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Voter Intimidation, or Just Cleaning Up?

Reports of voter intimidation, or "suppression" as elections officials call it, can come in many forms, and there have been scattered reports of such activities in Virginia today. But this one, reported by Mark Berman, caught my eye:

The Alexandria Sheriff's Office had a detail of four inmates picking up trash this morning at George Washington Middle School in Alexandria, which is also a polling precinct where 1,930 people voted in the 2004 presidential election.

One voter, who declined to be identified, expressed concern that voters might feel intimidated and said while voting at 11:30 a.m. he saw at least two other voters turn away to return later rather than walk past the prisoners in order to vote.

Alexandria Sheriff Dana A. Lawhorne said that the four prisoners and a sheriff's deputy were in a courtyard on the opposite side of the building from the polls and their work "has nothing to do with the precinct or the election." The inmates had finished their work and left by 12:30 p.m., he said.

The prisoners have been going to that school for years to do landscaping projects and picking up trash at the school's request, but can only go on weekdays when school's not in session, he said. Lawhorne said the prisoners were in a "secluded area," but people walking instead of driving to the polls might have seen them.

Lawhorne, who voted at the school, said if someone is "concerned about that, then I'll yield to their concern and we just won't do it," he said. "To me, it's not worth people being upset about it."

He said the sheriff's office has received complaints before where citizens saw inmates out working and didn't like seeing them in the community. The point of inmates doing their work was to save the schools money while beautifying them, he said.

By Josh White  |  November 4, 2008; 2:16 PM ET
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Sheriff Lawhorne has some serious explaining to do. How embarrassing to be caught in the act of voter harassment like a Deep South Poll Taxer. I hope Lawhorne gets a serious reprimand because that's just BS. This isn't "news" to LE. LE knows to stay clear of the polls in uniform.

Posted by: bbcrock | November 4, 2008 4:01 PM | Report abuse

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