Remember when poll watchers were there to help?

This is sickening, but completely in keeping with the scorched earth, take no prisoners, brutalize the opposition mentaity of today’s Republicans. It amounts to nothing less than intimidation and suppression. It’s a shocker:

A recently distributed guide for Republican poll watchers in Maryland spells out how to aggressively challenge the credentials of voters and urges these volunteers to tell election judges they could face jail time if a challenge is ignored.

Democrats said yesterday they consider the handbook, obtained by The Washington Post, evidence of a Republican effort to block people from voting Tuesday. This handbook, obtained by The Washington Post, is being distributed for Republican poll watchers in Maryland.

“The tenor of the material is that they are asking folks, if not directing them, to challenge voters,” said Bruce L. Marcus, an attorney for the state Democratic Party. “It’s really tantamount to a suppression effort.”

Advocacy groups including the National Campaign for Fair Elections, Common Cause and the NAACP, as well as a George Washington University professor who is an expert on voter suppression, agreed with that assessment.

Barbara Burt of Common Cause said the technique, last seen in Ohio in the 2004 presidential election, is an “insidious voter intimidation tactic.”

Republicans rebutted that charge, saying they merely are guarding against fraud. “I don’t think that’s borderline suppression,” said state Republican Party Chairman John Kane. “It’s making sure that people who have earned the right to vote are voting. We’ve had people die in wars to protect those rights.”

This whole “voter fraud” thing is a classic red herring. There are precious few cases of true voter fraud, but lots of documented cases of voter suppression. Where you will see the fraud is in registration – there are indeed a lot of prankster registrations under outrageous and often very funny names. But these non-existent people don’t then come to the pols to vote. If those doing the BS registering actually came and tried to cast votes under fake names, that would indeed constitute voter fraud. I heard this discused on NPR’s On the Media last week (thank God for podcasts), where the guests pointed out how big a deal the GOP makes of voter fraud, when in truth they are actually going out of their way to commit the equally insidious but easier-to-carry-out crime of voter suppression. (Anyone remember when they delegitimized thousands of legally registered voters in Florida back in 2000?)

Again, this is so far apart from what America has always stood for, so strange and foreign that it seems we’re describing a distant, rather primitive country where those with power can bludgeon and brutalize at whim those who are disenfranchised. Maybe that’s what present-day America has become. This technique, specifically designed to intimidate, threaten and drive away voters, is being institutionalized in the Republican literature.

Will they get away with it, or will this, too, backfire on them? The Dems should be publicizing the story everywhere and training their own poll watchers in how to combat voter intimidation.

If only the Dems were as organized and as obsessed as the GOP, even fractionally, we’d win in a heartbeat. Until we learn a few points from the Republican playbook – i.e., develop a unified message, stick with it and focus obsessively on winning – the bad guys will continue to wield the upper hand. The Dems are on the verge of victory through no fault of their own, but only because through the GOP’s incalculable screw-ups they’re being handed Congress on a platter. It won’t always be this easy. So Democrats, please whip yourselves into shape and don’t let the thugs walk all over you. Please?

The Discussion: One Comment

Beyond disgusting, beyond shameless.

Maybe soon we will be beyond democracy.

November 3, 2006 @ 10:56 pm | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.