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Ballots from the Birmingham Jail By: George Oldroyd
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, March 28, 2006

With the recent passing of Coretta Scott King, it is a solemn time to reflect on the tremendous good she and her late husband and all those who stood with him achieved for all men, often at unspeakable personal cost.  This year marks the 43rd anniversary of the Letter from a Birmingham Jail, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was persecuted for his nonviolent demand for equality and from which he called out for justice. Writing then, he urged us all to understand that: “An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself.  This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself.  This is sameness made legal.”

It’s a beautifully simple and elegant phrase, the effect of which is lost on the city where it was first penned. Recently, within a short walk of King’s former Birmingham jail cell, twelve jurors convicted their former County Sheriff, a documented victim of voter fraud, along with the attorney who represented him in an election challenge over seven years ago. Sheriff Jim Woodward and attorney Bert Jordan were convicted of daring to investigate those voting crimes—a conviction that took the  kitchen-sink form of the following charges: conspiring with his attorney to defraud the United States, illegally converting government records for personal use, engaging in misleading conduct towards potential witnesses with intent to influence future testimony, stealing government property, and conveying government information to his attorney without authority. 


It sounds like a garden variety corruption story until you consider that the Sheriff and his men were investigating a pattern of voter fraud in Jefferson County involving ballot-shredding and absentee ballot abuse by convicted felons, and that he and his attorney were preparing to challenge an election that would be won or lost on those very ballots. Because the case was relegated to “local” story status, the nation missed what was quite possibly the most chilling courtroom moment in American history, as a jury of twelve Birmingham citizens gave its unanimous blessing to legitimizing voter fraud, criminalizing integrity, and weaponizing the court system in its new role as enforcer of the incumbent regime instead of objective arbiter of the law.


The pair were challenging absentee ballots believed to have been cast by convicted felons in what was ultimately a successful challenge to Sheriff Woodward’s 1998 reelection.  To establish that a person is a felon, one must access the only authoritative records of felony convictions, the National Crime Information Center, or NCIC. The records belong to the state and federal governments, so one has to be a cop to see them, and Jim Woodward was not only a cop, he was the top cop in the jurisdiction, so the duty fell first to him. 


Ironically, the charges against Woodward stemmed precisely from his using the NCIC. When the county’s top cop was brought first-hand evidence that absentee ballots were being selectively shredded to throw off vote totals in Bessemer, Alabama—just southwest of Birmingham—and that others were being preserved despite having been submitted by felons convicted under federal law, he built a case for voter fraud that affected not only his own reelection, but every other contest on the ballot that November, as well as municipal ballots in an entirely separate election the summer before.


Then, in a twist that still has most of the Alabama trial bar scratching its collective head, Woodward’s lawyer, Bert Jordan, also got pinched--for receiving the evidence of voter fraud that the Sheriff acquired and using it to prepare a challenge to a democratic election (“stealing government property and receiving and retaining converted government information”)--suggesting that it’s a greater crime to investigate voter fraud than it is to commit it.


Based on just that perverse ideal, twelve registered voters decreed that voter fraud is not only beyond prosecution in the Northern District of Alabama, but a near-sacrament, and with that blessing from the jury, the merest effort to preserve the integrity of the vote or to represent someone who tries has been deemed a federal crime punishable by up to ten years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.


Today, God help anyone accused of practicing election law while Republican in Alabama.


The jury didn’t grasp the elegant but simple logic of what cops do, how they do it, and why.  And they clearly didn’t see what lawyers are obligated to do.  At the urging of a convoluted prosecution, they elected instead to criminalize any urgent desire for public integrity, trampling our right to equal protection and due process, by granting a pass to anyone who wants to stuff a ballot box in their jurisdiction.  Political bosses in Birmingham rejoiced at the verdict, because the coast has never been clearer.


