Voter suppression is being alleged in Saturday’s scheduled Cincinnati NAACP election, and a local lawyer is threatening to sue the civil-rights organization unless changes are made.
Lawyer Tim Mara, acting on behalf of Cincinnati NAACP member Elizabeth Sanford, is demanding that:
• All members be treated equally when going to vote. At the moment, the plan is to ask some members to verify when they signed up.
• The election be delayed until proper notice can be given. The organization’s bylaws call for all members to be notified of an election 10 days in advance.
• Voting last 12 hours and be held at the chapter’s Reading Road office.
“Such voter suppression is in stark contrast to the image the NAACP has established for itself as being the ‘gold standard’ of election processes and could potentially be a great source of embarrassment for the NAACP in its effort to counter voter suppression in local, state and federal election,” Mara wrote in a letter to Roslyn M. Brock, chairwoman of the NAACP’s national board of directors.
Things are such a mess at the local chapter that the national office of the NAACP has put the Rev. Gill Ford, the organization’s national director of unit administration, in charge of it. He did not return two calls for comment.
The chapter only recently incorporated as a nonprofit, according to the Ohio Secretary of State’s website, meaning it had no tax exempt status.
In the running this year:
• Ishton Morton, the current president, with Edith Thrower, Councilman Charlie Winburn’s aide as his first vice president. Among Morton’s supporters are Mayor John Cranley, Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Alex Triantafilou and Cincinnati Councilman Christopher Smitherman.
• Union organizer Rob Richardson, with Joe Mallory, youngest son of Williams Mallory Sr., as his first vice president. Among Richardson’s supporters: supporters hoping the chapter will endorse the streetcar, union supporters looking for NAACP support in a lawsuit over whether unions should get preference when bidding for city contracts, and the Mallorys.
The terms will last two years.
Supporters of both candidates are accusing the other side of manipulating the process to gain an advantage. Richardson supporters believe Morton allowed his supporters to join after the deadline. Morton supporters believe only Richardson supporters will be allowed to vote.
The stakes are high. The winner of the election will preside over the national convention here in 2016 and have a voice in local issues like where the Hamilton County Board of Elections is located, who can bid on government contracts and even the streetcar.
Morton did not return a call for comment. Richardson declined to comment.
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SOURCE: USA Today / The Cincinnati Enquirer – Sharon Coolidge