This presidential election is proving to be a significant challenge as a large swath of the northeast United States is still struggling for normalcy in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Life has been anything but normal for residents of New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania as the mammoth storm swallowed towns whole, caused an estimated $50 billion in damage and left the famed boardwalks of the Jersey shore in splinters. There are now legitimate concerns over the administration of the November 6 election due to power outages and the impact on electronic voting machines, inaccessible polling locations, and the difficulty many people will have reaching their designated voting sites.
It would seem implausible to hold an election under these conditions but there appears to be no serious consideration to stop or extend the polling. As much as a challenge voting will be for millions on November 6, we strongly encourage residents of storm impacted areas, and across the country, to make every effort to get out and vote. We believe this is one of the most critical elections of the last 50 years and with enormous consequence for the African-American community. This is no false alarm. It is the real thing. Over the last four years we have witnessed a sinister and wicked backlash against the coming demographic reality in the United States – a future in which people of color – African-Americans, Latinos and Asian-Americans – will be the majority of our nation’s population. We have witnessed Republicans in our nation’s capital use every device possible to demonize the nation’s first Black President and obstruct every initiative he has proposed that could help millions of Americans. The Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, has proven himself a desperate politician; changing positions to suit the political winds and demonstrating little independence from the party’s right-wing. His penchant for being easily manipulated and the ease at which he discards his own positions should be signal enough that he is a weak “leader” who has no business commanding the Oval Office.
Four years ago Black voters proudly walked to the polls to cast ballots for Senator Barack Obama, who would become the nation’s first African-American President of the United States. The emotionalism of that moment was evident on election night when the Illinois legislator declared victory before tens of thousands of cheering supporters in Chicago’s Grant Park. This election has not carried the same emotional weight as the 2008 campaign, though it should. In many ways November 6 is much more significant. We have an opportunity to demonstrate our determination, put our commitment on display and send a message to the nation that we are indeed prepared to lead this country to a new reality. We must vote with the same passion and conviction that we did in 2008 because the stakes are much higher this time around. Four years ago we were in the full grip of a historic recession, burdened by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and still living under the fear of an international terrorist who made a mockery of our nation with videotaped threats. Today, our military engagement in Iraq has ended, we are preparing to withdraw from Afghanistan and our number one international nemesis has been killed by U.S. forces. Most importantly, we are seeing signs of a real economic recovery and stand on the cusp of better days.
Do not let the absence of “hype” deter you from voting. We should not need to be motivated by the aura of history to vote. Our present day circumstances should be enough to compel every registered African-American voter to show up at the polls. We have a responsibility to our history and to our future to maximize our voter participation on November 6. Anything less than 100% turnout, as impractical as that goal might seem, should be unacceptable. In a day and age when our very citizenship is being challenged as attempts are made to restrict our voting rights and we witness the rise in racial hostility toward our community, excuses for not voting should not be tolerated. We must give voting the same attention we too often give other trivial matters that have far less importance for future generations.
Be prepared to vote. Do not let long lines deter you from voting. Dress warmly, be prepared for wet weather and leave yourself enough time should you choose to vote before or after work hours. If you encounter problems at the polls immediately contact your local Board of Elections, or your state Attorney General. And, bring a friend or relative to the polls with you. Your vote matters!