High and diverse turnout in 2012 US presidential poll

By staff writers
7 Nov 2012

This could be the most diverse United States electorate in history, say analysts of early returns in the hotly contested 2012 presidential election.

That's the view of Ben La Bolt, President Obama's campaign secretary. He was talking to PBS America after the first polls closed across the nation. Independent analysis is tending to back up that view.

It is far too early to call the result overall, but a slightly lower than predicted turnout among white voters (73 per cent rather than 75 per cent or higher), plus solid turnouts from black and Latino voters, seems to lean against Republican contender Mitt Romney.

Third party candidates, such as the Green Party USA's Jill Stein, who has offered a radical 'new deal' programme, are hoping that they will not be squeezed out by the duopoly, who have spent up to $6 billion of corporate money on the campaign.

Her chances, and those of Libertarian candidate gary Johnson and others, will be best in non-swing states, where people feel that they can cast independent votes without imperilling their preferred 'main' candidate.

Meanwhile, despite a flurry of partisan activity from the Religious Right in the immediate run-up to 6 November, many hundreds of churches and thousands of individuals have been involved in the Election Day Communion initiative, which seeks to show how "the politics of getting round the table together", as one participant put it to Ekklesia, can bring Christians together across theological and political differences.

Groups like Sojourners and Faithful America, meanwhile, who stand on the progressive end of the church spectrum, have been focusing on the impact of policies on the poorest and most vulnerable, as well as emphasising environmental action, human rights, peacemaking and international justice.

Many of these concerns were absent from the 'main' presidential television debates, though they featured in the online 'third party' debates.

As America went to the polls, there were reports that it took hours to cast ballots at some polling places in Florida, Ohio and other states.

There also were reports in Pennsylvania that poll workers were illegally asking voters to show identification.

A bitter war of words broke out about these incidents, and long queues as polls officially close are making life difficult for election staff. If people are in line, they have a right to vote.

“I hope everyone understands that there has been an effort to suppress the vote,” independent Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont told radio host Ed Schultz on Tuesday 6 November.

“We can have all kinds of differences of opinion about where we want this country to go, but you have folks out there who are deliberately suppressing the vote, making it difficult for Americans to participate in the political process. I think that’s the lowest of the low ... Our goal should be that in a democratic society we want the voter turnout to be as large as possible,” he added.

Also on Ekklesia:

* LIVE election night blog - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17316

* GOP accused of using religion as last ditch anti-Obama scare tactic - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17317

* IRS asked to investigate US Catholic bishops' anti-Obama bias - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17323

* Ekklesia presidential election coverage overall - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/presidentialelection

[Ekk/3]

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