First, some good news about voting. In an email to constituents, Congressman Rush Holt announced that his verified voting bill is close to receiving the support of a majority of House members:
My legislation, the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act (H.R. 550), has received overwhelming support from people like you from all over the country. Recognized as the “gold standard” of election reform by VerifiedVoting.org, the bill now enjoys the support of 207 members of the House of Representatives, making it just 11 members shy of a majority.
The House leadership has refused to bring the bill to the floor for a vote, but a majority of members can bypass them by signing on to a discharge petition.
Despite the increase in support for verified voting, we don’t have it yet, and besides technological concerns, there’s always the very real threat of voter intimidation and suppression. The Republican party has a history of suppressing the minority vote – nationwide and in New Jersey – and there’s no reason to let our guard down this year.
In 1981, Republicans sealed Tom Kean Sr’s victory by hiring a group of armed white thugs to intimidate black and Hispanic voters. In that gubernatorial election, Tom Kean Sr defeated Jim Florio by just 1,797 votes – the narrowest victory margin in the state’s history. That year, Republicans set up the “National Ballot Security Task Force” – a group with the sole purpose of harassing, intimidating and discouraging the participation of qualified black and Hispanic voters in Newark and Trenton.
The armed officers were drawn from the ranks of off-duty county deputy sheriffs and local police, and prominently displayed revolvers, two-way radios and BSTF armbands. BSTF patrols challenged and questioned voters at the polls and blocked the way of some prospective voters.
In some cases, they “forcibly restrained poll workers from assisting voters in casting their ballots.” They also illegally posted official-looking signs without identification offering $1000 rewards “for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone violating New Jersey election laws.”
This is how Tom Kean Sr came to power. Let’s not forget what they’re capable of. Although we’ll continue to fight to make sure our votes are counted properly, it won’t matter if the voters can’t cast them in the first place.