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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

A Vote for the Big Orange

I tried to vote at 8:00 a.m on Wednesday at an early voting location in downtown Decatur, Georgia. I waited for ten minutes or so in a long, fairly chaotic line in a parking garage. Everyone seemed to be having a good time of it, chattering away and drinking coffee. But the cold that penetrated my flimsy jacket and fear of a parking ticket ran me off. I’m told those who stayed waited about 2 hours. Later in the day I looked into the voting by mail option, but decided against it because the available information I got about deadlines seemed contradictory.
I lined up to vote early the next day at a different poll at an abandoned mall, where parking was less of a hassle, and cast my ballot exactly an hour later. The feeling at this poll was very different than the party-like atmosphere of my experience the day before and from that described in other accounts I’ve read.
There wasn’t much chatter and nobody I could hear was joking or otherwise cutting up. Instead there was a mood of solemnity and a seriousness of purpose I’ve never before sensed at the polls, almost like church. A long line of several hundred people, 99 percent African Americans, snaked around inside an abandoned T.J. Maxx, partitioned into a couple of narrow, sheet-rocked halls. There were a lot of young voters, but few elderly people in the line.
There were volunteers posted every 30 feet or so, carefully checking i.d.’s, initialing ballot applications, collecting and distributing clipboards and pens, keeping people in single file and running a very tight ship in general. The volunteers, all African Americans, were courteous and businesslike. The walls inside the halls were full of sample ballots and other voting information. When I got to the comparatively small voting room, there was an extra checking process, also run by efficient volunteers with computers.
The scene reminded me of James Orange, MLK’s march organizer and Atlanta’s top GOTV activist, who died early this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if the organizers of this particular poll were Orange-trained volunteers. Orange had worked hard for Obama, and if Obama wins Georgia, much if not most of the cred should go to Orange-trained volunteers, who are now mobilizing a record Black voter turnout in the peach state. I got a little dewy-eyed thinking about Orange’s legacy being played out so beautifully, how he worked his whole life for Black political empowerment and how he would celebrate Obama’s victory. I imagine hundreds of his co-workers are feeling the same way these days.
I felt a flash of what I hope was paranoia, when I saw the voting machines because they were all Diebold branded. But the touch screen voting machines worked fine, and no one seemed to be having problems with them. However, there should have been twice or triple the number of machines. This is where I think a lot of vote suppression is implemented, not only the inadequate number of polling places Ed cited yesterday, but also in the shortage of machines in minority precincts. I cast my ballot but got no written receipt confirming my choices. Still, it felt like the most important ballot I’ve ever cast.
President-elect Obama will take the oath of office and deliver his inaugural address the day after the national holiday marking MLK’s 80th birthday anniversary. I’m sure President Obama will credit Dr. King and the movement he lead for making his presidency possible. It will be an especially sweet day for the ‘community organizers’ who were dissed at the GOP convention, and I know Rev. Orange’s spirit will still be with us as we begin organizing for the 2010 mid-term elections the next day.

5 comments on “A Vote for the Big Orange

  1. ThinkingGuy on

    This why I am glad my home state of Maryland has opted to get rid of the Diebolds, and revert back to paper, after this election. Despite the state being in debt for the machines up through 2014, they were never a good idea, and there was no paper trail.
    But as for this year………………….

  2. ducdebrabant on

    If there’s a problem with those Diebold machines, it won’t be visible to the naked eye during the voting process. It will take the form of flipped totals during the tallying. The code is proprietary, and the American people — who depend on that code for the integrity of their elections — are prevented by patent from knowing exactly how their own voting machines work. And there have been some pretty mysterious things.

  3. sporcupine on

    Church indeed.
    In the Presbyterian Lectionary, set years in advance, last week’s text had Moses on the mountaintop, seeing the land he would not enter.
    This week, from thousands of pulpits, this text will be read: “14When the people set out from their tents to cross over the Jordan, the priests bearing the ark of the covenant were in front of the people. 15Now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest. So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water, 16the waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, while those flowing toward the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, were wholly cut off. Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan.”


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