Through the last few election cycles, the Republican Party has demonstrated a bold strategy for winning. It is not based on bringing new people to its point of view or registering new voters and getting them to come out on Election Day. No, it is much more cynical and simple than that. It is based on suppressing the Democratic vote through intimidation and deception.
As The Nation reported in its Nov. 10, edition, their plan is "to use every legislative and executive lever available to the GOP to suppress the votes of minorities, students, the poor, the transient, and the elderly; and to denounce any attempt by the other side to level the playing field as a monstrous exercise in systematic voter fraud."
At least one local Republican has apparently read the GOP playbook and taken it to heart. Former S.C. House District 115 Rep. Wallace Scarborough is claiming that he lost his seat to Democrat Anne Peterson Hutto as a result of vote fraud. (The Good Fight, Dec. 24, 2008) He dumped a pile of documents on the state Election Commission in November, claiming that they demonstrated massive vote fraud because people claimed mailing addresses outside District 115. These included students, who still claimed their parents' addresses as home; at least four elderly residents at Bishop Gadsden Home, whose mail was forwarded to relatives; business and professional people who receive their mail at their offices; and voters living abroad whose last residence was District 115.
All of these voters were perfectly legitimate under state law, and in fact, the practice of business people receiving their mail at their offices or a downtown post office boxes is widespread. Scarborough's own name appeared on the list of alleged vote frauds he turned over to the Election Commission!
The commission was not impressed and turned his argument down after 15 minutes of deliberation.
Now Scarborough has taken the almost unprecedented step of appealing his case to his former colleagues in the S.C. House, asking them to throw out the November election and order another vote.
Scandal-ridden Republican Party lawyer and Heritage Foundation visiting legal scholar Hans von Spakovsky has decided to speak up on the matter, penning a commentary supporting Scarborough's appeal. Spakovsky, who has made a career out of disenfranchising minorities and poor people for the GOP, is now apparently trying to disenfranchise the voters of District 115 for Wallace Scarborough.
The New York Times wrote of Spakovsky: "Feverish for the Republican edge, Mr. Spakovsky drove career lawyers from the Justice Department, and constantly parroted the Rovian line that vote fraud is rampant, though studies have found otherwise.
"Uncertain that even a Republican-controlled Congress would approve Mr. Spakovsky's nomination to the [Federal Election Commission], President Bush gave him a recess appointment to the commission..." (See my blog for further details.)
Will the state House of Representatives actually throw out Peterson Hutto's election?
Leon Stavrinakis, the District 119 Democratic representative who administered the oath of office to Peterson Hutto two weeks ago, is on record as saying he does not think the good ol' boys in Columbia want to open this can of worms, and I am inclined to agree with him. Even the boneheaded bunch of GOP partisans who run this state know that any attempt to overturn Peterson Hutto's election by legislative fiat will only result in a federal lawsuit and another black eye for South Carolina in the national media. (You can almost hear the pundits and late night comics asking if it's time to send in international observers to oversee South Carolina elections! And why do I call this place a banana republic?)
If Attorney General Henry McMaster does his homework and gives the General Assembly good advice, he will tell them to avoid the courts. A good precedent to observe would be the case of Bond v. Floyd. Civil rights activist Julian Bond was elected to the Georgia state House of Representatives in 1965, but the all-white body refused to seat him, claiming him unfit due to his opposition to the war in Vietnam. The U.S. Supreme Court seated him, above the objections of his peers, claiming Bond was qualified and duly elected and had a First Amendment right to express himself on the war. It is not a perfect analogy to the Peterson Hutto case, but it might give South Carolina's solons pause before they do something rash.
But one of the things that makes living in this little state so exciting and such an endless source of material is that the unexpected is commonplace, and common sense is unexpected. So the General Assembly, which gave us the "I Believe" license plate and Confederate Memorial Day, will now decide the fate of Wallace Scarborough.
Hold onto your hats. It could be a wild ride.
Will is bloggin' at thegoodfight.ccpblogs.com.