Election 2008

barack obama, obama campaign
Matt Rourke/AP
Voters wait in line to cast their votes at a polling place in Philadelphia.

For Many, Obama Renews Belief in Democracy and the American Dream

November 06, 2008 08:28 AM
by Sarah Amandolare
This year's massive voter turnout reflects high interest in the presidential race.

Nevada Indicative of Bigger Trend

In Nevada, Election Day reports told of calm, short lines at the polls. The reason, according to the Las Vegas Sun, is that almost half of all registered voters cast early ballots. While many voters spoke of their excitement for the Obama campaign, there was also a renewed vigor for the American political process. One example of this was an elementary school’s sale of cupcakes decorated in “nonpartisan red, white and blue.”

Official final numbers have not been revealed yet, but according to The Washington Post, Connecticut predicted a 90 percent voter turnout rate, and Nevada estimated that 1.1 million of the 1.4 million registered voters went to the polls.

The high voter turnout has been largely attributed to Barack Obama’s inspirational campaign.

St. Louis, Mo., native Deddrick Battle told the International Herald Tribune that while growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, he believed that he would never be a part of the American political process, and that his vote “would not count for much of anything” as a black man. However, Battle registered to vote for the first time in 2008, at age 55.

“This is bigger than life itself,” Battle said of Obama’s campaign.

Battle is not alone in his sentiments, according to David Bositis of the Washington-based Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. Bositis told the IHT that states with the highest black populations proportionally, have seen the biggest increases in early voting. In Georgia, for example, blacks made up 35 percent of total voters, up from 25 percent in 2004.

CNN quoted a neuroscience graduate student from Chicago named Sonja Artis, who said Obama represented “the American Dream,” and expressed hope that he would renew her confidence in American government.

“This will transcend all types of racial lines,” said Artis.

Related Topic: The reach of Obama’s inspiration

In a column for The Women on the Web, Whoopi Goldberg wrote of her experience as a black American during Obama’s win. She wrote, “[I]t occurred to me that this is really our arrival in the country that said everything was possible. We have finally become part of the fabric of the United States of America.” She also expressed her faith in a common theme of the Obama campaign, that anything is possible.

Along the same hope-infused lines, the National Public Radio “This I Believe” essay series grew more popular among young people and immigrants during this election season. Among the featured essays is a piece by Texas priest Michael Seifert, who said his Cameron Park neighborhood, made up primarily of immigrants, would “by means of their vote, make an act of faith in America.” He mentioned seeing “a lot of excitement and pride these days,” as well.

Even beyond U.S. borders, citizens expressed excitement and hope for an Obama presidency. Venezuelan political activist Oswaldo Calvo told The New York Times, “It allows us all to dream a little.” Others around the world spoke of Obama’s ability to spark a “personal connection” with people of different cultures. “There is an immigrant component and a minority component” to his appeal, said British international lawyer Philippe Sands.

Background: Crunching the voting numbers

Voting statistics could ultimately look even more impressive, explained Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller. Some Nevada counties could end up reporting voter turnout of more than 100 percent. The reason is Nevada’s method of reporting voter turnout based on total number of active voters, only. Inactive voters are still eligible to vote, however, and Nevada saw “a high number of those eligible inactive voters coming to the polls,” said Miller.

Meanwhile, one voting expert said this year’s election “was the highest turnout in a century,” due to millions of early voters and unusually high turnout at the polls on Election Day, reported the Associated Press. Based on predictions from Michael McDonald of George Mason University, 136.6 million Americans were expected to vote, which constitutes a 64.1 percent turnout rate. 

Furthermore, this election stands out for “the shifting demographic of American voters,” according to Harvard and MIT professor Stephen Ansolabehere. He estimated that the percentage of white voters fell to 74 percent from 81 percent in 2000, due to a substantial increase of Hispanic and black voters. Turnout of Democratic and younger voters was also up, while Republican rates declined, according to Ansolabehere’s estimates.

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