arizona, hundreds of thousands of people are wondering where their registration, or their vote went. In Philadelphia, it’s the same deal. Philadelphia City Paper has attempted to get to the bottom of what happened to the disappearing votes, and was not able to come up with anything. Like President Obama said, “We have to fix that.”
10. Gerrymandering and redistricting caused confusion.
This is probably the most under-reported story in the country. Following the 2010 Census, new voting district lines were drawn, which changed where many people go to vote. If you’ve moved since the Census came out, then there’s even more room for confusion. In Philadelphia, a lot of the mysterious vanishing voters are suspected to be a result of newly drawn lines and a failure by county commissioners to alert voters of their new voting districts.
Trupania Bonner, of Moving Forward Gulf Coast, Inc., was able to get communities in Louisiana not only educated about the redistricting process, but also taught them how to get involved in it. Says Bonner: “No one really understands what redistricting is, and how when gerrymandering occurs you see how the Southern Manifesto and those types of ideologies progress from that. So for us, we learned the process of redistricting and then also how to draw districts ourselves. We then bought the software used by legislators to do redistricting, and taught residents how to do it too. What all communities need to fully understand is how our rights are protected by learning and engaging in the census and redistricting process.”