Politics & Media
Sep 23, 2008, 08:11AM

Recent Political Controversies: A Rundown

The news media can swarm and digest a story so quickly that some interesting things get buried. Enter the regional papers.

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The 2008 presidential election is already brimming with heated controversies concerning voter suppression, with both sides of the aisle in full combat mode. First, there’s Michigan.

The Michigan Messenger, a branch of the Center for Independent Media, brought to light incendiary evidence that suggests the Republican party in Michigan will seek to use foreclosure lists as a means to deny citizens the right to vote:

James Carabelli, chair of the Macomb County Republican Party, told Michigan Messenger that on election day Republican volunteers will “have a list of foreclosed homes and make sure people aren’t voting from those addresses.”

Republican leaders have since disavowed plans to use foreclosure lists as part of their plan to challenge the eligibility of some voters, but an attorney for the party, Eric Doster, did confirm that the party would use returned mail to challenge voters based on residency.

The site’s reporting has prompted the House of Representative’s Judiciary Committee to launch a full investigation into the charges. But as this story unfolds, another similar scenario has popped up.

The McCain campaign is undergoing scrutiny for its mass-mailing of absentee ballots to thousands of voters—many of them registered Democrats—in Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Time’s Mark Scherer writes:

First, in Ohio, the Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has rejected more than 1,000 absentee ballot applications that were produced by the McCain Campaign because the voters did not check a box on the form. The box, which is not required by law, and therefore did not need to be printed on the form, simply asks the applicant to verify his or her status as a qualified voter.

None of this looks good, and I’m not jumping to the conclusion that McCain is deliberately looking to “cage” votes (“vote caging” is essentially denying the vote of minorities, who primarily vote Democratic).

The absentee ballot mailing could very well be a mistake of mass bureaucracy. The Michigan situation involving lists of citizens with foreclosed homes is more troubling, since the majority of those voters are minorities. It would be more than a slap in the face to those at the mercy of the housing market to have their vote denied.

Florida, circa November 2000, instilled a sense of urgency in the realm of vote reform. That lasted all of a few months. HBO’s Recount was certainly a kick in the ass, but that, too, wasn’t a viable vehicle for alarm and/or advocacy.

What will it take? There are so many questions out there surrounding our voting system, and lawyers both Republican and Democratic seek to capitalize on existing, legal kinks in the system to suit their political goals. The majority of voters at the short end of the stick are minorities, and regardless if they usually vote Democratic is not the issue. For a country still dealing with Bradley Effects and disillusionment with the government, we are only perpetuating a system—and a culture—of haves and have-nots.

  • It's true: the media cycle today is literally about two days. Whatever happened to lipstickgate? Bosniagate? Lime green backdrop gate? This was an interesting perspective on a system that is faster than the rest of us can handle.

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