UPDATED: Connolly under fire for vote-suppression joke
U.S. Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) is under fire, mostly from Republicans, for jokingly urging fellow Democrats at a recent political event to give Republicans the wrong date for the Feb. 3 special election for Fairfax County chairman.
Speaking to about 700 guests at a Fairfax County Democratic Committee ball held last weekend at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Connolly, who was chairman until taking congressional office earlier this month, urged the crowd to help elect Vice Chairman Sharon S. Bulova (D-Braddock) in the Feb. 3 special election to replace him.
"You know, it's really important to tell every Democrat we know this election is on Tuesday, Feb. 3, and to tell every Republican we know that this election is on Tuesday Feb. 10," Connolly said to laughter.
The remarks were captured on video and have been bouncing through the blogosphere -- and accompanied by charges that Connolly crossed a line by attempting to suppress Republican voter turnout. The video, which was first highlighted on the blog NotLarrySabato, was also featured on the conservative television commentator Sean Hannity's program, "Hannity's America." Hannity dubbed the video "Enfranchisement, Connolly style," and described Connolly as "all for voting rights until the election gets too close for comfort."
Connolly spokesman George Burke Saturday said: "It was nothing more than a joke. Everyone in the room laughed...To make anything more out of it is partisan politics." He added that the comments were made to an all-Democratic audience.
It is illegal to provide false information to voters, but conviction of the misdemeanor offense requires proof of intent. Rokey Suleman, Fairfax County's general registrar, and Nancy Rodrigues, secretary of the State Board of Elections, reached separately Friday, said they had received no complaints regarding the remarks.
Both said that if they do, they will follow standard procedure and refer the matter to investigative authorities. In Suleman's case, that would be the county commonwealth's attorney, and in Rodrigues's case, it would be the Virginia State Police.
January 24, 2009; 5:00 PM ET
Categories: Amy Gardner , Gerald E. Connolly
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