Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Monday, November 06, 2006

  Honey, the GOP is on the line…

Another election, and once again Republicans are trying their darndest to suppress the vote of Democrats and Independents. This Congress has virtually nothing to its credit that it could run upon, many House Republicans are staring into the abyss of unemployment, and accordingly the voter-suppression tactics have an unprecedented fierceness.

Rebarbative voter-ID laws; intimidating letters and calls that threaten registered voters with prosecution if they show up at the polls; secretive purges of voters in heavily Democratic districts; flyers that spread false information about the election and voters' rights. All of that is quite apart from the blasted Diebold machines that malfunction when a voter punches the button for a non-Republican.

But the nastiest stunt this time around from Dick Nixon's Party-of-Dirty-Tricks are the phone calls. These may back-fire in New Hampshire, but much of the rest of the country remains ignorant of what is transpiring in dozens of closely contested Congressional districts. Isn't that always the way with these dirty-tricks campaigns?

What is going on, first and foremost, is the pernicious last-minute robo-call. Many are funded by the Republican National Congressional Campaign, and they clearly are coordinated nationally. Most or all the dirty work is being done by Conquest Communications Group (PHONE 804-358-0560, FAX 804-213-0797).

The pre-recorded calls target Democrats and Independents in closely contested districts (these for example: CA-04, CA-50, CT-04, CT-05, FL-13, GA-12, ID-01, IL-06, IL-08, KS-02, NC-11, NH-02, NY-19, PA-06, WA-05). The opening part of the message gives the distinct impression that the call is being made on behalf of the Democratic candidate ("Democratic Candidate X has a message for you…"). Since most people don't listen to this garbage through to the end, they will not hear the admission at the end of the tape that a Republican group has paid for the robo-call.

What makes these particularly pernicious, though, is that the calling machines have been programmed to call a number back multiple times, often immediately, when a caller hangs up. Inevitably, voters around the country have been getting the false impression that Democratic campaigns are harassing them at home. Indeed many of these calls are being made after midnight or before dawn.

Chiz.

On top of that, Republicans are dragging out once again a truly vile stunt they seem to relish—sending non-Republican voters to the wrong polling places. Some believe the evidence is still too thin to call this a deliberate policy of the GOP, but I disagree. I've seen this before.

There was an epidemic of this in 2004, as the new voting law (HAVA) required poll officials to allow people to cast provisional ballots even if their names do not appear on the roll of voters. Getting (non-Republican) voters to cast provisional ballots in the wrong precincts is (in many states) tantamount to nullifying their votes entirely.

My wife and I received such a call on Election Day 2004 from the Pennsylvania Bush campaign. I had been reading reports for weeks about dirty-tricks perpetrated by the GOP, but it was still rather shocking to find yourself at the receiving end.

The call itself was laughably transparent. It advised me that my polling place is miles away from my actual polling place…in another town, in fact. Never had been, never would be there. Even more ridiculously, the fraudulent call came days after the Bush campaign had called to gauge whether I would vote for the Great Man (the answer they got included the phrase "when hell freezes over").

I called the Lehigh County (PA) Clerk of Elections that evening to complain about the call. The Clerk told me that she had received lots of similar complaints that day. Yes, lots, all of them for calls coming from the Bush campaign.

It convinced me finally that I must never, ever vote again for a Republican. Any party that countenances voter suppression is not one I can support. If that seems harsh, so be it. It's also fair.

So what will happen, this time around? In 2004, I asked the Clerk of Elections to investigate, telling her I had a tape of the call and would like to file a formal complaint. I never heard back from her, though she promised to pursue it.

This time, it's a matter for the news media to expose before the election. Will they do it? If not, I fear it will have a significant impact tomorrow upon the elections in close races. And that will only serve to reinforce the Republican imperative toward voter suppression in the future.

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