Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude
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Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude

GOP Fraudsters Convicted Of Tricking Black Voters Sentenced To Register Black Voters

They ran a multistate robocall scheme to keep us from voting, so hey, what could go wrong?

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Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl speak to the media in Rosslyn Va., in 2018.
Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl speak to the media in Rosslyn Va., in 2018.
Photo: John Middlebrook/CSM via ZUMA Wire (AP)

There’s crime, there’s punishment, and then there’s whatever happened here: after being convicted on fraud charges connected to a scheme to misinform and scare Ohio voters during the 2020 election, two conservative political ops were sentenced to two years of electronic monitoring and 500 hours of community service. The hitch: their community service is that they have to spend the time registering people to vote.

I mean, I get it, I suppose. The two political dirty tricksters, Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman hatched a plot that in another political era—one that wasn’t filled with conspiracy theories about liberal lizard people practicing pedophilia and Satanistic rituals in D.C. pizza parlors—would have sounded more like they were Scooby Doo villains. They rigged up robocalls targeting voters in or near big cities with lies about mail-in voting. That included the lie that people who voted by mail would be entered into databases that could be used to enforce vaccine mandates or accessed by debt collectors or by law enforcement to track down people with warrants.

No such thing is true; in fact, no such thing would be allowed by law in any state. But the point wasn’t to give voters accurate information, it was to try and make sure that the wrong kinds of people for Burkman and Wohl’s purposes wouldn’t have their votes counted in sufficient numbers. And despite their defense attorneys’ best efforts to convince a jury otherwise, what they did was a crime. And the Ohio case wasn’t the only time they were involved in a similar scheme: The two settled with the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James back in June over civil charges that they used similarly misleading robocalls to target Black folks in the Empire State.

It’s worth taking a step back here to remember that while conservative political ops are the ones being convicted of actual criminal counts of fraud related to their election activities, conservative elected officials shrouding themselves in the rhetoric of “election integrity” and actually passing laws to limit access to mail-in or absentee voting, or in the case of Florida Gov. Ron Desantis, starting up an election police force to actually lock up people who had been previously told by the state itself that they had the legal right to register and vote.

All of which brings us back to Wohl, Burkman and their 500-hour voter registration sentence. Maybe it’s just me, but the whole thing is giving fox-in-henhouse, wolf among lambs vibes. I’m sure it’s easy to get a sense of schadenfreude at the idea of guys who spent years trying to suppress Black votes now being forced under penalty of law to help Black folks do that very thing. But these don’t feel like the kinds of people who possess shame, contrition and humility at levels sufficient that any judge should feel comfortable letting them anywhere near a ballot box or voter registration drive, even as punishment.