By Roland S. Martin
As political pros, journalists and pundits pick over exit polls to study how and why President Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney for the presidency, a lot of the attention has been showered on the Latino turnout, gender gap and late breaking voters for the president.
The African American turnout has largely been overlooked, seen by prognosticators as no-brainer for President Obama.
There was never any doubt he was going to receive overwhelming black support. In 2008, the percentage of the vote was 95 percent, with black women voting at a higher rate than any other group in the country.
But six to nine months ago, the Obama campaign was expressing concern, privately, about the enthusiasm level of black voters and whether the massive 2008 turnout could be equaled.
One thing was being said publicly, but privately, numerous campaign officials expressed concern, hoping registration efforts and get-out-the-vote drives would kick in at the right time.
Re-electing the first black president was clearly a motivating factor when it happen, but what also should be noted is the Republican Party’s efforts to enact voter suppression laws.
Not only were black folks angered and shocked at the blatant attempts by Republicans in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Virginia, Texas and other states, they exacted revenge at the ballot box.
Conservatives have valiantly tried to assert that voter ID laws, trimming the early voting days and even eliminating early voting on Sundays was a prudent and practical decision that had nothing to do with black, Hispanic and young voters, or anyone else.
But anyone with a half a brain could see that the GOP was desperate to bring a halt to the coalition that proved so pivotal to President Obama in 2008. All over the country, GOP-led legislatures and governors rushed to pass voter ID laws, only to see federal courts reject a number of them that clearly weren’t thought through properly.
In Ohio, the voter suppression tactics were so shameful that no one with a functional brain should have tried to defend them. After public pressure mounted to stop the practice of extending early voting in GOP-leaning counties and cutting them in Democratic-leaning counties, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted had no choice but to equalize early voting periods.
Such decisions, frankly, ticked off black activists, politicians and civil rights groups to the point their voter registration campaigns went into overdrive.
I talked to officials in multiple states, and the anger could be heard in their voice. Social media played a role as every new voter suppression effort was exposed, setting off a litany of complaints.
In Florida, Republicans there stopped allowing early voting on Sunday with no explanation as to why. In 2008, black churches marched massive number of congregants to the polls, led by their slogan, “Souls to the Polls.” The GOP clearly didn’t want to see that again and axed voting on Sundays.
Those obstacles rekindled the feeling among many African Americans of the tactics enacted during the civil rights movement to keep Blacks from voting. So pastors, deacons and laymen pushed and prodded their members to cast absentee ballots, and pushed hard for their members to stand in lines during the early voting period that last as long as eight hours. In Ohio, activists hit the salons, barbershops, recreation centers and churches to rally voters to do their civic duty. Black radio stations were enlisted in the battle as a call to arms to protect the sanctity of the ballot.
Even when the networks were calling the election for President Barack Obama on Tuesday, Florida residents were still standing in the line, some places in the rain, doing their part to hold the line.
According to NAACP CEO Ben Jealous, the organization registered 432,000 voters, a 350 percent increase over 2008.
“The 2012 registration total is 3.5 times greater than in 2008 (2012: 432,935 vs. 2008: 124,000) and the (Get Out The Vote) universe is more than twice as large (2012: 1.2 million vs. 2008: 500,000),” Jealous said.
The election of President Obama wasn’t about one group over another being the deciding factor. It was a collection of voters from varied backgrounds that made the difference. But the GOP should recognize and accept that its voter suppression tactics were not only roundly defeated but were decimated.
It was the late civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer who famously said, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
Black voters, and others, were sick and tired of the GOP trying to keep their votes from being cast by passing onerous laws, and they responded in an amazing way, matching the historic turnout of 2008, and bringing to life the Civil Rights anthem, “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around.”
Roland S. Martin is an award-winning CNN analyst and author of the book “The First: President Barack Obama’s Road to the White House as Originally Reported by Roland S. Martin.” Please visit his website at RolandSMartin.com. To find out more about Roland S. Martin and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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