July 28, 2012

Doonesbury comic takes jab at oblivious Republic Party Chairman Charlie Webster

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster says he doesn't know who Doonesbury is. But Doonesbury, or at least its author, Garry Trudeau, knows about Webster and his attempt to tighten voter registration laws.

Trudeau, who has recently waded into the ongoing debate over voter ID laws, mentioned Webster Friday in the second frame of his national comic strip, along with the chairman's infamous quote that Democrats had long used Maine's 1973 election day voter registration law to "steal elections."

Voters in November overturned a Republican-initiated effort to repeal the law that allows electon-day registrations.

Webster isn't depicted in the cartoon. The strip is introduced by Trudeau's Jimmy Crow, the black crow whom the cartoonist uses to personify Jim Crow laws, which were policies in the Southern states that enforced segration, including those meant to disenfranchise voters, such as poll taxes.

Trudeau has used Jimmy Crow to assail voter ID laws, which critics say are designed to discourage or prevent traditional Democratic voters from participating in elections.

The strip begins with Jimmy Crow saying, "Here in Maine folks love to vote! They're tops in turnout!"

In the second frame Crows says, "Sadly too many of them (voters) are Democrats, who like to 'steal elections,' according to GOP chair Charlie Webster." Below the text are anonymous figures representing the elderly, disabled people and college students, groups that could be disenfranchised by voter ID laws, according to critics.

The comic then mocks claims by Webster and other Republicans who argue that voter ID laws are designed to prevent voter fraud. It mentions that Maine has had just two convictions of voter fraud in the last 38 years.

The number, the strip says, is the "same number of Bigfoot sightings! Coincidence? You decide!"

On Trudeau's page on Slate.com, the strip appears along with a quote from a Brennan Center of Justice report that said "an individual is more likely to be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter in the polls."

Webster laughed the comic off and when asked if he read Doonesbury, he said he said he didn't know who that was.

"I don't even read the newspapers," Webster joked.

A reporter read the comic to Webster. "I'm still right about it (voter fraud)," Webster responded.

The strip appears to confuse the failed attempt to repeal election day voter registration with a voter ID law. Some Republican lawmakers, along with Secretary of State Charlie Summers, who ran point on the election day voter registration repeal effort, attempted to advance a voter ID law in 2011. However, that effort stalled and the bill was transformed into a study commission designed to evaluate ballot security issues.

Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine worry that the study will be used to bolster a future voter ID bill if the GOP holds the majority during the next legislative session.

Webster's response to his appearance in the cartoon was met with derision by Democratic supporters who took to Twitter to mock the GOP chairman. Some lamented the fact that Summers wasn't mentioned.

Summers, who is running for the U.S. Senate, came under fire for his role in the election day voter registration repeal effort and his investigation into whether over 100 college students had committed voter fraud.

 

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