Advocate Commentary: Stat Smith’s voter fraud makes a mockery out of Dr. King’s civil rights efforts

Former state Representative Stephen “Stat” Smith pled guilty in federal court to voter fraud; “two civil rights violations of deprivation of rights under the color of law” for infringing on others’ voting rights, to be precise.  Even with his plea bargain, Smith looked like he was having second thoughts as he hesitated to say he alone accepted full responsibility, and received a sharp prod from presiding Judge Leo T. Sorokin.

Prosecutors testified that in the primary and general elections in 2009 and in a general election in 2010 (Smith’s List of Shame so far), Smith orchestrated a scheme to have absentee ballots sent to ineligible voters and to voters who did not expect to receive them.  In some cases, according to prosecutors’ testimony, ineligible voters filled out their ballots and returned them; in other cases, the ballots sent to unaware voters were intercepted and unlawfully filled out on their behalf.

Smith had represented the 28th Middlesex House District covering Everett and Malden since 2007.  Why those other elections are not included in Smith’s List of Shame is anyone’s guess.

The charges carry a penalty of up to two years in prison and a yet-to-be-determined fine.  Smith, however, may serve only six months after half-heartedly resigning his seat and agreeing to plead guilty as part of an agreement reached with prosecutors that had one Boston Globe  newspaper columnist bluntly calling it a “sweet plea deal”.  Another newspaper’s columnist commented that the charges were “misdemeanors, inexplicably” as though he, too, could not understand why the rigging of multiple elections was being considered as “two misdemeanors”.

  Does anyone remember Lyndon B. Johnson risking his political career to get the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed in Congress and later, the Voting Rights Act?  These landmark legislations finally outlawed the South from rigging elections and protected voting rights for everyone under the Fifteenth Amendment in places likeBirmingham andCharleston andAtlanta andDallas.

Who knew that voters in Everett and Malden would need protection in 2013?

Back then, in southern cities and towns that all looked like a Norman Rockwell American Dream painting, blacks weren’t “encouraged” to vote in elections so they wouldn’t “dilute” the white vote.  It was voter fraud and illegal, but it was impossible to prevent because no one had enough power to punish the guilty by sending them to prison.   The Civil Rights Act, the legislation that Smith has just thumbed his nose at for at least four years, helped prosecutors put people who committed voter fraud in jail for a time just long enough to make them think about it very carefully before they, or any of their supporters, ever tried it again.

Smith’s lawyers want you, the prosecutors, and the presiding judge to think that Smith doesn’t deserve that.  On the other hand, Howie Carr, the Boston Herald newspaper columnist who definitely knows the difference between an honest man down on his luck and a bum, has called Smith “a guy so crooked he needs a corkscrew to get into his pants in the morning.”

What Smith did in Everett and Malden is no different from what the South did when they deliberately deprived black people of a fair electionIn federal court, Assistant US Attorney Eugenia M. Carris stated that Smith’s scheme deprived Everett and Malden qualified voters of a fair election…”by diluting the valid ballots that were cast.”   Will the light sentence recommended for Smith be enough to give a guy “so crooked he needs a corkscrew to put his pants on” second thoughts about trying his voter fraud scheme again?

Does anyone remember Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. marching downMain Streetin a hundred cities and towns in states likeAlabama,South Carolina,GeorgiaandTexasbravely singing “we will overcome, some day”?  He marched to protest, among other things, people being denied their right to a fair election.

The federal holiday to honor Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King’s life and work will be celebrated on Monday, January 21, 2013.  Dr. King would be 84 this year if an assassin’s bullet had not cut his life short.

  Smith has shamed the memory of Dr. King and all those who put their lives on the line and lost them in the fight against voter fraud.

  Happy Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King Day, “Stat” Smith.  You won’t be asked to be a guest speaker at any of the events held to honor Dr. King.  In fact, you won’t even be included on the guest list.

  Your own List of Shame precludes it.