Although the Voting Rights Act of 1965 put an end to the Jim Crow laws that explicitly disenfranchised blacks, more covert acts to bar minorities from voting still exist. In Michigan’s 2004 presidential elections, Republican officials used poll watchers to limit the political participation of eligible voters – specifically blacks. Concerns about these partisan volunteers returned last week when in a suspicious move the GOP sent poll challengers to monitor Detroit’s mayoral race. Given the party’s past abuses, it seems unlikely the GOP is only seeking to prevent fraud in future elections, but rather that it is preparing to once again intimidate and disenfranchise minority voters in next year’s elections.
Because the Detroit mayoral race was between two Democratic candidates, Republicans had no vested interest in influencing the election’s outcome. Rather, Republican officials said they brought poll challengers to Detroit last week as practice for Michigan’s 2006 statewide elections, according to the Michigan Citizen. But sheer coincidence does not explain why GOP officials have used poll challengers in Detroit but not in communities like Ann Arbor. Republican officials have consciously decided to send vote challengers to areas where voters are not only unsympathetic to their party, but also where they may be less informed about election practices and voter eligibility. By bringing challengers to Detroit this year, Republicans are preparing to disenfranchise minority voters – who typically vote Democratic – in 2006.
Both before and after the 2004 presidential elections, Republicans made it clear they had no intention of even pretending to ensure elections were conducted fairly. At a pre-election meeting of the Oakland County Republican Party, State Rep. John Pappageorge (R