(Special to The Root) — On Thursday night, Mitt Romney officially accepted his party’s nomination as the Republican presidential candidate. Although Romney has been the GOP’s presumptive nominee since late April, the delegate roll call at the convention this week made it official. There were more than 2,000 delegates — men and women of all ages and backgrounds, from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S territories. They had the chance to make their voices heard by casting their votes for the person they feel will best represent their party in the election that is only months away. Ironically, the Republican Party is committed to denying that same freedom — open participation in our democracy — to thousands across the country.
Based on the prevalence of confetti, cheering and congratulatory speeches at the convention, it seems that the irony of the roll-call tradition was lost on those in attendance. That the convention took place in Tampa, Fla., only deepened the current of hypocrisy running through the proceedings, to which participants were oblivious.
Around the country, Republican politicians, Tea Party groups and the conservative billionaires who back them are doing everything in their power to restrict the ability of certain Americans to get to the polls on Nov. 6 and vote in local, state and federal elections.
Ohio’s Secretary of State Jon Husted has eliminated weekend access to polls in the state, an option that was often exercised by black voters in past elections. Republicans in Pennsylvania have pushed through a law requiring specific forms of restrictive photo identification to vote, a constraint that systematically pushes black and low-income voters out of the system. And in Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott has overseen a sweeping voter purge that has erased hundreds — if not thousands — of lawful citizens from the voter rolls.
The massive “voter fraud” against which these laws purport to fight has no basis in history or reality. The true purpose of these laws is to suppress the votes and voices of low-income people and people of color. History shows that creating barriers to voting like ID requirements and restricted voting hours systematically eliminates minorities from the system. And as Republican leaders have said themselves, this is precisely the point. Last week, Doug Preisse, GOP chairman for the Columbus, Ohio, area, told reporters, “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.”