This past Wednesday (October 31), the remnants of the destructive path of Hurricane Sandy moved beyond the Nation’s Capital after ravaging much of the Northeast in record fashion. With hearts heavy, the election cycle rebooted itself after pausing for a moment with the showdown between President Barack Obama and GOP opponent Mitt Romney taking place in days. Nonpartisan civil rights group Advancement Project held a breakfast discussion with local and national press to discuss the political landscape, Election Day “hotspots,” and an ambitious rapid-response reporting plan.
Led by Co-Directors Penda D. Hair and Judith Browne Dianis, the gathering zeroed in on voter suppression and the seemingly insidious attempts to thwart the results of the upcoming general election on November 7. Of particular concern were the aforementioned “hotspots” – key areas that have huge importance for both candidates. Florida, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin have been the scenes of terse political battles for much of the presidential campaign. Curious snafus such as incorrect mailers and the voter ID fight across the country have jeopardized the electoral process.
“The system is broken,” said an impassioned Hair during the gathering. “We need to bring the system into the 21st century.” Noting that voter intimidation and protecting the integrity of democracy has been a concern of Advancement Project for years, it was acknowledged that the high stakes of the general election offered a ripe platform for the discussion to take place. Voter challenge laws were also a hot topic, and efforts to block the vote were mentioned. True The Vote, a group affiliated with the controversial Tea Party, has said they’ll be sending volunteers to monitor the polls. Those same monitors were accused of harassing voters in 2010’s general election and threaten to send 1 million volunteers across 31 states for next week.
The critics who raise such challenges have been attacking the rights of voters who are thought to be potentially ineligible. Advancement Project officials noted that their aims are short-sighted and deceptive. “The challenges aren’t successful,” said Browne Dianis when asked about the success rate of the anti-voter fraud advocates. “You’re supposed to challenge ineligible voters in the rolls but, in fact, their going after eligible voters.”
The breakfast also served as a the screening of a new documentary, “Electoral Dysfunction,” starring comedian Mo Rocca with a cameo from Advancement Project’s Judith Browne Dianis. Rocca takes viewers on a 90-minute journey into the electoral process, and how voting in America isn’t fully understood on the level that it should be. The film uses the 2008 presidential election to form its basis, as Rocca traipses around the country to see if democracy is truly at work. Directed by New York filmmakers, David Deschamps, Leslie D. Farrell and Bennett Singer, the film will air on PBS prior to the election after enjoying a brief theatrical run earlier this fall.
Advancement Project and their 3,000 lawyers and state partners have been hard at work in the African-American and Latino communities across nine key states, ensuring that every eligible citizen is not barred from placing their vote. In just four days, the numbers will reflect if their efforts proved effective.