Forty years ago this week John M. Bailey, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, sent out an angry press release charging that “under the guise of setting up an apparatus to protect the sanctity of the ballot, the Republicans are actually creating the machinery for a carefully organized campaign to intimidate voters and to frighten members of minority groups from casting their ballots on November 3rd.”
The Republican vote-suppression effort in 1964 was called “Operation Eagle Eye.” Vice President Hubert Humphrey called it “Operation Evil Eye.” Internal memos explained its purpose: “to safeguard the investment of time, money, and effort that the Republican Party, its volunteers, its candidates, and their volunteers in this election.” (Those Republicans: always looking after their investments!)
I hereby honor those Grand Old Prevaricators’ glorious legacy by christening this blog in its name.
“Eagle Eye” officials briefed their volunteers this way: “If any question or dispute arises, refer to the pertinent authority cited below and (when it is in your party’s interest) insist that the law be followed.” An “Honest Ballot Association,” Republican-run, successfully represented itself as “non-partisan” in the media though it sent out 159,000 copies of a letter to households in predominantly Democratic areas that told anyone who had moved 30 days before the election they were ineligible to vote–and appealed to snitches to come forward and report abuses. Plus ça change: One Republican official even told the Wall Street Journal that plans included using cameras as instruments of intimidation.
Read the whole Bailey memo, dated October 27, 1964, after the jump. Make it your election eve drinking game: every time you spot a hustle Republicans are still working forty years down the road, take a sip. Though history buffs will note an irony. The 1964 presidential election came before the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, which was supposed to render vote suppression on racial grounds obsolete. Forty years later, the kind of crap Republicans are trying to get away with is even worse. Did you hear the one about the fake letter sent to South Carolina voters from the “NAACP Vote-Start Program” warning African American would-be voters that those trying to vote “who have not submitted credit reports dated one week prior to election day” will be “subject to arrest”?
Now to bed. So much work to do. Tomorrow morning, 5 A.M., I’m off to Cleveland. AND WE WOULD HAVE GOTTEN AWAY WITH IT, TOO, IF IT WEREN’T FOR YOU MEDDLESOME BLOGGERS!
From the DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE Publicity Division
1730 K. Street NW
Washington 6, D.C.
FOR IMMEDIATE USE
OCTOBER 27, 1964
CHAIRMAN BAILEY WARNS AGAINST REPUBLICAN PLANS TO INTIMIDATE VOTERS
John M Bailey, Chairman fo the Democratic National Committee, charged today that “under the guise of setting up an apparatus to protect the sanctity of the ballot, the Republicans are actually creating the machinery for a carefully organized campaign to intimidate voters and to frighten members of minority groups from casing their ballots on November 3rd.
“‘Let’s get this straight,’ Bailey added, ‘the Democratic Party is just as much opposed to vote frauds as is the Republican party. We will settle for giving all legally registered voters an opportunity to make their choice on November 3rd. We have enough faith in our Party to be confident that the outcome will be a vote of confience in President Johnson and a mandate for the President and his running mate, Hubert Humphrey, to continue the programs of the Johnson-Kennedy Administration.
“‘But we have evidence that he Republican program is not really what it purports to be. it is an organized effort to prevent the foreign born, to prevent Negroes, to prevent members of ethnic minorities from casting their votes by frightening and intimidating them at the polling place.
“‘We intend to see to it that the rights of these people are protected. We will have our people at the polling places–not to frighten or threaten anyone–but to protect the right of any eligible voter to cast a secret ballot without threats or intimidation.’
Bailey said the Republican program, called “Operation Eagle Eye,” is really “a program to cut down the vote in predominantly Democratic areas by harassing, frightening, and confusing the voters.”
“‘The strategy is to help Senator Goldwater by cutting down the vote in large cities in states with many electoral votes.
“‘As such, it is an admission to the American people that if all Americans were free to vote they would overwhelmingly elect Lyndon B. Johnson, but if millions of Americans could be prevented from voting, Senator Goldwater might succeed.’
“‘Operation Eagle Eye’ was publicly established by the Republican National Committee on October 13. To make the program nation-wide a ‘ballot security’ official–the very name suggests that voting is illegal or at least dangerous–was named in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
“‘In one state, Minnesota, ‘Operation Ballot Security’ issued a seven-page single-space private memorandum detailing a variety of methods for challenging voters at the polls, with instructions to discourage helpful judges in Democratic precincts, to cut off waiting lines in Democratic precincts but not in Republican precincts, and to encourage stalling in Democratic precincts while preventing stalling in Republican precincts.
