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Voter suppression charges on the rise

Democrats cry foul while Republicans call it a myth

By Chip Reid
NBC News
updated 8:26 p.m. ET Oct. 13, 2004

DETROIT - On the WCBH radio show, "Inside Detroit", callers are already worried. They’re angry about reports that Republicans have a plan to intimidate black voters, who overwhelmingly vote Democratic.

"It's very real. It's as real as you and I," says Detroit NAACP President Rev. Wendell Anthony.

Anthony says suppression includes tougher enforcement of voting standards in black areas, even subtle threats, usually hard to prove, but now, he says there's a smoking gun — Republican state legislator John Pappageorge, who this summer said, "If we do not suppress the Detroit vote, we're going to have a tough time in this election."

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Anthony’s confident that Pappageorge revealed a Republican strategy of suppressing the black vote in Detroit.

“He could not have done a better job unless he'd come to the city clerk's office and burned a cross on the steps," says Rev. Anthony.

Allegations of suppression and intimidation of the minority vote are not new. What is new this year is the intensity of those charges and how frequently they're arising — not only in Detroit, but across the nation.

In South Dakota, Democrats have accused Republicans of suppressing the vote of Native Americans. In New Mexico, it's Hispanics — another Democratic stronghold. In Florida last week, black leaders demanded an early voting site in black neighborhoods.

But Republicans say voter suppression is a myth made up by Democrats to fire up minority voters.

"Regrettably, Democrats have resorted to charges of voter suppression as their best get-out-the-vote mechanism on Election Day," says Republican attorney Ben Ginsberg.

John Pappageorge says his comment about suppressing the vote was completely distorted by Democrats. He claims he was talking about a local issue that had nothing to do with race.

"I was talking about changing voter preferences in Detroit because of the issue that was on the ballot in Detoit only -- dealing with medical marijuana," says Pappageorge.

Republicans say that's exactly how voter suppression myths are created, while Democrats say such explanations simply don't make sense. It's yet another example of this nation's deep political divide.

© 2008 MSNBC Interactive

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