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UPDATED: Connolly under fire for vote-suppression joke

Amy Gardner

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.

By Amy Gardner  |  January 24, 2009; 5:00 PM ET
Categories:  Amy Gardner , Gerald E. Connolly  
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This is a VERY old joke among activists - usually the joke is to tell your side to vote on Tuesday and the other side to vote on Wednesday. I'm surprised that anybody still laughs at it. Rep. Connolly just took the old joke a step further with his Tuesday, Feb. 3 vs Tuesday Feb. 10 twist - obviously not an improvement when the date of the election is already obscure.

However, let's just chalk it up to a lame sense of humor, not voter suppression. Political jokes are NOT a civil rights issue - not now, not last fall.

Posted by: beefelt | January 23, 2009 8:16 PM | Report abuse

Sure... except how many people got the joke? Point being don't say stupid things while on video.

Plus you know if this was Tom Davis, and Frank Wolf saying that stuff and Pat Herrity laughing like Sharon Bulova... it would be a above the fold front page Metro story about how Republicans were evil. That's just reality.

Posted by: Tikkanen08 | January 24, 2009 12:25 AM | Report abuse

Please either cite the source of the video (Not Larry Sabato, or please remove it from your website. Thanks.

Posted by: bentrib1 | January 24, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Gardner is showing the kind of bias we have come to expect from the Washington Post by describing Connoly's remark as a joke. Make not mistake, he knew exactly what he was saying and ment every word of it.

I do not rememember any of the columnists at the Post describing George Allen's "Maccaca" statment as a joke.

Posted by: WoodbridgeVa1 | January 25, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

@woodbridgeva1: That's because Maccaca was a racial slur directed at a single Indian individual in a crowd of hundreds of whites. S.R. Sidarth, the individual in question, had introduced himself to Allen several times and Allen knew that he was there doing opposition coverage. If Connolly had said, "tell all your friends to vote on the 10th," then it would be equivalent.

If the bias is affecting you so much, feel free to go to another site.

Posted by: digit1231 | January 25, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

I seem to remember when a Republican elected official made a joke that unlike this instance, was much more vague, The Washington Post and Leftist media blew it out of proportion and cost the official the election, The joke was about a opposition video stalker's mohawk.
Is macaca more offensive than robbing Americans of their voting right's?

Posted by: PWConservative | January 25, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

As a Republican subscriber to the Washington Post and daily reader, I find it a little disturbing that this paper utilizes bias tactics in order to affect the political discourse. If a Republican had made a similar comment, it would have been front page news. However, when a Democratic Congressman makes a joke of this nature, it is buried on the Washington Post blog.

It is imperative that the media exercise fair practices and put this article in the paper Post for readers to see. Connolly was in the wrong, and made a bad comment that could have been construed as voter suppression.

Additionally, many people have stated this comment was at a "Democratic function" and thus, not that "Big of Deal." I will remind the readers, that Allen's Macaca moment was at a Republican rally.

Amy: Write a story and put it in the paper, at least have some shred of integrity for the Post.

Thank you.

Posted by: GolferproB | January 25, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the update.

One thing I think Amy missed here. George Burke says the comments were made to an all-Democratic audience. That makes it worse in my opinion- these are the activists who are going out to talk to voters in Fairfax. Saying this in front of a bi-partisan audience would be more of a joke- because Republicans listening would clearly know there were not two election days. Telling the activists to go spread that word to unsuspecting and unknowing voters is the definition of voter suppression. It sounds like Burke admitted to that without realizing it.

Posted by: bentrib1 | January 25, 2009 6:00 PM | Report abuse

bentrib: shut up. we all know you hate connolly because he beat your gal leslie byrne. you hate, hate, hate him and always will, so you make hay out of nothing. So much for supporting Dems. Your blog is crap and your dedication to the Democratic party is virtually worthless. Your hatred of Gov. Kaine is beyond the pale. You should have never been credentialed at the DNC convention this year. You're a traitor.

Posted by: vancouver1999 | January 25, 2009 7:35 PM | Report abuse

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