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Embry's jaded view of 'voter fraud'

Does offering someone lunch buy their vote?

Last Tuesday Baltimore mayoral candidate Elizabeth Embry accused state Sen. Catherine Pugh's campaign of attempting to buy votes by hiring people to work as temps handing out literature at polls ("Elizabeth Embry, DeRay Mckesson criticize Catherine Pugh's tactics in Baltimore mayor's race," April 19).

The job included a lunch consisting of a drink, chicken wings and some fries.

Ms. Embry's prosecutorial mind quickly jumped to the erroneous conclusion that voter fraud was afoot, despite the fact that no proof, nor even a reasonable theory, was offered for how votes can be bought in an electoral process that requires a secret ballot.

I don't know what to make of Ms. Embry's insinuation that hiring people to work on a campaign is somehow corrupt. Campaigns routinely employ people — campaign managers, PR people, strategists, etc. — without being accused of buying their votes.

Her problem seems to stem from a belief that the workers hired for these temporary jobs were somehow willing, unlike other hired campaign workers, to sell out their integrity and right to vote for at most a few days of work and a few lunches; that these workers, unlike everyone else, do not consider qualifications, experience or what is best for their city when deciding how to vote; that what really matters to them is who will buy them chicken wings.

Apparently Ms. Embry believes that unskilled campaign jobs are so prone to corruption that they should only be done by volunteers who are given no compensation — people who can spend hours working with no need to make money.

That is a luxury most poor and working-class people cannot afford. This requirement would overwhelmingly benefit campaigns that draw support from wealthy citizens who have the free time, paid time off and resources to participate.

The way this issue has been framed by Embry and The Sun reminds me of the old saying that "what you see depends on where you sit." Ms. Embry has led a life of privilege and instead of looking at people hired to hand out fliers and seeing that most of them can't afford to work without getting paid, she sees a convoluted opportunity for voter fraud.

Her cultural references are so far removed from theirs that instead of seeing the simple courtesy of providing a drink and lunch she sees a vote being bought and paid for.

I cannot help but think of the words Pope Francis spoke this week when the matter of a simple handshake was spun by the media into interference in the democratic presidential primary: "It's common courtesy, this is called common courtesy," he said. "If anyone thinks that greeting someone is getting involved in politics, I recommend that they find a psychiatrist."

Ms. Embry's outrage at the revelation that there are people who need to get paid for the hours they spend working and her conspiracy theories about how many chicken wings equal voter fraud will not win her the mayoral election, but they will make future political candidates think twice before paying people for their labor or have the audacity to give their volunteer workers food.

I guess this is what Ms. Embry and The Sun consider "the high road," but make no mistake: These policies disproportionally affect poor people and minorities and the politicians running for office who represent them.

Loreene de Jesus, Baltimore

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