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A bipartisan atrocity

With the news that most of the defendants in the tire-slashing/vote suppression incident in Milwaukee on the 2004 election day pleading down to misdemeanors, I have been reminded of New Hampshire's own vote-suppression scandal -- which is currently wending its way through our courts.

A quick background: in 2002, then-Congressman John E. Sununu (R) was running against then-outgoing governor Jeanne Shaheen (D) for the Senate seat being vacated by Senator Bob Smith (R-sometimes). On election day, a pollster hired by a Republican official had his phone machines continually call into the phone bank set up by the Democrats to call voters and encourage them to vote, along with accepting calls for rides to polling places. Two former officials have been already sentenced, and a third was just convicted last year.

This morning, there's news that lawyers for that third man, James Tobin, is trying to get his conviction overturned.

I see several possible responses to this development in Milwaukee come to mind:

1) Now that we see that Democrats can commit felonies to deny people the right to vote and get away with it, perhaps the New Hampshire case ought to be treated a smidgen more leniently, where the actual actions taken were only misdemeanors.

2) Now that the Democrats have shown how lightly they take the issue of denying people the right to vote, this is a golden opportunity for the Republicans to take the moral high ground and push for the severest possible sanctions.

3) Where the Milwaukee case dealt with a far more important election -- a presidential race vs. a senate seat in an off-year election -- it should be treated more seriously.

4) Where the Milwaukee case affected a far smaller percentage of the total electorate than the New Hampshire case, the New Hampshire case should be treated far more seriously.

I think the proper response, however, should be none of the above: to disregard the Milwaukee case entirely in regards to the New Hampshire case.

After 2000 and 2004, the American people have, largely, become tired of endless cries of "voter fraud" and "disenfranchising the people." The notion of requiring a voter to show some form of identification before casting their ballot is absolutely trivial when compared to these two cases, just to cite one example. Yet by hyping these matters as much as various political leaders (most notably Democrats, but not always), they have cheapened the whole notion of true disenfranchisement.

These two cases represent high-ranking officials of the major political parties actively conspiring and acting to prevent people from voting. Both cases are obscenities, perversions of our cherished -- but fragile -- political system and freedoms. And both are so important that they can not -- must not -- be allowed to influence each other. Both need to be prosecuted rigorously, with examples made of the guilty to deter future attempts.

And if the verdicts or sentences differ, so be it. That's the vagaries of our justice system. That must not be allowed to shade our own pursuit of justice.


Comments (8)

Hmmm.Frankly I thi... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmm.

Frankly I think the case in NH is more of a phone prank than anything else. It's not like the correct information isn't available all over the place.

The only equivalence betwee... (Below threshold)
Chris:

The only equivalence between the two cases is that the guilty parties were both dead wrong. However, in the Wisconsin case, a group of young men took it upon themselves to engage in vandalism in order to win an election. Completely wrong behavior, and an embarrassment to the Democrats. However, the case against them was built largely on testimony from other Democratic campaign workers (who are the "high-ranking officials" you referenced?)

In New Hampshire, the guilty party is James Tobin, the New Englan chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2000. And when the incident happened, he was Northeast Political Director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Now that's a high ranking official. And out of state operatives were hired to conduct the phone jamming. In addition, Chuck McGee, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Republican party and Republican political consultant Allen Raymond have already taken pleas and gone to prison. This was clearly the result of lots of planning, I suspect a bit more than a tire-slashing spree.

As for it being a "phone prank," both parties spend millions on these get out the vote campaigns. I doubt they would do that if it was a simple as "correct information (is) available all over the place." These programs are designed to encourage voters to get to the polls, not just to inform them which elementary school they should go to. And a good get out the vote campaign can make the difference in an election. The New Hampshire case was clearly a much more concerted conspiracy in volve high ranking officials of the Republican party.

Hmmmm.1. If you do... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmmm.

1. If you don't know where to vote then you don't know where your police station or town hall is because you can go there, or phone call, and find out.

2. If you don't know that an election is on then you're a hermit crab because it's plastered all over the place and generally mentioned several times an hour on the radio.

3. If you're a legal resident and a registered voter then you're a double idiot if you don't know when and where to vote since that information is listed on the flyer you get in the mail.

4. If you're utterly clueless then you can buy a newspaper which will have all of the information needed to vote.

etc etc etc.

But hey. Push this until it breaks. I'm still rather unimpressed compared to the extensive Democratic election rigging all over this country. Frankly I think if the elections were reformed to allow only one vote per person and no illegal and unlawful votes the Democratic Party would be in even worse shape than it is now. It's clear from the examples set forth in St. Louis and Washington state that the Democratic Party relys heavily on illegal vote rigging to maintain a presence.

Compared to all of that a phone prank is small beans.

edI'll try again. ... (Below threshold)
Chris:

ed

I'll try again. The get out the vote campaign isn't primarily for people who don't know where to vote. It's a known fact that elections often go to the organization that gets its voters to the polls. That means countering apathy by getting to voters on election day,convincing them that they should get off their asses and vote, and offering them rides if need be (especially important with the elderly.) What do you think the Republicans were using the vans in Milawaukee for, sandwich runs?

The phone banks and the vans are both part of a get out the vote operation. Why is it so important in Milwaukee but not in New Hampshire?

And the point of my post was that there has been no evidence that the guys in Milwaukee were part of a larger effort. It has been shown that the New Hampshire crime was part of an effort planned at high levels of the Republican party. I've read a little bit about St. Louis, which appears to be limited to operatives in East St. Louis, but don't know much about it. Please show me somewhere other than a right wing blog where the Democrats in Washington state were found guilty of vote rigging.

Chris - Do you even realize... (Below threshold)
JD:

Chris - Do you even realize that the East St. Louis that you referenced is not even in St. Louis proper, or even the state of Missouri ? Do some more reading on St. Louis and Washington and remove your head from the sand.

I know East St. Louis is a ... (Below threshold)
Chris:

I know East St. Louis is a separate area; that's why I made the point that what was referenced by ed as "St. Louis" was probably the East St. Louis scandal. If there's a different scandal in St. Louis proper, please enlighten me, since I already admitted I didn't know much about it. Otherwise, you need to tell ed to get his head out of the sand.

As for Washington, I've read plenty about it. Instead of telling me to "do more reading" which is a cheap way of saying "I can't present you with any facts to support my side but if you look long enough you'll know I'm right," perhaps you could point me to an objective source that will make the point you seem unable to make.

And I find it interesting h... (Below threshold)
Chris:

And I find it interesting how no one has acknowledged the New Hampshire case. I'd love to hear your excuses, although I'm sure they have something to do with the Republicans being victims.

Chris, at the moment we're ... (Below threshold)
Jo:

Chris, at the moment we're enjoying YOUR excuses so much that we just don't want to interupt you.....




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