Two Reports of Republican Voter Suppression

There have been two reports of voter suppression by Republicans in the past week. Last week McClatchy showed that the Republican campaign against “voter fraud” was really intended to suppress turn out among minority groups:

McClatchy Newspapers has found that this election strategy was active on at least three fronts:

  • Tax-exempt groups such as the American Center and the Lawyers Association were deployed in battleground states to press for restrictive ID laws and oversee balloting.
  • The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division turned traditional voting rights enforcement upside down with legal policies that narrowed rather than protected the rights of minorities.
  • The White House and the Justice Department encouraged selected U.S. attorneys to bring voter fraud prosecutions, despite studies showing that election fraud isn’t a widespread problem.

Nowhere was the breadth of these actions more obvious than at the American Center for Voting Rights and its legislative fund.

Public records show that the two nonprofits were active in at least nine states. They hired high-priced lawyers to write court briefs, issued news releases declaring key cities “hot spots” for voter fraud and hired lobbyists in Missouri and Pennsylvania to win support for photo ID laws. In each of those states, the center released polls that it claimed found that minorities prefer tougher ID laws.

Now there is a report out of Jacksonville of “vote caging.”

Internal city memos show the issue of Republican “vote caging” efforts in Jacksonville’s African-American neighborhoods was discussed in the weeks before the 2004 election, contradicting recent claims by former Duval County Republican leader Mike Hightower – the Bush-Cheney campaign’s local chairman at the time.

“Caging” is a longtime voter suppression practice by which political parties collect undeliverable or unreturned mail and use it to develop “challenge lists” on Election Day.The contradiction comes to light as the U.S. Justice Department continues to consider a June 18 request from two U.S. senators for an investigation into potential illegal voter suppression tactics in Duval County three years ago. A department spokeswoman said last week that the request is still being reviewed.

Hightower, in a Times-Union interview last month, said the controversial voter suppression tactic of “caging” was never raised in daily meetings hosted by former Duval County Supervisor of Elections Bill Scheu, and he had never heard “of that expression or that practice.” Hightower said last week he stands by those recollections.

City officials have disputed that, saying Scheu’s daily pre-election meetings with local Republicans, Democrats and African-American community leaders repeatedly included the topic. The city also released attendance records showing Hightower was present.

“This issue was raised during the 2004 election; the supervisor of elections and his counsel were aware of the allegations, discussed them at times during daily meetings with both political parties, and did not have any instances of challenges based on caging,” Cindy Laquidara, chief deputy general counsel for Jacksonville, said in a June 20 e-mail to Duval County elections officials. The elections office was responding to a Times-Union public record request; the e-mail was obtained through a similar request.

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