The goal of the GOP’s Southern Strategy is to prevent as many nonwhite and liberal citizens from voting as possible, while encouraging the votes of white conservatives. In practice, that means using pre-election dirty tricks to confuse people, biased advertising and blocking minority voters, who are easily identified, at the polls. The Southern Strategy is not confined to the South. The GOP seeks to block votes wherever there are concentrations of minority voters. Federal courts in the battleground state of Ohio have handed the Republicans a setback in using the third scheme in this election. Republicans will not be allowed to buttonhole voters and question their right to vote.
The Associated Press reports.
CINCINNATI (AP) – Two federal judges Monday barred Republican Party representatives from challenging the eligibility of voters at polling places on Election Day.
U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott said that a black couple suing over such challenges would probably be able to prove them unconstitutional. In a similar case in Akron, U.S. District Judge John Adams said it is up to regular poll workers to determine if voters are eligible.
In a related ruling in Newark, N.J., a federal judge said a GOP list challenging the registration of 23,000 voters in Ohio unfairly targeted minority voters, and violated a decades-old order prohibiting such tactics. The GOP had claimed many of the names were fraudulent.
“The public interest is always served by encouraging people to vote,” Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise said.
In the Akron ruling, the judge said people appointed as challengers cannot be at the polls for the sole purpose of challenging voters’ qualifications.
Though the practice may violate the Voting Rights Act (1965), enforcement has been lax for decades, particularly in the South.
A civil rights leader knows the history of the GOP’s efforts to suppress nonwhite voters, AP reports.
CLEVELAND – The Rev. Jesse Jackson compared Republican attempts to challenge voter registrations in Ohio to intimidation tactics that whites used to disenfranchise blacks in the South decades ago.
“The whole idea of Republicans spending time trying to import challengers into the black community is Old South politics, a type of intimidation,” the Democrat said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Sunday night.
Often, rather than resist efforts to bully voters, elections officials let the Republicans have their way. But that may be changing. A Republican lawyer sent a letter to elections officials threatening to challenge new voters in liberal Multnomah County, in Portland, Oregon, last week. A substantial share of the state’s minorities reside in Portland. The response was telling. Nearly all news reports described the threat as what it was, an attempt to block the vote, not concern about whether voters had identified themselves accurately. Elections officials said that the fellow could proceed with the lawsuit if he liked, but he would not be allowed to interfere with voting. The state GOP distanced itself from him, perhaps to cover up its own involvement. The lawyer’s unspoken assumption that he could stop thousands of votes from being counted did not carry the day.
So, when African-American Ohioans go to the polls tomorrow they will not be met by thousands of Republicans bent on intimidating them. The liberals who recently registered to vote in Multnomah County will not have what may be the first ballots they’ve ever cast eliminated because of largely groundless Republican challenges. This change has been a long time coming. But, if it is a trend, it does much to fulfill the intent of the Voting Rights Act.
There are ways to prevent fraudulent voting that do not allow people who are not elections staff to bully voters, questioning their age, residency or identity. Post-election data can be analyzed to determine where and how any casting of ineligible ballots occurs. The holes can then be plugged.
The most troubling aspect of the GOP’s block the vote efforts is that they assume an electorate from which the disadvantaged have been eliminated a good thing. I think the exact opposite is true. A democracy is stronger for being representative. All Americans are effected by the government. All of us should get a say in how the government is run.
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