Facing South

Voting Rights Watch: Voter intimidation in Fayetteville, NC?

Yesterday, Barack Obama held a rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Afterwards, Obama supporters streamed over to a nearby early voting center, where they were met by a throng of anti-Obama protesters, who heckled and harassed them as they went in to vote.

Christina Bellatoni of The Washington Times described the scene and put up a YouTube video:

Photographer Joe Eddins and I headed over to the closest one and found a steady line of voters hoping to cast ballots early. Most seemed to be Obama supporters and several had come from the rally. Nearly all the voters were black.

Also at the polling site was a group of loud and angry protesters who shouted and mocked the voters as they walked in. Nearly all were white.

As you can see from these videos, no one held anything back. People were shouting about Obama's acknowledged cocaine use as a young man, abortion and one man used the word "terrorist." They also were complaining that Sundays are for church, not voting.

An angry group of protesters harassing and yelling at people going into a voting site would seem to be a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1964. As Section 11 (b) of the Act clearly states:

No person, whether acting under color of law or otherwise, shall intimidate, threaten, or coerce, or attempt to intimidate, threaten, or coerce any person for voting or attempting to vote, or intimidate, threaten, or coerce, or attempt to intimidate, threaten, or coerce any person for urging or aiding any person to vote or attempt to vote.

However, when Bellatoni asked local law enforcement about the harassment, they didn't see a problem:

At the voting site, I asked a local sheriff monitoring the scene if the protesters were allowed. "They're fine," he said. I asked if he'd ever seen anything like that and he said he'd never seen Sunday voting.

The same day, at least 30 people who attended the Obama rally came out to find their tires had been slashed. As The Fayetteville Observer reports:

The tires were cut while people were inside the Crown Coliseum listening to speeches, said Maj. E. Wright of the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office. [...]

Susan Lagana, the North Carolina communications director for Obama, said it was extremely disappointing and unfortunate that "people would have to experience something like that."

Mario Diaz, communications director for McCain, did not respond to a call late Sunday.

Sarah Revis, who lives on Wilkes Road, said the slashed tires left several women, including a single mother and a toddler, stranded and upset.

One of the leaders of the Republican-led protest at the early voting site later said he was expressing dissatisfaction with the county's decision to extend early voting hours for the Obama rally, although the choice of tactics -- and why voters, instead of election board members, were targeted -- was not explained.

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