The voters beat shameful suit by Nevada teachers

This year's presidential contest already has sparked massive voter interest in Iowa and New Hampshire, and for those of us who are embarrassed by America's low voter turnout the past few election cycles, it is something wonderful to watch.

So thank goodness a federal judge in Nevada didn't damage this excitement by siding with the state's teachers union, which filed a shocking lawsuit eight days before Saturday's primary in a clear effort to dilute the voting strength of working-class people.

When Democratic officials in the Western state wanted to have their voices heard in the presidential primary season, they decided nearly a year ago to create nine at-large caucus sites so thousands of workers in the gambling hotels along the Las Vegas strip could cast ballots. Because they work 24 hours a day &

and Saturday is the busiest day of the week for the state's biggest economic engine &

they would have no shot at going home to caucus and getting back to work in time.

The plan was approved by the Democratic National Committee in May, and virtually nothing was said about the changes by anyone.

That is until after the 60,000-strong Local 226 of the Culinary Workers Union endorsed Sen. Barack Obama for president.

The largest and most organized union in the state, the Culinary Workers Union could play a large role in determining who wins the state. All the Democratic candidates fought hard for their endorsement, as well as the vast resources they pour into campaigns. Their decision was seen as a huge boost to Obama and a major blow to Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Then, three days later, the 28,000-member Nevada State Education Association chose to get their lawyers involved, filing the suit on behalf of six state residents. Their rationale? The at-large caucuses would give the culinary union an unfair advantage because other workers couldn't caucus at their jobs.

The teachers union hasn't endorsed anyone officially, but several of its high-ranking officers are backing Clinton, and the suit was seen as an effort to squash her opponent's biggest political "get."

Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, steadfastly argued they had nothing to do with the suit, that it was all up to the teachers, but in their talking points, they were siding with the teachers' suit.

In fact, after the ruling, the Clinton campaign said: "While we were not involved in this lawsuit and have always said that we would play by the rules that we're given, it has always been our hope that every Nevadan should have equal access and opportunity to participate in the caucus.

Make no mistake &

the current system that inhibits some shift workers from being able to participate, while allowing others to do so, would seem to benefit other campaigns. More importantly it is unfair."

Here's the rub, and it boils down to one thing: politics.

The teachers union and the Clinton campaign said NOTHING about these caucuses before the Obama endorsement. The Clinton campaign was holding out hope they would get the endorsement, and if they did, those at-large caucuses would be like holding an ace up their sleeves on election day. Do you actually think their "fairness" argument would have been made with the endorsement? Yeah, right.

Let me be clear: This is not about Hillary Clinton, Obama or even John Edwards. It's about democracy and wanting people to do what far too many Americans take for granted: vote.

I'm tired of these two-faced politicians and Democratic-leaning hacks run down Republicans with charges of voter suppression, and the Democrats and one of their biggest bases of supporters &

a teachers union &

turn around and do the same.

Frankly, I don't care whom the culinary union backed. If they had backed Clinton, and the Obama or Edwards camp encouraged this stunt, I would be all over them, as well.

Remember, the Clintons joined a chorus of Democrats who yelled, kicked and screamed against the Republicans about alleged massive voter fraud and voter suppression in 2000 and 2004. (That was a bit disingenuous, considering Vice President Al Gore was trying to get military ballots thrown out to help his cause in Florida in 2000.)

These kinds of pathetic actions by so-called believers in democracy are why so many people are sick and tired of politics. We have witnessed both parties claim they want an open voting system that encourages &

not discourages &

people from voting.

Americans love to criticize elections in other nations that we don't think are done aboveboard. We tell Pakistan that there should be fair and free elections, and we denounce Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe for his strong-arm tactics to keep the opposition party away from the polls.

Is my comparison too harsh? No. They do it with guns. We do it with lawyers.

It's time that we, the people, let unions, political parties or anyone else know that we will fight like the dickens for the right to vote, and we won't be obstructed by some special interest looking to score a cheap political point.

Roland S. Martin is an award-winning CNN contributor and the author of "Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith." Please visit his Web site at . To find out more about Roland S. Martin and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at .

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