Jewish World Review Oct. 12, 2004 / 27 Tishrei, 5765
John H. Fund
Getting Physical: Union thugs target Republicans
We may be about to experience an election unlike any we've seen in a while. The Florida recount in 2000 raised passions and blood pressure and featured some demonstrations on both sides, but there was no violence. This year, lots of groups are jostling with each other to monitor the elections in battleground states. For its part, the AFL-CIO has promised to dispatch thousands of election monitors to battleground states to watch for any hint of trouble at polling places. From the initial reports, they may be the ones for have to be watched as potential troublemakers.
Last week, in Orlando, Fla., approximately 60 union protestors stormed and ransacked the local Bush-Cheney headquarters causing considerable damage and injuring one campaign staffer, who suffered a broken wrist.
According to an Orlando Police Department report, Rhyan Metzler, a field director for the Republican Party, was at the headquarters about 1 p.m. last Tuesday when 60 protestors barged in. Van Church, a 53-year old protestor, forced the door open and caused Mr. Metzler's arm to be caught in it. His left wrist was fractured in the altercation. Police say Mr. Church will be charged with two counts of battery.
But Mr. Church is unrepentant. "If his wrist was fractured, it's a result of his own actions in jerking the door the way he did," he told the Orlando Sentinel. "He jerked the door out of my hand and cut it in the process." But since it is Mr. Church who is being charged, the police apparently didn't think Mr. Metzler did anything wrong.
Orlando's fracas was mirrored in Miami, where police reported that more than 100 union protestors stormed the Bush-Cheney office and shoved volunteers aside. No one was charged because most of the protestors left before the police arrived. In Tampa, about 35 protestors filled the local GOP office and intimidated the elderly volunteers working there.
The AFL-CIO took credit on its Web site for similar demonstrations--apparently all coordinated--in Independence, Mo., Kansas City, Mo., Dearborn, Mich., St. Paul, Minn., and West Allis, Wis. In what could be a related incident, the Bush-Cheney office in Knoxville, Tenn., had its plate-glass windows shattered by gunfire on Tuesday morning before volunteers showed up for work. Another Republican office, in Seattle, was broken into and had computer files stolen.
Esmerelda Aguilar, an AFL-CIO spokesman, says Republicans are "trying to politicize [the Orlando incident] and exaggerate the event." She maintains that all of the demonstrations "were peaceful protests" designed to call attention to new Bush administration regulations on overtime pay.
Rep. Tom Feeney (R., Fla.) is skeptical. He was speaker of the Florida House in 2000 and knows how important it is to address election-related problems early and not wait for Election Day. Mr. Feeney and 49 other GOP members of Congress have signed a letter asking the Justice Department to investigate if the coordinated protests violated any federal laws on protecting the rights to campaign and vote.
Rep. Feeney also says the Justice Department needs to let people know it is watching this election more closely than most. "We ask that you work with state law enforcement agencies in investigating a series of voting irregularities including forgeries in voter registration forms, casting simultaneous ballots in different states (double voting), and absentee voter fraud. Such activities disenfranchise those who properly register to vote and cast valid ballots."
Look for the Justice Department to become a major political football in this election. Already, its warnings that terrorists may well try to disrupt the Nov. 2 election is being greeted skeptically by some local election officials. New Mexico Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron, a Democrat, is openly asking if Attorney General John Ashcroft's warnings are part of a GOP effort to suppress voter turnout. Last week, Democrats responded by creating their own SWAT teams of lawyers that will be dispatched to any place where voting problems are recorded. One issue certain to be disputed will be provisional ballots, which are cast when someone doesn't find his name on the registration rolls. Such ballots are set aside and verified later. A flood of provisional ballot lists could tilt the election in close states one way or the other with Democrats demanding that officials "count every vote" and Republicans questioning the validity of some of the ballots.
California Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia, a Republican, says she has found 3,000 new duplicate registrations in her district. "The current process today is really Third World conditions," she told CNN's Lou Dobbs program. When asked what she thinks about Democratic charges that her calls for investigations into the duplicate registrations will scare voters away from the polls, she refuses to back down. "You're damn right, I'm going to try to scare away the crooks."
Let's hope the lawyers don't take over this election's aftermath the way they did in Florida in 2000. To prevent that the Justice Department needs to step in now and enforce everyone's civil rights. That means protecting campaign workers from intimidation as well as preventing fraudulent votes from canceling out legitimate ballots. Allowing double voting, ballots to be cast from the graveyard and those who have been disqualified because of criminal convictions to dilute the process only calls into question the sanctity of the election itself. It's no way to run a modern democracy.
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JWR contributor John H. Fund is author, most recently, of "Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy". (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.)
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©2001, John H. Fund