In state after state the number of new voters has exploded like never before. A people united are rising up to sweep the extreme right out of the White House and the Congress.
The new voters are all colors and languages, younger and older, male and female, with all sorts of political views. They are trade unionists and students. Many were once disaffected. Many first-time voters found something to vote for in this election. Analysts say many are backing Barack Obama.
This should be celebrated. Bringing more people into the democratic process matches this country’s highest ideals and is part of its most historic struggles.
Even so, past turnout has been sickly. Since 1972 it has hovered around 50-55 percent during presidential elections and plunged to the high 30s in off-years. In 2006, a notable exception, 43 percent of the voting age population participated.
Yet, the ultra-right Republican stranglehold on politics, from Ronald Reagan to Newt Gingrich to George W. Bush, has brought a nonstop attempt to suppress the vote — to keep the numbers down especially of working-class people, youth and people of color.
This year, the McCain-Palin campaign is no exception. Their efforts include scratching voters who lost their homes to foreclosure, terroristic robo-calls to scare new voters into staying home, threatening students with loss of student loans, telling the poor they are vulnerable to bill collectors if they vote, threatening ex-prisoners they could be arrested at the polls and spreading leaflets with wrong information about where to vote.
Attacks on ACORN and new attempts to scrub the registration lists because a person’s registered name doesn’t exactly match a government database riddled with mistakes and typos are all part of the McCain campaign’s voter suppression strategy.
Although Republican voter suppression is nothing new — Florida vote theft in 2000, Ohio vote suppression in 2004 — an energized people determined to stop it this time is something new. Mass organizations, unions and community groups are fighting on all fronts, including the courts, to stop it.
The people are saying “Enough!” They are pushing for an all-out mobilization for a landslide victory which will help guarantee that voter suppression won’t work.
Not this time.