Author: Joe Siegal
A key highlight of 2012 Democratic National Convention was President Bill Clinton’s lecture-style speech that vindicated President Obama’s first term by pointing out the need for political cooperation. Certainly, Americans want and appreciate cooperation in government, but citizens are not excluded from the national conversation. Though Clinton’s speech made this point eloquently, President Obama’s rhetoric-filled closing speech contained the sweeping point that should guide the Democratic Party through November 6th. “The election four years ago wasn’t about me. It was about you,” President Obama said. With this statement, the President laid out a major part of his re-election strategy and put voting turnout at the forefront of democratic discussion.
According to last week’s Gallup poll, Obama holds a 50-44 percent lead over Romney just under two months away from Election Day. Though these [post-convention] numbers ostensibly indicate a solidified gap between the two candidates, this is not the case. The urgency to promote voter turnout has less to do with the strength of the Romney campaign than it does with new voter restrictions procedures that may prevent a large portion of battleground state residents from casting their ballot.
The Associated Press reports that up to 700,000 minority voters under the age of 30 could be disenfranchised by voter ID and early voting legislation laws, which include earlier registration deadlines and altered election office hours. In several states, voters will have to produce a state-issued ID card at the polls. Additionally, shortened early voting deadlines may disenfranchise the votes of full-time working citizens. Young and minority voters, who were a driving force in electing Obama in 2008, could be partially taken out of the political equation as a result. Many of these voters are neither in possession of the necessary documents, nor able to visit a DMV in order to secure an ID card that would allow them to enter the voting booth.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, 25 percent of African-Americans and 18 percent of 18-24 year-old voters lack photo identification. Overall, 11 percent of Americans lack a photo ID. Official photo identification will be mandatory for Pennsylvanian polls, a key state that holds 20 crucial electoral votes. Restrictive laws could also be enforced in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin, three other battleground states holding 37, 20 and 10 electoral votes, respectively.
This puts up to 77 electoral votes in a more volatile situation than many may think. The New York Times’ Nate Silver projects Ohio to be the most decisive state in the election, with Florida following. Silver estimates a 49.9 percent chance that the decisive electoral vote comes from one of these two states due to their unpredictability in the polls and their high number of electoral votes – a risk strategists want to eliminate by promoting early and absentee voting.
While the overall poll numbers may look to be in the President’s favor, his speech at the DNC sent a strong message to his potential voters. “If you give up on the idea that your voice can make a difference, then other voices will fill the void: lobbyists and special interests; the people with the $10 million checks who are trying to buy this election and those who are making it harder for you to vote,” President Obama said.
With all factors and votes considered, Democrats must continue to make voting a talking point. Though the effects of voter ID laws won’t be known until after Election Day, Democrats need to continue to acknowledge the potential shift these laws could cause, or risk facing defeat in November.
Joe Siegal is an undeclared sophomore. He can be reached at [email protected]
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