In his victory speech, President Obama was generous with his thanks, notably showing appreciation for those who participated actively in democracy, giving a shout out to everyone who "voted for the very first time, or waited in line for a very long time," before adding to loud cheers, "By the way, we have to fix that."
Here's why we need to fix that. All voters didn't have to wait in long lines. When you look at the pictures, such as those collected by PostBourgie, you find mostly people of color in those lines that stretched literally as long as the day. Those voters, many of them low-income who missed work and had to pay babysitters to stand in lines that long, bore the burden of democracy so that we could move forward.
Not only that, but they withstood voter suppression, intimidation and utter confusion so that the nation wouldn't move backwards to a time where that and a lot worse was the norm during elections.
Since last year, America has suffered a wave of voter restriction laws that have sought to mandate photo voter ID, instituted onerous voter registration procedures, shrunk early voting periods, required people to show proof of citizenship to register and made tossing out provisional ballots easier. Most of those laws have been fought off or backed down by dedicated voting rights advocates and citizens. But too often, it has been people of color and those of limited resources who ended up at the front lines, mainly because it was their necks that were on the chopping blocks under these laws.
Neither Obama's nor Romney's campaigns focused on these people, choosing instead to focus squarely on the middle-class, when not the wealthy. It wasn't the middle and wealthy classes, for the most part, who bore the brunt of this election, though. Low-income and working-class voters, and black, Asian, Muslim, Latino and LGTBQ voters all jumped through hoops to make this election, and this democracy, as free and fair as possible, even when the campaigns failed to mention them.
For most of this year our Voting Rights Watch 2012 project, which includes a team of passionate community journalists, reported the burdens and the victories of social justice organizations and coalitions who confronted injust voter laws and deflated them. That reporting didn't end yesterday, and in fact, accelerated in many ways.