Baltimore activists denounce voter suppression

baltimore_0505In an unprecedented move, the State Board of Elections decertified Baltimore city primary election results on May 12 until it can conduct a thorough investigation. The announcement followed protests by community activists who pointed out widespread inconsistencies and voter suppression.

The Rev. C.D. Witherspoon, president of the Baltimore chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and an activist with the People’s Power Assembly, stated, “We have vigorously protested voter suppression in this election and attempts by the 1% and powerful to suppress the voices of the voters in this majority Black city, particularly those who live in the Black and poorest voter precincts.”

Statement from candidates

Andre Powell and Sharon Black, unaffiliated socialist candidates and members of Workers World Party, issued this statement on the recent revelations of inconsistencies and voter suppression in the Baltimore primary election:

“Andre Powell for Mayor and Sharon Black for City Council President join with Voters Organized for the Integrity of City Elections and other community groups in condemning recent voter suppression and the corruption and incompetence of the present election board.

“At a May 5 community hearing at the Sharon Baptist Church, we heard evidence of inconsistencies and voter suppression which included missing thumb drives of up to eight voter districts — one thumb drive has still not been recovered; inadequate training of judges; breaking of protocol on the sequence of how votes are turned in and delivered; voters being inappropriately turned away at the polls; and, most egregious of all, the turning away of newly registered voters who qualify to vote under the new state law that allows formerly incarcerated felons to vote.

“Our protest is centered not on individual candidates, but on the rights of the people of Baltimore!

“This is not about [Maryland state senator and mayoral candidate] Catherine Pugh or [former mayor and current mayoral candidate] Sheila Dixon or, for that matter, any other candidate. We are both unaffiliated candidates who must collect signatures to qualify to be listed in the November election. Can we ourselves trust the certification process?

“Do we need to call on representatives of the Venezuelan government to come to Baltimore to act as observers?

“While we contend that the Baltimore, Maryland and national elections are a sham and are rigged in general in favor of the 1% — that huge amounts of money and power determine the outcome in the majority of cases — we nevertheless feel it is critical to not only defend voter rights but to expand them. It is why we, as working-class and poor people’s candidates, are fighting to be on the ballot. It is also why we rigorously protest voter suppression and corruption in the recent Baltimore city elections, as revealed at the community hearing.

“African Americans, Latinos/as, women and poor people fought and in many cases died for the right to vote. There was a time when only rich white men who owned property could vote.

“Our campaign believes that Baltimore needs more democracy, not less. This includes lowering the voter age to 16 to empower the youth, and extending voting rights to our sisters and brothers behind bars and to undocumented workers.

“We feel that real democracy means more than just being able to vote on a few token politicians every four years, but about deciding everything from who your boss is to the police commissioner and the police that walk your streets, the school board and much more. Ultimately, it means that you have control over your community and your life.”