Democrats’ chances in this year’s midterms depend not only on turning out lots of voters but also on training and sending legions of poll watchers to voting sites and board of elections offices. With GOP election deniers prepared to claim victory regardless of the actual outcome, It’s no longer enough to “trust but verify.” It’s time to head off the worst.
In 1982, I became a “poll watcher” almost by accident, while reporting for The Village Voice, when I walked into the Brooklyn Board of Elections one morning and saw supporters of state Sen. Vander Beatty “checking” voter registration cards in a Democratic primary election that had just been held for the retiring Rep. Shirley Chisholm’s Bedford-Stuyvesant congressional seat.
Beatty had just lost, 54-46%, to his far better state Senate colleague, Major Owens. But what I witnessed that morning — long before cell-phone videos and opaque elections technology could have recorded it — paralleled last week’s New York Times’ report that Trump operatives, with “the blessing of” Georgia’s Coffee County elections board, had “scanned all the equipment, imaged all the hard drives and scanned every single ballot” in the 2020 election, as one of them assured Trump lawyer and conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell, who’d hired some of them.
Back in Brooklyn 40 years ago, Beatty had used anti-racist rhetoric to deflect liberals’ attention from his and the Democratic Party machine’s corruption. He’d been endorsed for election to Congress by The New York Times and by most other elected Democrats in Brooklyn. But I saw his campaign workers forging signatures on voter-registration cards that they were supposedly just checking. His lawyers then submitted those forgeries to a party-machine-selected judge as “evidence” that Owens had rigged the election, and they sued to invalidate Owens’ victory.
I saw it only because a political operative had called me and said, “Get your butt down to the Board of Elections right now and see what the Beatty people are doing.”
If I hadn’t done that and reported the scam, Beatty would have won his suit before Brooklyn’s compliant — indeed, complicit — judiciary. Black politics in Chisholm’s district would have taken a bad turn. “Look at it this way,” my tipster said. “[Beatty] is either going to Congress or he’s going to jail.”