'Voter Intimidation' Called a Setup for Post-Election Challenges

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:30 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - With about six weeks until Election Day, a group of African American conservatives is trying to blunt the liberal warnings that Republicans are planning to intimidate and suppress minority voters on Nov. 2.

As CNSNews.com reported Aug. 27, the liberal group MoveOn.org and black leaders such as Jesse Jackson and NAACP Chairman Julian Bond accuse the Republican Party of "suppressing" the black vote by "intimidation, misinformation, purges of voter roles that disenfranchise qualified voters, the threat to discount provisional ballots, and other actions that undermine the rights of qualified Americans to vote."

But members of the conservative Project 21, whose mission statement is to "promote the views of African-Americans whose entrepreneurial spirit, dedication to family and commitment to individual responsibility has not traditionally been echoed by the nation's civil rights establishment," have a different message to deliver.

Project 21 Director David Almasi told CNSNews.com that he fears liberal leaders are merely preparing for a challenge to the outcome of the November election.

"My main concern," Almasi said, "is that they're trying to set themselves up for November 3rd. If and when the election does not go their way ... they will have the groundwork laid; people will naturally say, 'Oh of course, I've been hearing about this voter suppression for a long time.'"

The complaints about voter suppression, levied in the form of a petition to President Bush and other Republican leaders, follow a report from People for the American Way (PFAW), which claims to have detailed voter intimidation targeted at blacks.

The report claimed that old tactics of suppressing the black vote, such as the requirements of poll taxes and literacy tests, have been replaced by "more subtle, cynical and creative tactics."

PFAW claims those tactics include attempts by "plainclothes officers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to question elderly black voters in their homes."

The group's report also refers to attempts by Florida officials to conduct a "purge" that would have removed convicted felons from voter rolls. Several media outlets have reported that such a purge would also remove legitimate voters from the rolls.

"In 1998 in South Carolina, a state representative mailed 3,000 brochures to African American neighborhoods, claiming that law enforcement agents would be 'working' the election, and warning voters that 'this election is not worth going to jail,'" PFAW charged in its report.

"In every national American election since Reconstruction, every election since the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965, voters - particularly African American voters and other minorities - have faced calculated and determined efforts at intimidation and suppression,"

PFAW stated that voter intimidation "is not the province of a single political party," but added that, "over the past two decades, the Republican Party has launched a series of 'ballot security' and 'voter integrity' initiatives which have targeted minority communities." The Republican National Committee was mentioned several more times as a perpetrator of voter intimidation and suppression.

Almasi, however, said much of the proof of voter suppression and intimidation is "circumstantial evidence."

"To hear some of these reports, you had Bull Conner sitting in front of the polling station with a fire hose and dogs," he said, referring to the Alabama commissioner of public safety who ordered police to use dogs and fire hoses against Martin Luther King Jr.'s civil rights demonstrators in the 1960s.

"In reality," he continued, "there was a police stop two miles away, or there was a parked police car and this was considered to be intimidation," Almasi said.

"I don't think all black people are criminals, but apparently Jesse Jackson has an idea that they are because [he seems to think] they wouldn't go to the polls if you didn't take away the idea that they'd be arrested," he added.

Almasi said he thinks the policies being advanced by Jackson and other liberals "could be even more devastating to an election" than the alleged voter intimidation.

He explained that loose regulations on registration and identification have made it possible for voters to be registered and to vote twice. He gave an example of voters registered in New York City and Florida, in which "these people have voted in both places, one in person and one absentee," he said.

He added that while purging voter rolls of convicted felons could disenfranchise some legitimate voters, there are still thousands of felons voting who should not be allowed to vote.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.