After the debates and commercials, it is time for voters to act
BY MARY MITCHELL firstname.lastname@example.org November 5, 2012 6:56PM
South Floridians stand in line during the last day of early voting in Miami, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. Despite record turnout in many parts of the state, Florida Gov. Rick Scott rejected calls to extend early voting through Sunday to help alleviate long lines at the polls. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
Updated: December 7, 2012 6:20AM
It’s in your hands now.
You’ve heard endless commercials. Judged the debates. Listened to others tell you whom you should or should not vote for.
Now decision 2012 is here — and not a day too soon.
Frankly, I’m looking forward to turning on my car radio and not hearing a narrator with a singsong or high-pitched voice telling half-lies.
Some pundits and pollsters have predicted that this will be a nail-biter, while others claim that because this is not a historic election, voters haven’t been as engaged as they were in 2008.
But if early voter turnout here is an indication of the interest people elsewhere, this election could be more about “taking a stand” than “making a change.”
Black voters, particularly, are fed up with the disrespect that has been shown the nation’s first black president.
Most recently, I received emails and phone-calls from several outraged readers about an effigy of the president that was allegedly hanging at a Shell station in Jacksonville, Fla.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first effigy resembling the president that someone strung up. But Jacksonville is in a pivotal state that people are watching closely.
Turns out while the effigy may have been real, the location was not.
The CEO and president of the Jacksonville Shell station, Aubrey Edge, denied that the company’s employees were involved in any way.
“The taking of the picture did not occur anywhere in Jacksonville and, in fact, appears to be part of a national prank on social media sites,” Edge said in a statement released to the media two days ago.
But that didn’t stop the bogus photo from making the rounds on Monday and adding to the resentment that has been simmering over four years.
Whatever the prankster’s attention, he or she likely lit a fire under some Floridians that were considering skipping the long lines.
In Illinois, a surprising number of people weren’t taking any chances and opted for early voting.
At the close of the early-voting period, at least 280,000 city voters had cast ballots, and 263,000 people in suburban Cook County had also participated in the state’s early-voting program, according to board of elections officials.
These voters weren’t all old people in wheelchairs or carrying walking sticks.
When I voted last week, I saw young mothers with toddlers in tow. Even more interesting were the people who came to the polling place to inquire about their registration so there wouldn’t be any surprises on Election Day.
They were fortunate to be in Illinois.
In Florida, complaints of alleged voter suppression surfaced in several cities after citizens had to wait up to eight hours in line at some locations.
Yet GOP Gov. Rick Scott refused to extend the state’s early voting hours. Instead of helping people exercise this right, Scott appeared to be a hindrance. It also didn’t enhance Florida’s reputation that hordes of people were lined up outside of a U.S. polling place shouting, “We want to vote.”
So the fact that some people here will skip voting altogether is especially frustrating.
Last Sunday, the Rev. Michael Pfleger rallied his congregation by asking them to vote in memory of Emmett Till, whose death in 1955 brought the civil rights movement to the North.
“Voting is not a nice thing to do. It is an obligation and responsibility. I held up a flier with Emmett Till’s face that said: “I couldn’t vote but you can vote.” I told people not to get discouraged because of the long lines,” he said.
The Catholic priest also warned his parishioners about tactics being used by some religious leaders to scare people, especially with respect to homosexuality and abortion.
Your soul is not in danger, no matter which you vote for,” he said. “The gift of salvation is a gift from God. But don’t let anyone bamboozle you into thinking this is a one-issue election,” Pfleger said.
“Hopefully, people will be energized and see the importance of not only them voting, but making sure everybody they know votes. There is no excuse.”
It all comes down to right here, right now.
On Wednesday, there will be no point in talking about what “shoulda, coulda, woulda.”