Without a crystal ball or obeah practitioner, the most reliable (if not perfect) way to predict the result of an election remains the opinion poll.
However, even if the polls show a massive gap in favour of Barack Obama on the night before the US presidential election and most of those inclined to vote want him to win, there is still a chance that Obama might lose.
Not because of the economic situation or foreign policy or even performance in debates but because of what is known as gerrymandering in the UK and known as voter suppression in the USA.
These devious and deceitful practices are technically legal but are designed to skew the outcome of elections to favour a particular party by re-determining geographic boundaries or establishing hurdles for the purpose of excluding voters from the opposing party (or “the 47%” as Romney might call them).
(White) America has a history, since 1870, of giving the impression that
everyone is allowed and able to vote. The sad reality has often been the opposite with people being stopped from registering by the use of every devious mechanism available from biased tests, to fraud, to threats of losing your job, to spent convictions, through to outright violence and intimidation – such as the rows of white men / police officers that often greeted Black people seeking to vote in the 1960s.
Even though the majority (55%) of white voters in 2008 voted for Obama’s opponent, it was the high turn-out of Black and Hispanic voters that secured President Obama’s election back then. For the 2012 election, where rows of physically intimidating men are no longer possible, some Republican state governors have pushed through (at state level) new Voter ID laws to reduce the numbers of Black and Hispanic Americans eligible to vote.
Knowing that up to 10% of eligible voters do not have and cannot afford or get in time the now required documents to obtain, the new restrictive voting laws on photo IDs, papers, fees etc. will, in effect, disenfranchise large swathes of people who are statistically more likely to vote for Barack Obama – “the 47%”.
For example, in one state only 22% of Black men have a driver’s license and, at $100 for the license and then a substantial fee on top for the voter ID card, it is clear which groups of people will not be able to vote. Poor people generally, who are more likely to have benefitted from the “Obamacare” health programme (and therefore vote for him) but are less likely to be able to afford the new fees etc. for IDs, are likely to be disproportionately disenfranchised and excluded from voting. Elderly Black women are another identified group that are unlikely to be able to find or obtain documents or afford the fees for new documents to get voter IDs.
With Black women traditionally voting in higher proportions than whites, this will again impact on those likely to vote for Obama. It took El Fondren (pictured above) until he was almost 107 years old to get to vote in Mississippi in 1966.
The official reason often advanced for these restrictive changes is “fraud prevention” but, with at least one state study showing an attempted fraud rate of only 0.00004%, fraud prevention is clearly not a valid reason for the new restrictive rules.
Whilst court action has deferred implementation of some of the restrictive new laws, disputes over provisional (contested eligibility) votes/ballots could delay the outcome of the presidential election beyond the day of the ballot.
Ultimately sheer numbers of voters are required to win an election and both Barack and Michelle Obama have been promoting voter registration and early voting (to pre-empt the queues from 2008).
The registration deadline in most of the states is early October – for the sake of democracy, hopefully as many of those that want to register have been able to and to keep their eyes on the prize of the ballot on 6 November.