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November 3, 2008
Hoping For Better Election Photo-Ops Than We Got in 2000
The 2000 election was
ingeniously captured by a photojournalist’s shot of a Florida re-count
worker applying eye drops after hours of counting pregnant chads. Eight
years later, the high emotions and novelty of that situation have worn
off, late-night show jokes put to bed and Al Gore awarded with an Oscar
and Nobel Prize to soothe his pain. But while the American electoral
system has supposedly been cured of the ills that caused the electoral
dysfunction then, there are still plenty of potential Election Day
The dark past of
American voter disenfranchisement has lost its importance in the
election year when, for the first time, a woman and a man of color were
leading contenders in a presidential race. For the first time in the
history of the Democratic Party, Barack Obama represents the traits
low-income minority voters have always identified with: Ivy League
education and a penchant for changing cars to match campaign goals. In
all the excitement about a black candidate making it to the party’s
ticket, these facts have somehow given previously disenfranchised
populations hope for a political system that gives them their due.
Whether that hope turns
into reform remains undetermined, but presently the practice of
discouraging minority voters with false information and illegitimate
threats continues. In Pennsylvania, one of the highly contested states
in this election, a yet-unidentified anonymous group has been
distributing pamphlets claiming that when voters show their ID at the
polling place, their outstanding traffic tickets and other trespasses
will be cross-referenced and they will be held accountable. The
information is obviously untrue, but can still cause voters from the
districts where the pamphlets were distributed – all lower income,
mostly minority neighborhoods – to keep away from polling places.
Although not racially
motivated, another potential Election Day problem is the lack of enough
polling places in an election with the largest expected turnout in
decades. The long lines are going to cause frustration, traffic
congestion and if you live in states with extreme weather conditions –
from Minnesota’s predicted snow to Arizona’s expected high of 90 degrees
– are bound to cause many voters suffering from health conditions, with
kids in need of pickup at the soccer game or late for work to walk out
on civic duty.
We are not a patient
nation or one willing to make those special sacrifices to cast our
ballot. Some counties are expecting big trouble as constituents try to
find their polling places en route to the voting booth. In states where
electronic voting systems are bound to baffle some voters, and
considering that many will misplace or forget their voter IDs and hold
back lines fishing for that other electricity bill to prove their
identity, Tuesday is bound to show if the social animal can be the
political animal at the same time.
Before the dailies come
out with the grinning shots of the victorious party above the fold, and
teary-eyed concession speeches get captured on film, let’s hope that the
image of American democracy in 2008 doesn’t include eye drops, citizens
kept away from the voting booth by fear – or a polling place riot.
© 2008 North Star
Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
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