“‘The Minnesota document goes so far as to state its purpose, not as encouraging each American to exercise his right to vte freely but ‘to safeguard the investment of time, money, and effort that the Republican Party, its volunteers, its candidates, and their volunteers have made in this election.’
“As for specific instructions, the Republican memorandum says:
“‘If any questions or dispute arises, refer to teh pertinent authority cited below and (when it is to your party’s interest) insist that the law be followed.’ (Emphasis added).
“‘Staling in booths is a common trick when lines are long in order to discourage those waiting. In GOP precincts, keep lines moving.’
“Memorandum like this leave no doubt in my mind that the Republican strategy for November 3 is the excessive, indiscriminate and unnecessary challenge of every voter.
“How else will ‘Operation Eagle Eye’ work? A Wall Street Journal article of October 22 by Stanley Penn told how.
“Penn quoted one ‘ballot security’ official as saying he planned to equip his poll watchers with cameras to frighten people into believing that voting irregularities can be photographed. He wrote: ‘The official notes that even if poll watchers don’t now how to use the cameras, potential Democratic wrong-doers may be frightened off.’ Here is an example of using a camera to intimidate a voter.
“‘Another example used by Penn was a booklet written by Louisiana Republican ‘ballot security’ chief James A. Reeder, who urged his party to make all efforts to enlist the help of sheriffs and local police on eleciton day. The booklet explained why: ‘We are advised that all sheriffs in the State of Louisiana, except one, are sympathetic with Senator Goldwater’s election. We should take full advantage of this situation.’
“This booklet is one of the most damning aspects of this so-called ‘Operation Eagle Eye.’ When a political party publicly aligns itself with law enforcement officers in behalf of its candidate, this is certainly not the best way of promoting freedom of choice among the voters. this is the worst sort of intimidation.
“‘Operation Eagle Eye’ is not the only Republican group that is working along these divisive lines.
“In Chicago, the Republican ‘Operation Double Check’ was responsible for the charge by Elroy C. Sanquist Jr., GOP candidate for attorney general, that more than 4,000 voters on the city’s Democratic rolls were ineligible.
“Then there is the ‘Honest Ballot Association,’ which Journal reporter Penn unknowingly described as ‘nonpartisan’ in its plans to send 500 lawyers and volunteers to New York precincts alone.
“But the ‘Honest Ballot Association’ was the prime force in a voter intimidation campaign conducted in Detroit two years ago, a campaign that now appears to have been a dry run for the Republicans nation-wide effort this year.
“In Detroit, less than a month before election day in 1962, an organization called ‘The Committee for Honest Elections’ was established and immediately proceeded to:
“–Mail 159,000 copies of a letter misrepresenting the Michigan election law to ‘high mobility’ areas that were predominantly Democratic. The letter created the impression that anyone who had moved 30 days before the election could not vote. It also appealed for informers to come forward and report suspected cases of voter fraud.
“–Plan to flood these Democratic areas with fliers that said: ‘WANTED–FOR VOTER FRAUD.’
“–Recruit 600 ‘challengers’ who would use ‘Honest Ballot Association’ credentials to indiscriminately challenge voters on election day.
“‘Fortunately, sufficient publicity and court action blocked these measures for the most part and the planned voter harassment and intimidation was rendered ineffective.
“I deeply resent ‘Operation Eagle Eye’ and these other programs that seek to deprive our citizens of their Constitutionally guaranteed right to vote.
“‘Operation Eagle Eye’ is not even founded on the principles of fredom ofchoice and freedom to vote. It speaks only of alleged frauds, alleged wrongdoings. Even teh press release announcing its formation did not seek to encourage voters. It sought to frighten them with this headline: ‘GOP Launches Nation Wide Campaign To Prevent “Any Repetition of 1960 Voting Fraud Scandals.”‘
“I believe the only way to have a fair eleciton in this country is to encourage vvoters of both parties–not just of one party–to come forward, along with independent voters. This has been the basis on which the Democratic National Committee has conducted the entire 1964 campaign.
“We want Americans to exercise their right of freedom of choice.”