WSJ obscured GOP vote suppression efforts

››› ››› DUNCAN BLACK

A front-page article in the October 27 edition of The Wall Street Journal, titled "Block the Vote: As a Final Gambit, Parties Are Trying to Damp Turnout," staff reporter John Harwood wrote about the issue of "voter suppression," creating a false equivalency between Democratic and Republican efforts to reduce votes for their opponent.

Claiming that both Republicans and Democrats were engaged in "voter suppression," Harwood made invalid comparisons between Republican efforts to reduce turnout by challenging voter registrations at the polls and Democrats' simply doing what politicians and their supporters do -- campaign -- in this case, by, in Harwood's words, "attempt[ing] to sow doubts about Mr. Bush's character and fealty to social conservatives."

Harwood characterized Republican voter suppression efforts as follows: "Democrats say they see suppression efforts in Republicans' well-advertised plans to vigorously check the registrations of those who show up to vote. In their eyes, such efforts are designed to convince voters that trying to cast a ballot will be too much of a hassle." He then characterized Democratic voter suppression efforts this way: "Republicans see suppression efforts in Democrats' attempts to sow doubts about Mr. Bush's character and his fealty to social conservatives." Harwood's description minimizes and mischaracterizes voter suppression efforts by Republicans and trivializes the gravity of Republicans' efforts by equating them with standard campaign rhetorical strategy -- something he admits later in the article is practiced by both sides.

Voter suppression efforts aimed at Democratic and newly registered voters are not simply about, as Harwood characterized it, making voting a "hassle." Examples (which are listed on the Vote Watch 2004 website) include:

  • Allegations persist that employees of an Republican National Committee-funded group that has been misrepresenting itself as part of the nonpartisan America Votes organization have ripped up registration forms filled out by Democrats and tricked students into switching their registration to Republican in phony petition-gathering schemes [Salon.com, 10/21/04].
  • Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell invoked an outdated rule requiring registrations to be submitted on thick 80-pound card stock, after numerous registrations had been sent in on, among other things, newsprint from a form printed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. This was later withdrawn [Columbus Dispatch, 9/29/04].
  • Ohio Republicans issued last-minute challenges to the legitimacy of more than 35,000 registered voters, based on registered letters to the voters that were sent back by the post office as undeliverable. About 4,700 of these were withdrawn after it was discovered that the mail was returned because of a claimed database processing error which led to the incorrect pairing of names and addresses. Many more of these challenges were withdrawn or rejected after it was demonstrated that some of the challengers did not have the "personal knowledge" required to make the challenge [Washington Post, 10/26/04; Akron Beacon Journal, 10/28/04].
  • A letter falsely claiming to be from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) incorrectly informs voters that they "must have a credit check, provide two forms of photo identification, a Social Security card, a voter registration card and a handwriting sample" [Los Angeles Times, 10/29/04].
  • In rural Georgia, the eligibility to vote of 98 Hispanic residents was challenged due to questions of their citizenship arising solely from their surnames [Associated Press, 10/29/04].
  • The West Virginia GOP wrongly informed people that they were not registered to vote on November 2 [WHAG-TV (NBC25), 10/8/04].
  • Dozens of complaints by residents in heavily Democratic areas of Florida about people illegally posing as election officials and offering to hand deliver their absentee ballots to election authorities [St. Petersburg Times, 10/22/04].
  • Official-looking leaflets were distributed in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, informing people that Democrats should vote on November 3 [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 10/28/04].
  • A flier was distributed in African-American neighborhoods in Milwaukee which falsely warned potential voters of such things as "If you've already voted in any election this year you can't vote in the presidential election" and claiming that "If you violate any of these laws you can get ten years in prison and your children will get taken away from you." [Daily Kos, 10/28/04]
  • A flier sent out by the Dave Magnum for Congress campaign and College Republicans at the University of Wisconsin-Madison told students to "vote at the polling place of your choice," despite the fact that students are only allowed to vote at a single designated polling place. Those responsible claimed it was a mistake. [Capital Times, 10/30/04]
  • Voters in Ohio received callers falsely claiming that their polling place had changed. This is of particular importance, given the fact that Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell has decreed that provisional ballots, which the federal Help America Vote Act mandates, and allow people to cast a vote even if there is a question about their registration, the validity of which can be adjudicated after election day. [Columbus Dispatch, 10/22/04]

Many more examples can be found at Vote2004.eRiposte.Com.

Posted In
Elections, Voting Rights & Issues
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