Go ahead, the jury effectively said, steal an election. Steal them all!  If the cops try to stop you, then partisan Clinton-appointed U.S. Attorneys will happily and doggedly drag their names through the mud, trash their reputations, grind them into financial ruin with show trials that are anything but speedy, humiliate their families, and toss their justice-seeking, do-gooder hides in the slammer. And we registered voters, who don’t understand that we’ve invalidated the force of our own votes, are ready and willing to let them bamboozle us into rubber-stamping their corruption. We know now that those already in power will do what they must to craft the illusion of a consenting majority, and any effort to throw back the curtain and expose the reality of pervasive and insidious voter fraud and the denial of our heritage of democracy will be met with swift and brutal force by agents of that self-same Democratic Party that was so instrumental in denying the civil rights of minorities a generation ago.


Without the confidence that elections produce the results the voters intended, that one man gets one vote, and that only those who have that precious right are allowed to actually exercise the franchise, the self-determination upon which our entire system balances disappears, and our communities are left awash with corruption, resentment, fear, and worst of all, apathy.


Voter fraud is a blight on the memory of every man, woman, and child who ever suffered under oppression, and on the sacrifice of anyone who’s ever stood in harm’s way to buy us the slender thread of hope that we could simply be left alone to govern ourselves.  People around the world are dying every day for the chance to vote just once, and risking their lives to make it so, but in Birmingham and other Democratic Machine towns across America, voter fraud is as pervasive, as uncontroversial, and as unnoticed as litter or graffiti.


Woodward and Jordan stood up to demand that we actually count the votes, and let the die be cast in plain view of all.  But now, those seeking integrity are criminals, and those who cheat us out of our most fundamental right to vote so they can lay their greasy fingers on some tiny personal gain are somehow the patriots at this bacchanalian tea party.


If the jury’s inexplicable verdict is sustained, the institution of one man-one vote will be revealed as an expensive, ornately filigreed illusion presented by a cast of thousands, with the voters playing unwitting bit roles while the main characters man the shredders, fire up subpoenas, and divvy up the illicit proceeds. Citizenship will be a thin veneer of hopeful wishes, no more real than Santa Claus, but effective for social control. Elections will be just for show: a show they don’t want anyone watching too closely.


Jim Woodward and Bert Jordan, two Republicans of courage and integrity, are being martyred in Birmingham, their lives upended and their reputations sullied so that cheap gangsters dressed as southern Democrats can continue to surreptitiously abscond with the power they have no hope of achieving through right or merit in the light of day, in a city that forty years ago was ground zero in the struggle for civil rights.


Who will have the courage to fight for what’s right in Birmingham when the price of defeat, and in this case even victory, is the forfeiture of the very freedom that one seeks to protect for others?  Who will stand up for civil liberties when the penalty for losing is the loss of your very freedom, and in a savage irony, your own right to vote? Who will offer up their own liberty to fight for the liberty of others in Birmingham now?  I take comfort in remembering that Birmingham has had heroic figures before, and that there are such heroic figures engaged in a mortal struggle there again today.  Two are Woodward and Jordan.  Remember those names well.  Remember them in your prayers.  Pray especially that Judge Lacey Collier, a no-nonsense jurist who ran a tight courtroom, and who notably has not yet ruled on the defendants’ motion to dismiss, will see the light of our Founding Fathers’ wisdom and sacrifice through the darkness of present-day corruption.

Difference, as Dr. King wrote of it, is no longer codified in the law.  But it’s written in stone, in the foundations of the left, that difference is now the social more.  It remains a bad day to be an American seeking equality in Birmingham, a dangerous place to seek truth and justice in the light of day.  These men are being persecuted for their non-violent demand for equality and their call for justice, and we here pray that we will not learn the story of the struggle they took up for all of us through letters from another Birmingham jail.

Full Disclosure: Bert Jordan is George Oldroyd's lawyer...and will continue to be.

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George Oldroyd is the Senior Partner and Chief Rhetorical Officer of GrandOldParty.com Partners, a campaign cooperative that offers services to Republican candidates in down-ballot races.

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