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INSTITUTIONALIZED VOTER INTIMIDATION - Rehnquist

by Imaginatrix (forward) Friday, Dec. 15, 2000 at 11:51 AM
imaginatrixx@yahoo.com

Rhenquists training as voter intimidator.

errorJUST OUR BILL by Dennis Roddy, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Saturday,
December 02, 2000

Lito Pena is sure of his memory. Thirty-six years ago he,
then a Democratic Party poll watcher, got into a shoving
match with a Republican who had spent the opening hours of
the 1964 election doing his damnedest to keep people
from voting in south Phoenix. "He was holding up minority
voters because he knew they were going to vote Democratic,"said Pena.
The guy called himself Bill. He knew the law and applied it
with the precision of a swordsman. He sat at the table at
the Bethune School, a polling place brimming with black
citizens, and quizzed voters ad nauseam about where they
were from, how long they'd lived there -- every question in
the book. A passage of the Constitution was read and people
who spoke broken English were ordered to interpret it to
prove they had the language skills to vote.
By the time Pena arrived at Bethune, he said, the line to
vote was four abreast and a block long. People were givingup and going home.
Pena told the guy to leave. They got into an argument.
Shoving followed. Arizona politics can be raw.
Finally, Pena said, the guy raised a fist as if he wasfixing to throw a punch.
"I said 'If that's what you want, I'll get someone to take
you out of here' " Party leaders told him not to get
physical, but this was the second straight election in
which Republicans had sent out people to intellectually
rough up the voters. The project even had a name: Operation
Eagle Eye. Pena had a group of 20 iron workers holed up in
a motel nearby. He dispatched one who grabbed Bill and
hustled him out of the school.
"He was pushing him across a yard and backed him into the
school building," Pena remembered.
Others in Phoenix remember Operation Eagle Eye, too.
Charlie Stevens, then the head of the local Young
Republicans, said he got a phone call from the same lawyer
Pena remembered throwing out of Bethune School. The guy
wanted to know why Charlie hadn't joined Operation Eagle
Eye. "I think they called them flying squads," Stevens
said. "It was perfectly legal. The law at the time was that
you had to be able to read English and interpret what youread."
But he didn't like the idea and he told Bill this. "My
parents were immigrants," Stevens said. They'd settled in
Cleveland, Ohio, a pair of Greeks driven out of Turkey who
arrived in the United States with broken English and a
desire to be American. After their son went to law school
and settled in Phoenix, he even Americanized the name.
Charlie Tsoukalas became Charlie Stevens. "I didn't think
it was proper to challenge my dad or my mother to interpret
the Constitution," Stevens said. "Even people who are born
here have trouble interpreting the Constitution. Lawyers
have trouble interpreting it."
The guy told Stevens that if he felt that way about it,
then he could take a pass.There was nothing illegal goingon there, Stevens said.
"It just violated my principles. I had a poor family. I
grew up in the projects in Cleveland, Ohio."
Operation Eagle Eye had a two-year run. Eventually, Arizona
changed the laws that had allowed the kind of challenges
that had devolved into bullying. Pena went on to serve 30
years in the Arizona State Legislature. Stevens became a
prosperous and well-regarded lawyer in Phoenix and helped
Sandra Day O'Connor get her start in law. The guy Pena
remembers tossing out of Bethune School prospered, too.
Bill Rehnquist, now better known as William H. Rehnquist,
chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States,
presided yesterday over a case that centers on whether
every vote for president was properly recorded in thestate of Florida.
In his confirmation hearings for the court in 1971,
Rehnquist denied personally intimidating voters and gave
the explanation that he might have been called to polling
places on Election Day to arbitrate disputes over
voter qualifications. Fifteen years later, three more
witnesses, including a deputy U.S. attorney, told of being
called to polling places and having angry voters point to
Rehnquist as their tormentor. His defenders suggested it
was a case of mistaken identity.
Now, with the presidency in the balance, Rehnquist has been
asked to read passages of the Constitution and interpret
them. Once again, a reading and interpretation will
determine whose vote gets to count.
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LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 5 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
TITLE AUTHOR DATE
THIS IS NO DEMOCRACY! JFK Friday, Dec. 15, 2000 at 12:28 PM
Voters' qualifications Mr. Fair Friday, Dec. 15, 2000 at 12:49 PM
if you can't spell -- you can't be president! Fairer than thou Friday, Dec. 15, 2000 at 1:09 PM
spelling john Friday, Dec. 15, 2000 at 1:28 PM
Can't spell? Guglielmo Marconi Saturday, Dec. 16, 2000 at 7:28 AM

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