Bullies at the Ballot Box

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  • Go ‘head, Tea Party people.

    You bad.

    At least some seem to think so, if this recent report by Demos and Common Cause is any indication.

    According to the study, “Bullies at the Ballot Box: Protecting the Freedom to Vote from Wrongful Challenges and Intimidation,”  True the Vote and other Tea Party groups are apparently rustling up a million volunteers to keep an eye on voters in certain communities come Election Day.

    They’re gearing up to block what they call the “illegal alien vote,” and “the food stamp army.” They say they want to make the experience of voting “like driving and seeing the police behind you.”

    I say they’ve lost their minds.

    The report is both revealing and scary. It’s revealing in that it rips away any shred of an argument that tea partiers might make about not being racist. I mean, if they advocate what amounts to racial profiling to stop people of color from voting, then they’re racist.

    If they’re describing the people whose voting qualifications they believe they have the right to question as the “illegal alien vote,” and “the food stamp army,” well, then, there you go.

    And it’s scary not necessarily because their tactics –such as challenging the eligibility of voters facing foreclosure and student voters, and to “hover over,” voters waiting to cast ballots – could succeed.

    It’s scary because they could create chaos and violence at the polls on Election Day by getting in the faces of black people who just ain’t having it.

    I could see a True the Vote person now, bothering a 70-something year old black woman who lived through Jim Crow and remembers when her parents either weren’t allowed to vote, or took grave risks to vote.

    In North Carolina, for example, black people who dared to defy white folks and vote anyway had their names published in the newspaper – which meant the Ku Klux Klan would probably be knocking on their doors any day.

    I’d hate to see them run up against an old black man who remembers when he had to recite the Constitution, or guess how many bubbles were in a bar of soap, before being allowed to vote.

    Whoever gets between them and the ballot box is liable to get smacked down. Not necessarily by that old black man or woman, but by the people around them who won’t appreciate them messing with her or him.

    This could get ugly. Really ugly. And if it does, most of the blame would go to Republican-run legislatures in states like Florida, Texas, and Pennsylvania.

    After President Obama was elected, they all got busy passing laws to make it harder for people to vote for him again. They curtailed early voting days, required hard-to-get voter identifications and came up with other suppression tactics – all based on the flimsy excuse of preventing voter fraud.

    No matter that, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, voter fraud is so rare that a person is more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit it.

    But the problem here is that if you repeat a lie long enough – especially to people who believe their power and privilege is being threatened – they’ll believe it. In fact, if you look at the study by Demos and Common Cause, the Tea Party folks who claim they’re protecting the vote believe it to the point in which they don’t mind resorting to tactics that can get them hurt or worse, to stop people who don’t look like them, or whose politics may not match theirs, from having a voice in a system that they believe they own.

    I imagine it’s their way of “taking their country back.”

    Nonetheless, it’s good that this study is calling attention to the chaos that might be caused by a bunch of folks who have never gotten over the fact that the United States elected a black president and may do so again.

    It also points out states that have inadequate protections against challenges to voters’ registration status and rights before Election Day – Florida, Missouri, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Virginia are among them.

    And Florida and Pennsylvania – key swing states – don’t have enough protections for voters against inappropriate challenges on Election Day.

    It’s disturbing that in this day and age, a group of white people would resort to resurrecting Jim Crow tactics to cause trouble at the polls for blacks, Latinos and others.

    Without caring about the trouble, they’re bound to get in return.

     —

    Tonyaa Weathersbee is an award-winning columnist based in Jacksonville, Fla. Follow her at tonyaajw@twitter. Or go to her blog, Tonyaa’s Take, at www.tonyaajweathersbee.com.
     

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