Intimidated by a perception yet?

What is meant by the term "intimidation?"

I thought I knew, but I keep reading article after article about people who want to intimidate voters (apparently into not voting). Things have gotten to the point that the people whose job it is to prevent voter intimidation are now afraid that they'll be accused of the "appearance of intimidation."

The Justice Department is dispatching a record number of federal poll watchers around the country on Election Day but is taking care to avoid perceptions of voter intimidation, officials said.

More than 1,000 federal poll watchers will be on duty Nov. 2, about twice the 516 present during voting in all of 2000, said Eric Holland, spokesman for the Justice Department's civil rights division.

The agency, he said, "has employed a robust and effective civil rights monitor and observer program to ensure compliance with federal voting rights."

None of the poll watchers will be federal prosecutors, a decision meant to ensure that voters do not feel intimidated by a federal law-enforcement presence. The poll watchers will be staff of the Office of Personnel Management or Justice Department employees who are not involved in criminal investigations, Holland said Friday.

What, exactly is a "perception" of intimidation, and who might be intimidated by a perception? Would a police officer be considered an intimidating presence? A poll watcher?

Who, precisely, would be afraid to vote because there's a cop or some bureaucrat there? A fugitive from justice? Does the entire country have to roll over and play dead just to calm the nerves of a few furtive felons?

They're acting like this is Birmingham in 1964. It isn't.

For the sake of argument, let's assume that someone, somewhere, is intimidated by police officers. I know lots of people don't like cops or are afraid of them. (Even I'm afraid of them, especially when I drive.) Is that fear really enough to stop anyone from voting? Somehow, I don't think it is. There are cops all over the streets, security guards in banks, and shopping centers, and airports are now looking like something out of 1984. Yet people still go to the bank, they shop, and they travel on planes. What makes voting so special?

Moreover, in light of documented threats of election day terrorist attacks, the argument could be made that voters would prefer more, not less, of a police presence at the polls. Hell, many would feel more comfortable having the National Guard there!

If anything, one could argue that unguarded, unwatched polls -- or the perception that this is the case -- are more intimidating than the reverse.

posted by Eric on 10.18.04 at 10:58 AM


This is becoming the Age of the Wimp.

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