Yesterday, we discussed procedural hurdles dogging new black voters in Florida. It appears many new registrants will be excluded from actually voting on the grounds they did not fill out forms completely. A reader brought my attention to claims of a more blatant form of discrimination in Philadelphia. It appears that there the GOP has attempted to move voting sites out of predominantly black neighborhoods. If voters go to their presumed polling place on Election Day, only to discover it is no longer there, they may not have time to look for the replacement location or may be unable to find it.
The Philadelphia Daily News has the story.
REPUBLICAN OPERATIVES working to re-elect President [Geroge W.] Bush submitted last-minute requests in Philadelphia on Friday to relocate 63 polling places.
Bush’s Pennsylvania campaign staff filed the requests, using the names of two Republicans running for the U.S. Congress and seven Republican ward leaders.
Of the 63 requests for changes, 53 are in political divisions where the population of white voters is less than 10 percent.
“I think this is more evidence of Republicans working to disenfranchise low-income and minority voters,” said Mark Nevins, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. John Kerry. “It’s despicable.”
Bob Lee, voter registration administrator for the City Commission, said the requests appear to be “discriminatory” and were filed too late to be eligible for a hearing on Wednesday.
“They’re trying to suppress the vote,” Lee said of Republicans.
Making it difficult for nonwhites to vote has long been a key component of the Republicans’ Southern Strategy. Such efforts to suppress the vote are the reason the Voting Rights Act is needed. If left to their own devices, GOP operatives would exclude African-Americans and Hispanics from participating in the electoral franchise as they did in the past. However, the plan is not confined to the South. Minority voters are perceived as ‘the enemy’ wherever they are because of their propensity to vote for Democrats. Philadelphia’s GOP has been behaving like its Southern brethren despite being in the North.
Still, for some people, the Nile is more than a river in Africa. Despite the overwhelmingly disproportionate impact of GOP requests to relocate polling places on black voters in Philadelphia, they will claim it is incidental. Fortunately, there is a smoking gun that proves otherwise. A Republican official admitted race is the reason he wanted to relocate the voting sites.
Race played a role in at least five of the requests, according to Matt Robb, the Republican leader of the 48th ward in South Philadelphia. Robb said he allowed his name to be used because those polling places are in neighborhoods he doesn’t wish to visit.
“It’s predominantly, 100 percent black,” said Robb, who is white. “I’m just not going in there to get a knife in my back.”
The polling places are all in political divisions where Democrats hold an overwhelming advantage among registered voters.
Robb offered no evidence to support his claim that visiting a black neighborhood and being stabbed is a given.
Tomorrow: An Oklahoma Republican borrows a page from Jesse Helms.
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