Pam Spaulding on the NC voting rights case: "Sunlight is the best disinfectant"
Yesterday, Pam Spaulding -- who runs the popular blog Pam's House Blend, and also blogs for sites like FireDogLake and BlueNC -- posted the following comments on Facing South's investigation into voting rights in North Carolina and Women's Voices Women Vote. Full disclosure: Pam is a board member of the Institute, although we concluded this wasn't improper given that WVWV board members have been given a forum on blogs like Huffington Post and OpenLeft. The piece can be found here.
There has been a strong progressive defense of the actions of WVWV. What seems to be difficult to swallow is that an organization has, like it or not, engaged in the illegal robo-calls in multiple states that affect a specific slice of potential voters. And as Facing South pointed out, in North Carolina, it occurred yet again. An unknown number of low-information minority voters are left confused, and possibly deterred, from voting, whether or not it was ineptitude by the organization.
We should hold our organizations to an extremely high standard. Blacks (and whites) died to ensure that blacks had right to vote in the South; the call for further public investigation is both necessary and relevant to 1) get to the bottom of the illegal calls and 2) reassure voters that this cannot happen again. I don't care who is on the board or running the org, or how much good work was/is being done by WVWV in other arenas, if this were a Republican-run organization, we'd be tearing it to shreds.
If silence on this for "the good of the party" is more important than investigating a illegal practice affecting an individual's right to vote (on purpose or repeatedly by mistake), it's a sad state of affairs. Just because the Republicans do it more, or have a more systematic interest in doing it doesn't change the fact that this was wrong on so many levels -- and airing dirty laundry is the least of the issues in my mind. Apologies are meaningful, but given the spotty history of WVWV robo-calls, there is a stench still in the air, and that's why the investigation is moving forward.
There seems to be an undercurrent out there that registering more voters, particularly single, low-information women of all colors using illegal methods multiple times (why didn't WVWV care enough about its rep to clean up its "administrative problems" after so many official red flags?) is worth the potential result of confusing an unknown number other, low-information voters in a way that could deter them from voting.
WVWV could have as an emergency corrective measure, embarked on a second set of robo-calls to inform those voters that they received incorrect or confusing information; that seems like a logical thing to do. The action taken, to try to stop the mailing of the registration packets, does little to directly inform call recipients waiting for those packets to arrive to fill them out and send back before voting.
Chris Kromm and the Institute for Southern Studies dove into investigating this robo-call not knowing what they would find. ISS continued to dig regardless of the organization and made those results public. When wagon-circling occurs because of bruised egos on our side takes precedence over focusing on those targeted by the robo-calls, many belonging to a demographic historically disenfranchised time and again, it's problematic. If we're going to say every vote must count, then we have to mean it.
What I fear most is that this WVWV debacle will unravel into a feminist vs. black issue (the underlying assumption that it is also a Clinton-supporter vs. Obama-supporter issue). The left has such discomfort dealing with color-arousal or race matters (not racism, mind you, since that word is nuclear), that it will largely go undiscussed because of fear of getting shocked by the third rail. Sometimes naming the unmentionable tension can clear the air, but it requires cool heads. We're in a world of intertubes hotheads on all sides of the equation, with raw nerves exposed.
The bottom line is to take responsibility, clean house, move forward. Sunlight is the best disinfectant -- on the left and the right.
(Emphasis in original)
Chris Kromm is executive director of the Institute for Southern Studies and publisher of the Institute's online magazine, Facing South.