We Need MAJ Members' to Help with Election Protection!
By: David Pitre, MAJ President

    On Tuesday, November 4th, Mississippians all across the state will travel to the polls and exercise their constitutional right to vote for state and federal elections.  As we all know, men and women have bled and died for this country to ensure the right to vote. If you think that with the advent of the 21st century the need to protect and preserve voting rights is unnecessary, you would be mistaken
    
      Despite the wonders of our democracy, the track record for voting rights in our country and in our state has been checkered, to say the least. The phrase "right to vote" first appeared in our U.S. Constitution in the Fourteenth Amendment (1868). There is a reason that there were six more constitutional amendments addressing voting rights in the century that followed. To be sure, images of water hoses and police dogs and poll taxes may be a thing of the past, but efforts to take away this right continue. This is particularly true for African-Americans, some old enough to remember the riots, the unabashed intimidation and concerted effort to turn them away from the polls. Likewise, there will be female voters in the upcoming election who were born before our nation finally extended suffrage to women by the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. The point of this brief history lesson is that the right to vote should never be taken for granted, and we attorneys are truly the first -- and in many cases -- only line of defense.

    I recommend to anyone interested in this issue to read Steal This Vote:  Dirty Elections and the Rotten History of Democracy in America (by Andrew Gumbel, 2005). The book begins with a very chilling description of the current state of our country's election process:
"A few days before the November 2004 election, Jimmy Carter was asked what would happen if, instead of flying to Zambia or Venezuela or East Timor, his widely respected international election-monitoring team was invited to turn its attention to the United States. His answer was stunningly blunt. Not only would the voting system be regarded as a failure, he said, but the shortcomings were so egregious the Carter Center would never agree to monitor an election there in the first place. "We wouldn't think of it," the former president told a radio interviewer. "The American political system wouldn't measure up to any sort of international standards, for several reasons." 
   
    No matter your politics or favorite candidate, the act of voting is one which we as lawyers must fight to ensure that no one is denied. 
The billy clubs, rifles, and other tools of oppression in years past have been replaced by more sophisticated and coordinated efforts to confuse people, to delay their entry into polling booths, and in some cases even bribery. Other times people are turned away from polls simply due to mistakes or incompetence (remember, many poll workers are volunteer, poorly trained, and underpaid). Either way, you can count on the fact that this will happen again this year. These problems are not unique to Mississippi, but even a casual observer of our state's history must acknowledge the fact that we have more than our fair share of these shenanigans.
   
    We need MAJ members to agree to help us on Tuesday, November 4th with our election protection efforts. At first blush this task may seem daunting, but together we can make a difference. Of course, we cannot cover the entire state, but we have plans to best utilize our limited resources to maximum impact. MAJ is working with other groups to target certain areas and precincts where recent history has shown us the need for election protection is greatest. I choose not to get into specifics here, but the plan is quite extensive. In years past MAJ members have stepped up and agreed to assist in this effort and in so doing have made an important difference. The evidence gathered last year helped ensure that Senator David Baria could stave off a bogus legal attack on his election results. Information obtained on election day provided our own Mona Pittman with plenty of ammunition to demonstrate the efforts by her opponents to steal her senate election (unfortunately, the trial judge appointed by Chief Justice Jim Smith was not persuaded despite the mountain of evidence presented at her election challenge). 
 
If you can assist, please call Pam Johnson TODAY at the MAJ State Office at (601) 948-8631.