Friday, April 20, 2007

Barack Obama & Voter Supression

Barack Obama & Voter Supression: Where's Joshua's Horn When We Need It?

Black Agenda Report, April 11, 2007

by Bruce Dixon

[click on the link above to read the full article]
"From the earliest days of the Bush Administration, the Justice Department has quietly spearheaded an offensive against grassroots voter registration drives in black and Latino communities. It has encouraged state governments to effectively nullify key provisions of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, and turned a blind eye to purges of hundreds of thousands of minority voters in places like Florida and Ohio. It has given its blessing to crippling fines and jail sentences for routine errors committed by the organizers of voter registration drives. Federal prosecutors have made spurious announcements on election eve which appear to link increased minority turnout to anticipated vote fraud. The lack of sufficient enthusiasm for the cause of suppressing the black and brown vote is thought to have been a major factor in the recent political dismissals of several US attorneys.
In 2004, Rev. Edward Pinkney, a local community leader in Benton Harbor, Michigan, organized a voter registration drive. He did all the things you're supposed to do --- knocking on doors, canvassing, passing out and collecting registration forms. He raised and spent money to aid the efforts of volunteers, and made certain his newly registered voters did their duty either by absentee ballot or in person at the polls on election day. Pinkney signed up about 2,500 new voters in all, and his efforts turned a local recall election of some unpopular county commissioners by 54 votes.
We did the same things in Chicago in 1992 that Rev. Pinkney did in Benton Harbor 12 years later.
That was the summer Obama made his political bones in Chicago and launched his political career. But for Rev. Pinkney, 12 years later the reward of a successful voter registration drive was a spurious and vindictive prosecution for vote fraud. Convicted on the uncorroborated and highly shaky testimony of a paid informer Rev. Pinkney now faces a May 14 sentencing for as many as twenty years in prison for possessing three absentee ballots, and allegedly paying someone $5 to cast a vote, though other witnesses at Pinkney's trial contend the $5 was to pass out flyers on election day.
In many states it's already illegal to conduct registration drives like the one Obama headed up in 1992. There are states which ban reimbursement of volunteers registrars, even for lunch or travel expenses, which prohibit the capture of registrant addresses from forms by the volunteer organization so that new voters may not be contacted, and a host of other invidious restrictions on registration activities. Again, it is no exaggeration to say that the barriers to equal ballot access on the part of the poor and minorities are not tumbling down. They are growing higher every month. We're wondering when Joshua will blow that horn. ..."

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