There have been a lot of allegations tossed around of voter fraud, voter suppression, and all sorts of irregularities from last November’s presidential election. But while all the verified cases have gotten short shrift in the media (here’s a hint: when there have been guilty pleas, there might be a story there), the unfounded ones have gotten all the attention. And oddly enough, it’s Democrats who are currently facing jail time, while those who accuse the Republicans are using statistics, exit polls, and anecdotes to buttress their charges.
But that’s not to say the GOP’s hands are clean. We have a bit of a voting scandal unraveling here in New Hampshire, and it’s heading for court. But this one is a bit older — it’s from the 2002 election.
Every election, both parties set up phone banks to call up voters and remind them to go vote, even offering them rides if necessary. Such “get out the vote” programs are an old and honored tradition.
But back in 2002, a couple bigwigs in the state GOP got the clever idea of jamming the Democrats’ phone lines to keep their vote total down. They hired a telemarketing company to repeatedly call their lines, tying them up.
Only problem was that it’s illegal.
Now the former Northeast political director of the national Republican Senatorial Committee, one James Tobin, is going on trial in Concord. And his lawyer is trying out a novel tactic of his own: He wants all jurors screened for their political beliefs, and Democrats excluded. His theory is that since Democrats were the intended victims of the alleged crime, they would be prejudiced against his client.
Presumably, if he gets his way, the prosecution will ask for all Republicans to be excluded as well, as they were the intended beneficiaries of the act. If that’s the case, then only registered Independents will sit on the jury. And lucky for them Independents outnumber both Democrats and Republicans in New Hampshire.
But that’s a dangerous fallacy. That’s the same sort of misguided logic that has people up in arms over Diebold behind some grand conspiracy, simply because 1) they make most of the voting machines, and 2) their leaders are Republicans. It’s presuming that simply because one belongs to a party, and even might be active in it, that one’s political leanings will win out over everything else — including principles and respect for the law.
I can see excluding Democratic activists, elected officials, and employees of the party from the jury pool. But I have enough faith in New Hampshire Democrats (of whom I was one until last December) that they can and will put that aside and see this is not a partisan issue. What Mr. Tobin allegedly did was not an assault on the Democratic party, but the (small-d) democratic system. And that must not be tolerated.