News+Opinion » Will Moredock

Suppressing the Democratic Vote

Is this paranoia or a pattern?

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Something stinks in Dorchester County, and it's not Sheriff Ray Nash's jail slush fund or the absurd Senate race between Mike Rose and Randy Scott or the school board trying to sneak some religious dogma into the local curriculum.

No, this stink is coming from the Dorchester County Board of Elections and Voter Registration.

On May 27, Nancy Seufert went to the elections and voter registration office with her son Christopher, who was voting for the first time and who requested a Democratic absentee ballot. According to a complaint Seufert filed with the State Election Commission, the clerk allegedly asked Christopher if he was sure he wanted a Democratic ballot. When he assured her he was, she reportedly asked him again, "Are you really sure?"

Seufert stated, "I then intervened and explained that [our] family was Democratic, and yes, we are sure. I asked why she was asking this, and she replied that there was no one on the Democratic ballot. I explained that there was; that we had two candidates for [the] Congressional District 1 race as well as the [U.S.] Senate race ... I am sure you can imagine how inappropriate these remarks are, and the potential for harm in the upcoming election."

Was she overreacting?

The next day, Patrick C. Labbe, a nurse and 23-year Army veteran, walked into the same office and requested a Democratic absentee ballot, since he would be a poll worker on Election Day. In his subsequent complaint to the State Election Commission, he said that the clerk asked him if he was sure he wanted a Democratic ballot. When he said yes, she apparently told him, "You know you won't be able to vote for county offices on a Democratic ballot."

"I am used to living in a Republican controlled state," Labbe wrote in his complaint, "but I feel to question any voter in the manner and to state the obvious that there [are] not any contested Democratic races [in the county] is a way to suppress the Democratic turnout."

This all sounds suspiciously like something that happened in Berkeley County two years ago. When Joel Yon Jr. and his wife Deborah went to Whiteside Elementary School to vote in the primary, poll workers told him there were no Democratic races and tried to get him to take a Republican ballot. He called the county voter registration office which apparently took steps to get this "misunderstanding" cleared up. He returned to the poll later that day and voted Democratic.

Something similar happened to Caroline Maute, an assistant to a local college administrator, who tried to vote in Goose Creek in the same primary.

Were all of these incidents honest mistakes? That they occurred in these two overwhelmingly white counties, where many "white flight" refugees from Charleston make their home, only deepens a reasonable person's suspicion.

For many people, preserving white solidarity is the first order of public and private business. Like southern hospitality, white solidarity is instinctive and automatic. No one has to tell Bubba how to behave. He watches others and learns it from the cradle. The Republican Party is the instrument of this solidarity in the South. The southern GOP was built on racial coding and waving the Confederate flag, and no honest person can deny it. How else to explain this crazy state full of Wal-Mart Republicans?

The only thing many white people fear more than blacks voting is whites voting with them. Therein lies the great terror for many white people. If enough whites broke out of the pack and started voting with blacks on fundamental economic and social issues, this state would be turned upside down. We might actually have decent schools and worker protection and health care for the poor and indigent, but, of course, we would also have a fundamental shift in the psychological and social structure of this state, and that's something that horrifies many white people.

To make sure that never happens, the Republican Party is there to remind white people to stick together. They do it in many subtle and not so subtle ways, and apparently one way they have found is to lie and misdirect white Democrats away from casting a vote in primary elections. It suppresses the Democratic vote, and it helps nominate black candidates who are less likely to attract moderate white Democrats in the general election.

So be prepared on Election Day. If you get to the polls on Tuesday and somebody tries to tell you there's no Democratic primary, get her name and report her immediately to your county elections and voter registration office and to the State Election Commission in Columbia. Then go back again and demand a Democratic ballot. The right to vote for the candidates of your choice is too precious to be sacrificed to some devious little poll worker or bureaucrat.

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