A rather tawdry chapter in New Hampshire politics came to a close yesterday, as the former state Republican Executive Director was sentenced to seven months in prison for jamming Democrats’ phone lines back on election day, 2002. Chuck McGee had hired a telemarketing company to repeatedly dial a phone number the Democrats had set up to help voters get to the polls.
Voter suppression is an old tradition in politics. It’s simple good tactics to get more of your supporters out to vote, and fewer of the opposition’s. But the line must be drawn, and when you actively work to sabotage the other guys’ efforts to get their own people out. To my way of thinking, that constitutes an “aggravating circumstance” that should heighten the penalty for the offense. Phone harassment is a relatively minor offense, but doing so in the pursuit of denying them their right to vote raises the offense by several other orders of magnitude. Seven months in prison might be a little light, but I can live with it.
In a similar vein, I sincerely hope that the five Democratic workers accused of slashing the tires on vans the Republicans had rented to deliver voters in Milwaukee last November, if convicted, get similarly harsh sentences. They weren’t just committing juvenile pranks, and it wasn’t just piddling little property damage. This was a deliberate attempt to deprive people of their Constitutional rights, and as such demands severe penalties.