How hard can it be to get eligible citizens out to vote on election day with honest results? Should be easy, right? We are taught through grade school that once we are old enough everyone has a right to vote and every vote counts. You might think, there are laws in place today along with technology that makes the elections process simple. The poll taxes, literacy tests and physical violence of the Jim Crow era have disappeared with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, right?
The truth is that in almost every national election since then, voters still have faced a deliberate and calculated attempt to intimidate and suppress. More often than not this threat is pointed towards Africans American and minorities.
- In August of 04, armed and not in uniform officers intimidated many elderly African American voters in Orlando, Florida, by going to their homes and interrogating them as part of an odd investigation about voting irregularities in the previous mayoral election.
- In South Dakota, Native American voters were prevented from voting after they were challenged to provide photo IDs, which they were not required to present under state or federal law.
- According the Springfield News Leader, up to 58,000 voters, many who were African American were prevented from voting because voting machines were not delivered to New Orleans in time for voters to vote on September 18, 2004.
- In 2002 in Louisiana, flyers were distributed in African American communities telling voters they could go to the polls on Tuesday, December 10th – three days after a Senate runoff election was actually held.
In 2008, there was also plenty of examples.
- In October, New Mexico had newly-registered minority voters declared in a press conference by the NM State Representative to have fraudulently voted in the state primary elections. A private investigator was later hired by a party official to go to the homes of these voters and interrogate them about their citizenship status.
- After a rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, supporters of Barack Obama went to a nearby early voting center, where they were heckled and harassed by a group of protesters as they went in to vote. Nearly all of the early voters were black, and nearly all of the protesters were white.
- In Virginia, students at Virginia Tech were told that if they registered to vote in Virginia, it could affect their scholarship or tax dependency status and would obligate them to change their car registration and driver’s license to their permanent address.
- A poll worker in Dearborn, Michigan was perceived to be intimidating Muslim Americans along two precincts being reported for the presence of police scanning the long lines for voters with outstanding warrants.
In most of these cases people have been tried and convicted. Too bad the maximum penalty for conviction on a charge of voter intimidation under federal guidelines is a fine and/or no more than one year in prison. This is hardly a deterrent for big organized groups with careers on the line with each election. This is the type of issue that should cut through party lines and take whatever measure possible to eliminate it. Voter fraud and intimidation in any form is unacceptable and one of the worst forms of corruption. That is why I am highly disappointed with the news from the Department of Justice about the dismissal of the following voter intimidation case.
A federal lawsuit was filed charging the New Black Panther Party of voter intimidation at a Philadelphia polling place on November 4th, the day of the presidential election. Here is the video with the evidence:
A poll official named Bartle Bull, a former civil rights attorney and aide to Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s in his 1968 presidential campaign, gave DOJ attorneys a sworn affidavit.
In my opinion, the men created an intimidating presence at the entrance to a poll. In all my experience in politics, in civil rights litigation and in my efforts in the 1960s to secure the right to vote in Mississippi … I have never encountered or heard of another instance in the United States where armed and uniformed men blocked the entrance to a polling location. The clear purpose of what the Panthers were doing was to intimidate voters with whom they did not agree. I overheard one of the men tell a white poll watcher: “You are about to be ruled by the black man, cracker.”
Unbelievable testimony. The accused didn’t even bother to show up and defend themselves or file any response to answer the suit. So it seemed certain the DOJ would have prevailed by default. Instead the Administration decided to drop three of the four cases and punish the final one with an incredibly weak injunction. When I say incredibly weak, I mean he was barred from brandishing a weapon within a hundred feet of polling places in Philly through Nov 15, 2012. That’s right, his punishment is to obey the previous law, only in Philly and only for the next four years!!!!! The other three were let off without explanation. But were they just lucky? One of the defendants is Jerry Jackson a member of a Democratic Committee and a credentialed poll watcher for the precious election day. This information brings some credence to the prevailing thought that this is more than just a slip up.
I have been skeptical of President Obama and Eric Holder, while still trying to give them the benefit of the doubt with their past judgments. In this case, there is now way to explain the results. Career attorneys at the DOJ say this is unprecedented and have no explanation for the rulings. The DOJ has dodged news outlets and provided no information to filing lawyers. I can only justify this by looking at Holder and Obama’s calculated political motivations. The administration must be fearful of alienating their core voters by punishing the New Black Panthers. Perhaps they knew the media would overlook the story. Whatever the case may be, I sincerely hope this decision is thought through with justice and the integrity of our elections in mind.