Saturday, November 13, 2004

Dirty work at Philly polls

Margie Burns: 'Dirty work at Philly polls'
Posted on Saturday, November 13 @ 09:13:09 EST
By Margie Burns, Online Journal
In Philadelphia, the Republican Party hired local people including down-and-out addicts as neighborhood poll watchers, paid the poll watchers to challenge their neighbors' voting, and sent visiting teams of burly enforcers in window-tinted vans in a mixed strategy of intimidation, pay and misinformation to suppress voting on November 2, according to a Brooklyn law student who worked as a poll monitor.
"I witnessed the difficulties of getting out the vote firsthand, exacerbated by the Republican Party's operations in urban, predominantly Democratic communities," she says.
Third-year Brooklyn Law student Anne Edinger went to Philadelphia's largely African-American Ward 16, division 8, on Election Day. Edinger was assigned to the Bouvier Street polling place with a friend and another volunteer. "It was clearly low income, overwhelmingly pro-Kerry, and, according to a police officer, a drug area."
"We were volunteering for [Election Protection 2004, a nonpartisan organization], and our purpose was to make sure that any eligible citizen got to vote." Election Protection 2004 was formed after the 2000 election by several groups, including the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
First hurdle: they arrived when the polls opened, at 7 a.m., to find the street shut down for road construction in an inner-city neighborhood that seldom sees amenities. "The crew was tearing up the entire street with a jackhammer, which would keep it closed, noisy, and dusty for the entire day. To access the polling place, located in a private residence, you had to walk 500 feet through this dust. The foreman said that since the work was for the gas company he could not suspend the job."
The street crew advised Edinger to get a police order....