Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Confession of an accused thug voter intimidator

I think it’s time I got something off of my chest. I, your friendly The Wit Hits the Fan blogger, have been accused of voter intimidation. Please allow me to explain.

The incident occurred on Election Day 1996. Bob Dole was running against Bill Clinton. I was a volunteer election monitor stationed in an inner city precinct in Flint, Michigan.

As I arrived in the red-eye hours of the day, I introduced myself to the volunteer poll workers. They were all elderly and friendly, yet standoffish for the most part -- all of them except for one woman, who didn’t seem to be too happy to see me. As I smiled and reached out my hand to her, I introduced myself as the Republican vote monitor. In hearing that, the smile dropped from her face and she offered me a lukewarm hand shake and a displeased “I’m Mrs. Jackson.” She placed the emphasis on the "Mrs." to make it clear we would not be on a first name basis.

The head poll volunteer was a woman who formerly served in the county clerk’s office and was very familiar with the local demographics. During friendly small talk, I asked her how many registered Republicans there were in the precinct. She told me there were three.

“Three percent?” I asked.

“No,” she said. “There are a total of three.”

Well, the day continued slowly and without any incident of fraud or impropriety. It was pretty clear to me by the voter enthusiasm shown in that precinct, it wasn’t going to be Bob Dole’s day. If those three Republicans snuck through the voter lines that day, I sure didn’t see them.

Trying to make the most of being cooped up in a long and boring situation, the poll workers and I began to joke around and build a certain friendly rapport. I even got a few smiles and laughs out of Mrs. Jackson, who turned out to be a very nice lady.

About half an hour from the time the polls were set to close, I was standing away from the check-in tables. In a rush a news reporter and television cameraman burst into the gym. He saw my election monitor badge and ran directly to me.

“What’s the problem here?” he demanded.

A bit taken aback, I asked him what he meant.

“What’s the problem here?” he repeated.

“I haven’t seen any problems all day,” I replied.

Without another word, the reporter and his cameraman made a beeline to the poll workers, apparently to ask them the same question.

A little perplexed, I watched as he spent some time talking to each of them, including Mrs. Jackson, who seemed to have a little more to say than the others. Before long the reporter walked back to me sheepishly with much less determination in his step.

“I just want to apologize,” he said. “I got a call back at the station that the poll observer was getting in people’s faces, following them around and intimidating voters. That’s why I came here. When I asked the poll workers about it, they told me you were as good as gold. They couldn’t say enough nice things about you. Now that I think about who placed the call, I see it was a political hit job.”

He wouldn’t tell me who placed the call.

A few months later, during debate about legislation to make it mandatory for voters to show photo identification in Michigan, the State Senator from Flint repeated the claims of voter intimidation in his precincts. I asked my boss, the Senate Majority Leader at the time to allow me (all intimidating 5’7” of me) to give testimony as an accused voter intimidator. Unfortunately it never happened.

Well, that’s my confession. I feel much better having gotten it out. Keep it in mind when the Democrats or their agents in groups like ACORN cry out against wide-spread thuggery or intimidation this election.

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