On Monday, U.S. District Judge G. Patrick Murphy denied post-conviction motions for acquittal and new trials sought by defendants Charles Powell Jr., Jesse Lewis, Sheila Thomas, Kelvin Ellis and Yvette Johnson.
The federal jury convicted the five East St. Louis precinct committeemen and poll workers of conspiring to pay voters $5 to $10 each to vote for Democratic candidates in the Nov. 2 election.
Although testimony of two prosecution witnesses -- Dannita Youngblood and former Deputy Police Chief Rudy McIntosh -- was problematic, the undercover tapes in evidence could have been enough to convince the jury the defendants conspired to commit vote fraud, Murphy ruled.
One of the more blatant attempts at vote fraud I've heard of, and one of the less widely reported. I'm glad to see the justice system worked on this, as vote fraud is a major crime in my book, regardless of what side it's done on. The sentancing is pending, and I think they deserve the maximum.
Under federal law, Johnson, Ellis, Lewis and Thomas could face up to 10 years in prison and $500,000 in fines. Powell could face up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
I'd say that's light.
It's hard to have faith in our voting system these days, what with the Florida mess in 2000, the glaring glitches in electronic voting in 2004, the various reports of intimidation, false information, and (like above) fraud. A voting system should be, above all, free from partisan influence and built with a system of checks to root out fraud.
And paying someone to vote a certain way...completely reprehensible.
The right to vote is so fundamental a right that I'd rank tampering with it up there with violating any of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Political rhetoric, campaigning, trying to convince people that one candidate/issue is better than another...that's one thing. Paying someone or otherwise coercing them to vote a certain way (or intimidating them to keep them from voting) violates what a free society is supposed to be all about.
The fact that they are Democrats...well, it shows that even those who try to claim the high road are not perfect by any stretch. I'd say this further reinforces the argument I've made before, that while casting stones at the other side for their ethical lapses is all well and good we need to realize that Democrats have just as much tendancy to become corrupt and cheat the system. Politics breeds crooked behavior...Democrat politicians are in a position now to point it out because the corruption tends to grow faster in the side holding the majority. But that doesn't make the other side immune. Remember back but a decade, and realize that all the same issues that are plaguing the GOP now were the downfall of the Democrats then. And look to this case. This is a prime example of why ethics are important, and why there are laws in place to stomp on those who become corrupt and sell out principles for political gain.