Or, Why My Father Despised Rudolph Giuliani
The following is from an important history of Republican voter suppression tactics. Citations follow, below.
Mayoral Politics in New York, 1993
The 1993 New York City mayoral contest was a bitter rematch between incumbent Democrat David Dinkins, the city’s first black mayor, and Republican Rudolph Giuliani. Four years earlier, Dinkins had edged out Giuliani 50-48%. Racial issues, and fears of racial division, loomed large in the 1993 campaign—as did fear of fraud and intimidation. A New York Times article summed up the latter worries shortly before the election:
The Dinkins campaign expressed concern that off-duty police officers supporting Giuliani might intimidate Democratic voters, while the Giuliani campaign demanded extra police officers to make sure no fraud occurred in polling places where the Mayor’s supporters outnumber the challenger’s.141
Giuliani representatives earlier had sent a letter to the New York City Police Commissioner, Raymond Kelly, asking for at least 2,700 police officers to be assigned to the polls, in addition to the “thousands” of volunteer poll watchers provided by the Republican Party.142 Kelly responded by assigning 3,500 officers and creating 52 “captains” to supervise the poll watching.143 This decision was a compromise designed to please both sides: the 3,500 poll-watchers were assigned to watch for voter fraud, and the 52 captains were assigned to ensure the poll-watchers did not intimidate voters. Mayor Dinkins warned that it was improper for poll-watchers (especially officers who supported Giuliani) to “exert their influence and intimidate people” and “to throw their weight around.”144
Meanwhile, New York State Republican Party Chairman William Powers made it clear that his party’s volunteer poll-watchers would be out in force in majority- Democratic precincts: “We will be manning polls that have never seen a Republican before,” he announced.145 The Giuliani campaign had been worried for months by rumors that many Democratic voters registered more than once or were illegal immigrants.146
On Election Day morning, Mayor Dinkins held a news conference stating that “we appear to be seeing an outrageous campaign of voter intimidation and political dirty tricks afoot in today’s election.”147 This allegation was based on three initially unsubstantiated reports by Dinkins’ poll-watchers, and Giuliani responded, “I can assure you this has nothing to do with my campaign and it is precisely what we expected of them.”148 The reports were that off-duty police officers physically threatened a Dinkins volunteer and that intimidating posters had been placed in black and Latino neighborhoods.149 The second report was later confirmed. Posters had been placed at several polling places, and read: “Federal authorities and immigration officials will be at all election sites. . . . Immigration officials will be at locations to arrest and deport undocumented illegal voters.”150 Dinkins called on the Department of Justice to investigate, and a statement issued by the department advised voters to disregard the posters and pledged “to protect the rights of minority voters.” It also announced that “the Department of Justice and the FBI are conducting an investigation to determine who prepared and posted these notices.”151
The investigation coincided with charges of minority vote suppression in the New Jersey gubernatorial contest and added to the racially charged atmosphere in New York City. In addition to the threatening posters, reports emerged that ten homeless men showed up at a predominantly black and Hispanic voting site in Bedford-Stuyvesant and tried to disturb the voting process; one of the men admitted to having been paid $60 for the purpose but did not identify the source.152 Others among the ten told a Democratic poll-watcher they had been promised $70 and a hot meal by an organization called Together We Stand.153 Another person not connected with the homeless men reported that Republican poll-watchers asked for the green cards of prospective voters in East Harlem.154
Giuliani defeated Dinkins by almost the same margin Dinkins had won in their first contest: 51-48%. On November 29 Al Gordon, New York State Democratic Party chairman, claimed he had evidence of over seventy-five instances in which voter intimidation and minority vote suppression had occurred on Election Day, and promised to forward his evidence to the Justice Department in hopes of preventing future Republican ballot security programs.155 His evidence, he said, revealed a pattern of harassment that seemed to him to be orchestrated not by the Giuliani campaign but by the Republican Party at the state level. “We are not calling for an overturning of the election,” he said. “We are saying that there was a pattern of thought-out harassment by the Republican Party and that they have to stop.”156
He cited instances in which homeless men disturbed voters by asking for their identity and instances in which poll-watchers tried to slow down the voting process by asking for several forms of identification.157 He also cited the testimony of Denise Ryan, a Dinkins poll-watcher who reported that in her precinct “four large white men came into the gymnasium and proceeded to stand in the doorway, blocking the door. . . . An elderly gentleman trying to get in couldn’t even see past them.”158 Gordon concluded, “I think it was an effort to delay, harass and intimidate voters just in the minority communities.”159 However, Republicans retorted that the same kind of behavior was taking place in predominantly Republican precincts. “There was voter intimidation by them—not by us,” said John Sweeny, a lawyer for the New York Republican Party.160 State party chairman Powers called Gordon’s accusations “a cheap political stunt.”161 There were no definitive resolutions of these allegations. Charges and countercharges regarding the same issues—vote fraud and vote intimidation—would continue with a vengeance in New York City five years later.
137 United States of America et al. v. Charleston County, S.C., et al., 34.
139 United States of America et al. v. Charleston County, S.C., et al., 34.
140 McDonald, “The New Poll Tax,” 28.
141 Celia W. Dugger, “2 Sides Seek More Police to Stymie Intimidation and Fraud at Polls,” The New York
Times, 1 Nov. 1993, B5.
147 Michael Rezendes, “Giuliani Projected N.Y. Victor,” The Boston Globe, 3 Nov. 1993, 1.
148 Todd S. Purdum, “Giuliani Ousts Dinkins By A Thin Margin,” The New York Times, 3 Nov. 1993, A1.
149 “Dirty Pool At Polls Alleged; Dinkins, Giuliani Trade Allegations,” The Record (New Jersey), 3 Nov.
150 Thomas B. Edsall and Malcolm Gladwell, “Vote Probe Targets N.Y. City Turnout; Bid to Deter
Minorities Claimed,” The Buffalo News (New York), 12 Nov. 1993, A1.
151 “Dirty Pool At Polls Alleged,” A14.
152 Edsall and Gladwell, “Vote Probe Targets N.Y. City Turnout,” A1.
153 James C. McKinley, Jr., “G.O.P. Accused of Disrupting Minority Voting in New York,” The New York
Times, 1 Dec. 1993, B2.
154 Edsall and Gladwell, “Vote Probe Targets N.Y. City Turnout,” A1.
155 “Dirty Tricks in Mayoral Election? Democrats Accuse, GOP Denies,” The Record (New Jersey), 1 Dec.
156 Seth Faison, “Mayor’s Race Poll Abuse is Charged,” The New York Times, 30 Nov. 1993, B3.
158 “Dirty Tricks in Mayoral Election?,” A14.
159 Marc Humbert, “Authorities Probe Election Charges,” The Times-Union (Albany), 30 Nov. 1993, B2.
161 “Dirty Tricks in Mayoral Election?,” A14.
(Chandler Davidson, Tanya Dunlap, Gale Kenny, and Benjamin Wise. REPUBLICAN BALLOT SECURITY PROGRAMS: VOTE PROTECTION OR MINORITY VOTE SUPPRESSION—OR BOTH? (pdf 476kb) A REPORT TO THE CENTER FOR VOTING RIGHTS & PROTECTION, SEPTEMBER 2004. 77-79)
Dr. Clint Wilson. David Dinkins Elected First Black Mayor of New York, November 7, 1989.
Tom Robbins. Sundown on the Patronage Party: Liberals Sink as Working Families Rise.