ballot_box.jpegWhatever else happens in this landmark presidential election, it has become clear that significant numbers of African Americans are aware of the importance of casting a ballot.

That is seen in the large turnout at early voting places, with some voters having to wait in line at some precincts for more than four hours to get into the polling booth. It is a safe bet that almost all are voting for the re-election of President Barack Obama.

While there remains a deep undercurrent of concern among some African Americans about Mr. Obama’s support for gay marriage, the vast majority evidently know what is at stake this time around.

What is at stake is the challenge which the Republican-dominated Legislature issued to black Floridians’ inalienable right to exercise their franchise. Following in the footsteps of their partners in political crime, they have done their best to erect barriers to voting and it was left to the courts to rein them in. No wonder there is a proposed amendment to the state constitution to defang the Florida Supreme Court.

Black Floridians have picked up the gauntlet. In a show of defiance that draws on centuries of resistance to racist oppression, they are turning the “lemon” which the Legislature thought it was giving them into “lemonade” by voting in huge numbers. The lesson: It is a new day and black folk simply will never again roll over and play dead.

However, this is not just a symbolic gesture. The bitter taste lingers from the George W. Bush versus Al Gore campaign in 2000 when Mr. Bush won his first term as president by capturing Florida with a 537-vote margin.

With polls continuing to show that the presidential election of 2012 remains very close, even a few popular votes can decide who wins a state and its electoral votes and, as happened with Bush v. Gore, who wins the presidency.

So for those who are still delaying going to vote, the only message is: Go and vote. If it means taking time to go to the precinct on Tuesday, then make it happen and vote not just for a presidential candidate but also on those who are seeking lower offices and on charter and constitutional questions.

A lot is hanging on who is in charge of the country for the next four years because the result will be felt  by each one of us much further into the future.

It is no exaggeration to say that the soul of our nation, the future direction of our country in terms of both domestic and foreign policy, is at stake in this election. We cannot afford to be bystanders.