In the coming weeks, I'll have plenty to say about what comes next for African Americans. But for now, I want to invoke the ancestors and unsung heroes of the civil rights movement who told us a change was gonna come.
At age 96, Dr. Dorothy I. Height, chairman emerita of the National Council of Negro Women, is still going strong.
She’s hanging in here with us as we view the election returns at NCNW's historic headquarters. Dr. Height shared a few thoughts:
Many people lost their lives working to get the vote. For a while we received the vote but we weren’t using the vote. We learned how to use that vote and you see the results tonight.
In many instances we are the swing vote. Just because we are a minority doesn’t mean that we can’t make a difference. We all should be proud that we have a man like Barack Obama. He prepared himself and he carried himself throughout this with dignity and strength. Whether they voted for him or not, they have to acknowledge that he has been presidential all the way.
They missed the point because Bradley was defeated by 57 votes and there were 5,000 black people in Los Angeles who were unregistered. It wasn’t quite what they were saying. They’re going to have to admit to an Obama factor. Obama’s coattails are carrying in a lot of Democratic candidates.
As to the meaning of a President Obama:
It means that what I’ve worked for has not been in vain. I see in Barack Obama a sense of the future and realize the strength that’s in our people. A young man who’s so devoted, so sincere, and so able to do what he wants to do.
Dr. Height urged us to heed Harriett Tubman’s advice, “Don’t look back, move forward, and keep going.”
Georgia Helen Butler reported machine breakdowns in one precinct; voters are using paper ballots. There are long lines but black folks ain’t going nowhere. People not on the voter lists are not being given a provisional ballot. At one precinct, voters were given misinformation and told that if they didn’t vote for down-ticket races, their vote wouldn’t count.
Debra Robinson reported “everything is great. There is a record turnout in rural areas in the Jackson-Hinds County area.
Missouri Gwendolyn Grant reported some folks had lined up before 5 a.m. When the polls opened, there were hundreds of people in line. “Right now, things are going fairly well.”
Ohio Petee Talley reported there were isolated incidents and warned about an emerging problem in Cincinnati. She said there will be some issues with provisional ballots, but “right now, things are pretty calm.”
Texas Carmen Watkins reported that as of 2 p.m., 40 percent of registered voters in Harris County (Houston) had voted. “If it starts raining, we could have some problems.”
Lavern Chatman reported long lines but no major problems. At precincts in Northern Virginia, Fairfax, Reston and Newport News, machines malfunctioned. People were not given paper ballots so some left without voting. The NAACP may file a lawsuit to extend polling hours so that people can come back and vote.
Cynthia Downs Taylor reported heavy rains in the Virginia Beach/Hampton Roads area. There are long lines at predominately black precincts, but people refused to get out of line. At the Central Gardens precinct in Henrico County, there were long lines and five machines malfunctioned. Ironically, the county registrar had dismissed an earlier NAACP lawsuit as “much ado about nothing.”
I asked Silas what we should be looking for with the calls to 1-866-MYVOTE1. He said Columbus, Ohio, and Tampa, Fla., are always a bellwether.
So far, there are no calls from Tampa. Silas observed:
Either there are no problems, which I find highly unlikely, or they’re very minor.
Not so in Columbus, where 470 incidents have been reported as of 1 p.m. Silas noted:
It seems like the voting irregularities are a repeat of the challenges from 2000 and 2004. But unlike ’04, it’s a challenge of infrastructure—long lines, pseudo intimidation, different forms of intimidation.
Even with intimidation, it’s not deterring people from voting. In fact, it strengthens their resolve, almost reverse intimidation.
Calls are pouring into the voter assistance hotline, 1-866-MYVOTE1. The top five hot spots are Cook County (Chicago), Harris County (Houston), Jefferson County (Birmingham), Broward County (Fort Lauderdale) and Orleans Parish (New Orleans).
Unity '08 field coordinators report black turnout is high. In Jackson, Miss., 1,500 voters were in line before the polls opened. One elderly voter, 89 or 90 years old, had to be brought out because it got too hot. She was able to vote curbside.
There have been problems in battleground states, but so far they're manageable. The early morning surge of voters has tapered off. There's now a steady flow of voters, the calm before the deluge in late afternoon/early evening.
In St. Petersburg, Fla., there's a report of vandalism. Cars and homes with Obama signs in the window have been hit.