Florida Governor Rick Scott has reportedly purged eligible voters from the rolls, and Democrats have filed an emergency lawsuit to extend early voting, as some voters complained of waiting as long as nine hours to vote. Meanwhile, an RNC-linked firm is accused of voter registration fraud in battleground states such as Florida and Virginia, including the dumping of voter registration forms into the trash.
In addition, hacked electronic voting machines are causing concern as well. “In Georgia, the [Diebold] voting machines used to cast votes are susceptible to less than honorable intentions,” said Rev. Mosteller. “And with the emotions surrounding President Obama, it is quite possible someone would try and cheat.”
Black Americans cannot help but draw similarities between the voter suppression tactics used against blacks by white Democrats in the Jim Crow South, and the strategies employed by the Republican Party in 2012. If Obama loses, African Americans may conclude the election was stolen from them—a conspiracy.
“If they try to take away the ballot, all we have left is the bullet. So when the Tea Party says they’re here to take their country back, we’ve got to say no! I don’t want to go back,” said Rev. Bullock.
“Given the history of race and disenfranchisement in the United States, it is perfectly understandable for civil rights groups to be suspicious and to try to seek to hold those pushing for these laws accountable to history,” said Andra Gillespie,political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta.
“If we were not witnessing all the unnecessary attacks on the right to vote, then people would be fine,” said Edward DuBose, president of the Georgia State NAACP. “But what we’re observing in the lead-up to the election are tactics to reduce or deny African-Americans access to the right to vote, which should be guaranteed in the Constitution.” DuBose added that an Obama reelection loss should prompt a conversation regarding the attack on voting rights, and the strategies used to disenfranchise voters.
Given the questions surrounding voter ID and voter suppression, Sidmel Estes, a media strategist and adjunct professor of journalism at Clark Atlanta University, expects major backlash in the black community if Obama loses.
“So, if Romney wins, a lot of people will ask “who is this guy? There will also be a lot of suspicion that a man who is little known on the national scene could unseat a sitting president, unless there was deliberate voter backlash,” said Estes. “That is what will anger people, the fact that they will believe it is a racist attack and that Obama wasn’t given a chance.”
Rev. Catherine Jackson, who hosts a social justice ministry called a Prophetic Service Agape Leadership Ministry, thinks an Obama defeat would be crushing, and could lead to fear of voter suppression. “I do have that fear, because of people’s own state of hopelessness. Because the reality is, in some parts of our community, there might be people that feel like ‘what difference does that make?’” she said. “Things going on in your own individual lives, sometimes that feels like a cancer and you may feel like there’s no hope, and when people feel like there’s no hope, people don’t get up and people don’t move.”
Rev. Jackson also told theGrio that an Obama loss would encourage people to organize and build a better infrastructure in their families and communities, in the same way that organization among black people secured an Obama election in 2008. Others agree.
The representative black voices who spoke with theGrio reject the notion that an Obama loss would spark violence, despite the anger, desperation and hopelessness his defeat would create. They believe the battle is to be fought in the political arena, through activism and the ballot box rather than through physical confrontation.
“I don’t think there would be violence because black people are used to disappointment in America,” said Rev. Mosteller, who encourages his congregation to vote.
“At the end of the day, we do not want to have to fight any body with bullets. We have to fight in the ballot box,” said Rev. Bullock. “We have to take our souls to the polls. We can’t just do it on Facebook. We can’t just do it on Twitter. We’ve got to go to our churches and our mosques, and our synagogues and tell people it’s time to go to the ballot box and stand up for the American dream.”
“I think black America would feel the pinch of going back to things the way they used to be under the Republicans…and the progress that President Obama has made will go to waste,” said David Lowery, Jr., president of the Far South Suburban branch of the NAACP in Chicago. Lowery also noted that with high unemployment, black people have always been under the struggle.
“It should really be a motive that ignites us and inspires us. It should fire us up. It should really make us mad that we have sit around and let this society conduct business as usual, which is corrupt. It should invigorate black people. This loss should invigorate the Civil Rights Movement in such a way that this doesn’t happen again.”
Phillip Jackson believes that if Obama is unsuccessful on Election Day, black America will have to redouble their efforts.
“So Obama will not win, but that doesn’t take away my power. And that’s what we have to teach our children. So this is going to be a lesson for our children, for our teachers. If we will work to help Obama win, we will move heaven and earth for him to win, but if he doesn’t win, that doesn’t mean that we should just give up, become hopeless and roll over. We should get back to work and work even harder.”
Meanwhile, if the president is reelected, Jackson—not unlike other African American voters—has high expectations of Obama.
“I want President Obama to be different in his second term than he was in his first term. I want him to be more responsive to the African American community in his second term than he was in his first term. But I know that we have to work incredibly hard, the African American community, to get him to a second term.”
Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove
Renita Young, Jay Scott Smith and Kunbi Tinuoye contributed to this report