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Phew…good thing some unscrupulous voter registration worker in the Philadelphia area didn’t use the names Octavius V. Catto and George H. White when padding voter applications with bogus names to get paid for work they didn’t do.
If an errant worker did such a misdeed, this certainly would trigger another conniption from GOP presidential candidate John McCain.
This increasingly desperate candidate certainly would see these two names as further evidence of Obama allies edging towards committing “one of the greatest frauds in voter history.”
McCain would shamelessly embrace this evidence despite the fact that any reasonably competent county election bureau worker would quickly see these two names a bogus.
Because the address listed for this duo by that unscrupulous worker is a well known cemetery located a few miles from Philadelphia in Delaware County – currently a hotly contested battleground for McCain attempts to flip Pennsylvania from blue to red.
The likelihood of two dead men showing up to vote is as low as a polling place appearance by cartoon character Mickey Mouse, one of the names reportedly listed on a bogusly submitted application triggering McCain’s ire towards the community group ACORN.
Contrary to McCainian claims of major registration fraud, the greatest voter fraud in recent history occurred during the 2000 presidential election where a massive Bush/GOP conspiracy robbed over 50,000 folks in Florida of their right to vote by falsely listing them as felons ineligible to cast ballots.
Remembering that George W. Bush won Florida by a mere 534 vote margin in 2000, simple math exposes that GOP disenfranchisement fraud as demonstratively more devastating than some (alleged) fudging on registration forms.
McCainian claims of ACORN actions possibly “destroying the fabric of democracy” are inaccurate, insulting and hypocritical compared to the legacy of GOP voter suppression assaults – directed mostly at minorities – destruction of democracy that McCain doesn’t complain about.
McCain’s professed evidence of ACORN dirty-dealing ironically comes from ACORN itself alerting election authorities to registration applications suspected by ACORN of being bogus – notification required by election law that ACORN follows.
The fact of ACORN alerting election authorities – not eluding them – is a fact conveniently missing from McCainian crafted charges against this organization McCain himself publicly praised in 2006 as “part of what makes America special.”
The registration of over one million people nationwide through non-partisan efforts by ACORN during the past year nourishes democracy by reversing years of voter roll declines.
In contrast to the garbage pail quality of McCain-Palin charges about fraudulent voter registrations, real problems persist in the basic mechanics of America polling place procedures.
Problems of inadequate resources nationwide like limited numbers of voting machines in heavily populated areas are detailed in the recent report from the DC based Advancement Project “End of the Line? Preparing for a Surge in Voter Turnout in November 2008 Election.”
One key finding in this report is that in “some jurisdictions, the allocation of polling place resources is likely to have disproportionate impact on communities of color.”
“During the 2004 presidential election in Ohio, it is estimated that 104,000 votes were lost simply due to people leaving long lines at polling places that did not have an adequate number of machines,” Browne-Dainis said during a recent teleconference with journalists.
A “perfect storm” is how Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne-Dainis describes the confluence of unprecedented citizen interest in voting in the ’08 presidential election, massive increases in voter registration and resistance among too many election officials nationwide to address serious problems in election infrastructure.
The refusal of Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State to order the use of paper ballots in precincts experiencing voter machine breakdowns lead to the filing of a federal lawsuit against this (Democratic) official recently by the Election Reform Network and the NAACP.
“Pennsylvania is notorious for broken machines,” Browne-Dianis noted during that teleconference. “The Secretary of State’s office told us they are not concerned about long lines and they won’t extend voting hours.”
Voter suppression assaults and inadequate Election Day resources are recurring American realities understood well by Octavius V. Catto and George H. White – two men who battled blatant bigotry blocking blacks from voting in the late 19th Century.
White holds the historical distinction of being the last African-American to serve in the 19th Century US Congress. The rise of legalized segregation across America in the late 1800s paralleled a violent pogrom that purged blacks from legislative bodies – a racist insurrection the federal government refused to fight.
Philadelphia activist/educator Catto helped secure voting rights for blacks in Pennsylvania. During Philadelphia’s 1871 Election Day Riot to block black voting, a racist fatally shot Catto on a street corner several blocks from Independence Hall, the hallowed site of the US Constitution signing.
The racism Catto and White battled literally followed them to their graves.
The resting place for both men is the Eden Cemetery in Collingdale, Pa, considered the oldest black public cemetery in America…a site officially listed on America’s National Register of Historic Places. Since its founding in 1902, Eden has endured race-based desecrations, the latest being in July 2008 when vandals toppled over 200 headstones.
Eden is now raising $100,000 to erect a security fence to block vandals, beer drinkers and nearby residents who walk dogs that defecate on graves – an act these residents do not commit on the grounds of a nearby Catholic church and the white cemetery adjacent to Eden.
The latent racism driving persistent desecration at Eden – some critics contend – is the same force now inflamed by the McCain campaign, particularly through speeches of his VP-candidate, Sarah Palin.
The late Congressman George White, during his January 1901 congressional Farewell Address, requested that America “cease to mold prejudicial and unjust public sentiments against” African-Americans.
Had America heeded White and others this nation’s perennial ‘race problem’ would not be a roiling issue in the 2008 presidential campaign.
Linn Washington Jr. is a columnist for The Philadelphia Tribune.