Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Louisville GOP leader faces criticism on poll watchers

The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - Some Republicans are calling for the resignation of their local party chairman because he plans to use vote challengers in the November election.

About a dozen people, about half of whom were black, demonstrated outside the Jefferson County Board of Elections Monday to ask Jack Richardson IV to step down.

Last week, Richardson announced he would use poll watchers, if necessary, in predominantly Democratic precincts as a way to keep the election fair.

Opponents argue that the presence of poll watchers is a way to intimidate minority voters.

The protest group called that plan "rogue and racist behavior."

The demonstrators asked U.S. Rep. Anne Northup, who represents Louisville, to tell Richardson to step down.

"We are unhappy with the way this situation has been handled, and we will communicate that directly to the chairman," said her campaign manager, Patrick Neely.

"In every precinct we need two good Democrats and two good Republicans to work the polls as the law prescribes," Neely said. "We do not need challengers."

Ron Burrell, a black Republican running for state Senate, said his campaign would suffer because young blacks have told him they won't vote if they will be confronted at the polls.

The Democratic and Republican parties are each allowed to place two challengers at every poll to challenge voters they believe may be ineligible. Democrats don't plan to use challengers in GOP precincts.

Richardson said Monday that the party may not need to have vote challengers, but he is reserving the right to use them. He said he would not step down from his position.

The GOP placed party members in 18 precincts last November to watch voting.

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