Congratulations to Barack Obama. In his acceptance speech, President Obama mentioned that “we have to do something” about American citizens waiting in line for hours to cast their vote. These long lines were too often assisted by deliberate acts of voter suppression. Former NBA player Etan Thomas was doing something about it this past weekend as he explained in The Huffington Post:
I had the honor of being part of an amazing effort last weekend.
The Voter Engagement Tour in Miami “Operation Lemonade”; Souls to the Polls with Bishop Victor Curry, Rev Al Sharpton, Congressman Kendrick Meeks, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, the SEIU 1199 and Florida Region and many more. All of the Black clergy in Florida got together to have rallies at different early voting polls throughout Florida and had people watching to make sure voter suppression wasn’t taking place. It was a really great strategy and very effective. I was proud to have been a part of this.
When Republicans shortened early voting days in Florida, black leaders say it was like handing voters a lemon.
“So we’re going to make lemonade,” Victor T. Curry, senior minister at New Birth Baptist Church, told 150 black pastors from South Florida on Monday.
Around the country, particularly in Ohio and possibly Florida, these voter suppression efforts may have turned out more voters. Thomas continues:
Thus began Operation Lemonade, a massive vote-turnout operation that started before the first early in-person voting polls opened Saturday, Oct. 27.
Early voting in Florida goes from Oct. 27 through Nov. 3, which is a much shorter period than voters had in 2008. The state legislature reduced the number of days from 14 to 8. In that time frame, voters can cast ballots at designated precincts prior to Election Day, Tuesday Nov. 6. In addition, the Florida legislature and Gov. Rick Scott also eliminated voting the Sunday before the election.
This has led to speculation that this is a direct attempt to discourage and suppress the Black vote.
According to the New York Times, in 2008, 54 percent of Florida’s Black voters voted early. This was nearly twice the rate of white voters.
According to the Miami Herald, the Sunday ban — as well as other changes affect early voting.
In the 2008 election 1.1 million black voters cast ballots in Florida. Ninety-six percent of those votes went to President Obama, and he won Florida by less than 240,000 votes.
Nearly 54 percent of Florida’s black voters in 2008 voted at early-voting sites; another 13.6 percent submitted absentee ballots, the Florida Democratic Party reported.
In addition, on the Sunday before the election, black voters comprised 32 percent — almost a third — of the statewide turnout, according to a study by Michael McDonald, an assistant professor of government and politics at George Mason University.
The heavy black turnout was no mere coincidence. Florida’s biggest counties, with large populations of black voters — including Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Duval — allowed voting on that Sunday.
State Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, told Dunkelberger that he worked with black ministers in Broward County to encourage voting.
“On that Sunday before the election, they told their congregation members we’re going to leave church when church is over and we’re going to the polls,” Thurston said. “They didn’t tell you who to vote for, but on that day that was part of what was done at the end of the service.”
Similar entreaties no doubt were made that day at other black churches in Florida.
However, while something does seem to be afoul in the air, Rev. Sharpton, Bishop Victor Curry, and the rest of the Black clergy of Florida were not going to allow this to be an excuse as to why we can’t get the job done. This brought about the concept of turning the lemons that we were given in the form of voter suppression, new voter I.D. laws, purging voting rolls, and early voting adjustments into lemonade by allowing that to energize the masses into going to the polls in record numbers.
The concept is that what they meant for evil, we turn into good.
Read the full article at The Huffington Post. Thanks to Etan Thomas and everyone else who fought back against voter suppression efforts to turn lemon into lemonade.
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