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Courts: Stay away from voters, GOP

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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.

Note: My blog is Mac-a-ro-nies.

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About The Diva

  • I’ve been to five polling places today, and will go to probably about 10 more before the polls close. As County Chair of my party, I have total access to the polling places, and use this to verify that things are on the up-and-up with regards to electioneering, campaign materials, access, etc. So far, everything has looked very good. No nonsense.

    In Indiana, the county chair can designate anyone to be a poll watcher, and must provide credentials for that person on party letterhead. I have only seen one poll watcher so far- a Democrat. No surprise. The county is very Republican, so I expect Democratic watchers to do what I’m doing, to ensure fairness and compliance with the law. Watchers here do not have the ability to challenge a voter’s eligibility in Indiana.

    Ohio is a different animal, of course.

  • bhw

    MD, I agree with you about the difference in both the use of and effect of challengers at minority precincts. I realize that our country has a history of trying to [and often succeeding] squelch the black vote.

    The GOP plan to target minority areas screams of racial profiling and intimidation.

    In my town, where I have lived for 9 years, I not only have never been asked to show ID, but I don’t even sign in. The poll worker asks me for my address, then asks if I’m me or my husband, the only two registered voters at that address who are listed in her book. I say I’m me, and then she checks off my name and I go in and vote. That’s it.

    So I’m not too worried about challengers, myself. But the idea that a hand-picked party operative *with an agenda* could just walk up and challenge my vote and potentially prevent me from voting is hugely scary, even though I’m not going to face that scenario. So if it bothers me, someone who’s not at risk, then it must be really bothing those who are being targeted.

  • Bhw, though people say ‘both parties will have challengers,’ in actual practice it is the GOP which brings in people with no role in elections in significant numbers. I agree with you that neither party should be allowed to do this, but let’s be clear that it is not done equally. Even if the Democrats urged their followers to descend like a plague of locusts at white, suburban polling places, it wouldn’t happen. Democrats are more likely to have qualms about getting in a stranger’s face and trying to boss her around, one suspects. And, the power relationships in a society always matter. Older people of color, who spent much of their lives under segregation, rarely ‘talk back’ to white people at all. If a white man tells them to leave the polling place, they will leave. The GOP’s challengers have been known to wear security guard or police uniforms, or to tell the people they are haranguing that they are lawyers. All of that impacts minority voters, who have disproportionately had problems with the criminal justice system. The challenger process in practice is the vigilante activity of Reconstruction without the actual violence.

    I seldom participate in the threads of the bigotry brigade, Mike. Can usually find something better to read. For example, Art Green recently stated there has been no discrimination against black voters since the 1960s. My corrective will be entries about the Voting Rights Act and voter suppression, some already posted.

  • RedTard

    Thanks for the response MD. I think you proved my point quite well.

  • Ah, redneck. Thank you for your racism.

    So, Diva. If others ask you to stay off their threads, will you honor the request?

  • bhw

    I don’t think either party should be stationing “challengers” at the polls. It bothers me to no end that a group of citizens with a partisan intent would be permitted to challenge my vote with no cause at all. I’m a citizen and a registered voter, and I have a right to vote without being questioned by some partisan jerk who wants to interrupt the election process to benefit his/her candidate.

    Let the poll workers do their jobs, let the poll watchers do their jobs, and leave the thinly veiled intimidation at home.

  • The ignorant redneck American not being a secret protected by the national security apparatus even during John Ashcroft’s tenure, I suspect most people are aware of his existence, Mike. But, thanks for ‘helping.’

    Since you are interested in Oregon, you should be reading my ‘Me and my ballot” entry anyway. Good food for thought about the voting process.

    I actually came to this thread to update it. The trial courts have been reversed. So, this issue will go to SCOTUS, probably too late for it to reverse if it is so inclined. Haven’t had time to blog this. Read the news story here.

    If I were an Ohio elections official, I would ignore the appeals courts’ rulings. Assuming an unbiased hearing, their position should prevail in the long run. If the intent of the Voting Rights Act is be ignored by having vigilantes descend on polling places, the Act has been eviscerated.

  • Say, Diva. That’s a novel approach. If others ask you to stay off of their threads, will you do so?

    But Red’s got a point, Diva. You use stereotyping in a great many of your responses: knuckle dragger, scratching lice bites, etc. Why not name the stereotype you are trying to depict? Or would that be too honest?

  • Retard, you are the kind of person who would have criticized the victims of the Ku Klux Klan. ‘If them damn darkies don’t want to die, why they putting ropes around their necks and jumping from trees?’

    You are a bigot and you have nothing intelligent to add to any discussion. Therefore, I am going to ask that you not post comments to my threads. Perhaps you and Andy Marsh can get together, knock back some Coors and rail about how these problems didn’t arise back in ‘the good ole days,’ while scratching the lice bites under your wife beater tee-shirts. Whatever. Just don’t bring it to my entries.

  • RedTard

    MD, your letting your racism show through again. You assume that blacks are not able to defend their right to vote at the polls.

    The Democratic party issues the same types of challenges and has lawyers on hand just like the Republicans. You don’t hear people complaining that whites are being intimidated. Why?

    Because people do not have the built in assumption that whites are easily intimidated.

    There are more than one type of racist in the world and you are the most dangerous type. You claim to be an advocate for the rights of minorities yet you only serve to perpetuate the problems and stereotypes. You treat minorites as if they are completely incapable of functioning in this world without government assistance and special protection.

    I believe that 120 years after slavery blacks are capable of standing up, stating their name, and showing ID without running away in fear.

    The problem is you don’t.