The New Evil Empire

by Janos Marton | 10/18/04 5:00am

There was a time in my younger days when I used to believe that Republicans were evil. Every time I think that age and wisdom has tempered my judgment, something like the Voter Outreach of America comes along. I have been working in Las Vegas for America Coming Together for the last several weeks, registering people to vote -- kids who just turned 18, immigrants who came to this country to lead a better life and hard-working middle-aged Americans who just never gave a damn before. We are going into neighborhoods that have been neglected for too long, inviting them back into a democratic process that this country has always been so proud of. That is why I was crushed when I saw breaking news on our local station Tuesday night.

The Voter Outreach of America, a "nonpartisan" voter registration group, has been active in malls, on campuses and on major streets all over Las Vegas during the buildup to the 2004 election. Last week, a man emptying his garbage into a dumpster found thousands of Democratic registration forms gathered by this group, ripped to shreds and thrown away. Was this a coincidence or a malicious act committed by one individual? No, answered former employee Eric Russell. Russell said that his employee manual had given instructions on how to cheat FEC law; everyone in the office was well aware that while Democratic registrations had to be destroyed, Republican registrations were promptly sent to the Registrar of Voters' office.

What penalty can we lay upon the criminals of the Voter Outreach of America, especially now that the voter registration deadline has passed? Certainly this is, at the very least, a federal offense. If stealing someone's mail is a felony, then stealing their right to participate in a democratic system a good deal worse; I'd venture it is treasonous. And who is complicit in this treason? Who else but the grand old Republican National Committee, which funded the Voter Outreach Project. The Nevada Republican Party has already admitted their complicity in the operation. Given Republican tactics over the past few years, this is not surprising, especially with George Bush's campaign being run by Karl Rove, a man who used to run Republican seminars on how to sabotage campaigns in the 1970s and '80s.

No, the treason committed by the Voter Outreach Project and the Republican Party is not especially revealing; it is merely a confirmation of disgraceful right-wing voter suppression. In Florida, thousands of forms from poor minority communities have been discounted on minor technicalities. The most outrageous case is Ohio, where the Republican secretary of state tried to discount 250,000 Democratic registration forms because the paper was the wrong weight. The case was thrown out by the courts only after it came to light that these forms were given out by the Secretary of State's office.

And as if restricting people's right to vote is not sufficient, the CEO of Diebold, which produces thousands of voting machines, has promised to do "whatever it takes" to get George Bush re-elected. For his part, Bush and the Republicans have blocked efforts to produce paper trail voting receipts in state after state across the country.

These tricks are absolutely sick and twisted -- far worse than distorting John Kerry's service in Vietnam or his healthcare plan. This is a conscious effort on the part of Republican leadership to prevent Americans from voting.

The issue is Republicans still not being able to explain why 20,000 black voters were illegally purged from voter rolls in Florida four years ago, in a state that has done nothing to improve its antiquated voting machines that caused the problems of the 2000 elections. The issue is Republicans going into poor Hispanic communities in Las Vegas, posting information in Spanish to vote on Nov. 3. The issue is New Hampshire Republicans coming to Hanover every election to try to prevent Dartmouth students from registering to vote and casting their ballots. Why is it that Republicans are so intent on young people, poor people and minorities not voting?

Well, at least we have elections in Afghanistan. Sort of. But if the integrity of our own democratic process is wilting and suffering, how do we intend to build up other democracies around the world? With spitballs? Need some wood? It's time to vote this corrupt leadership out of office, up and down the ticket. So be vigilant about your right to vote, because there are Republicans all over the country fighting to take it from you. Oh yeah, and Election Day -- it's on Nov. 2.

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