Five Clay County officials, including the circuit court judge, the county clerk, and election officers were arrested Thursday after they were indicted on federal charges accusing them of using corrupt tactics to obtain political power and personal gain.
The 10-count indictment, unsealed Thursday, accused the defendants of a conspiracy from March 2002 until November 2006 that violated the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). RICO is a federal statute that prosecutors use to combat organized crime. The defendants were also indicted for extortion, mail fraud, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to injure voters' rights and conspiracy to commit voter fraud.
According to the indictment, these alleged criminal actions affected the outcome of federal, local, and state primary and general elections in 2002, 2004, and 2006.
The article goes on to list some of the criminal actions listed in the indictment. Among them [emphasis added]:
· Clay County Clerk, Freddy Thompson, 45, allegedly provided money to election officers to be distributed by the officers to buy votes and he also instructed officers how to change votes at the voting machine.
· Election officer William E. Stivers, 56, allegedly marked votes or issued tickets to voters who had sold their votes and changed votes at the voting machine.
· Paul E. Bishop, 60, allegedly marked voters or issued tickets to voters who sold their votes and he also hosted alleged meetings at his home where money was pooled together by candidates and distributed to election officers, including himself. He was also accused of instructing the officers how to change votes at the voting machine.
Yet, we have loudmouth Republicans and conservative “pundits” that have been spewing nonsense about how Acorn is destroying American democracy. See my earlier post on what CPAC was saying about this. And then look at what they are doing. If a Republican is complaining about something they assert the Democrats are doing, you can bet your next paycheck on the fact that the Republicans are doing it themselves. If I were a Republican, I would be very hesitant to utter the words “stealing the election” ever again, lest it remind the listener of Florida 2000 and Ohio in 2004.
Take a moment to really contemplate what these charges really mean. These people were teaching others how to change votes at the voting machines and were actively buying votes. So, just how different is this from your basic Banana Republic, where votes are routinely fixed, or the old Soviet Union, where the “candidate” would win with 99% of the vote? In what bizarre form of democracy is this acceptable behavior? How do these people justify their actions to themselves when they try to sleep at night? This isn’t democracy.
Here is my very depressing conclusion about all this. We can try to make all the changes we can think of to the voting procedures, in oversight and in tamper-proof voting machines. However, there is no guarantee we are ever going to have anything that closely resembles a true democracy that is “for the people and by the people” unless the overall mindset of this country is changed. Elections are not some game that you can do anything you want in order for your side to win. People need to recognize the underlying rules and abide by them. Both sides must be willing to accept their losses gracefully and recognize what the voting public is saying. Democracy is not just a mechanism that can be manipulated in order to shove someone’s ideology down the nation’s throat.
I really don’t know if we are ever going to truly recover from the reign of George W. Bush. All this stuff that is going on now is embedded culturally in the far right of the Republican party. When you have nutcases like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity and Michelle Malkin doing everything in their power to advance the notion that liberals are evil and must be defeated by any means possible, then that just further cements this concept that “everything is legal until you get caught” is THE way. Maybe the election of Barack Obama and the overall trend that shows Democrats are more popular and trustworthy than Republicans are good signs. (No, I am not providing links. You can easily go look them up yourselves.) Maybe the American people are not going to take this nonsense anymore. Maybe we really have reached the tipping point and are starting to really push back.
I am not so certain that, in the long run, we are going to be successful.