This voting record cannot be overlooked

Kweisi Mfume: His continuing to cast ballots in the city after move to Baltimore County is an outrage.

May 05, 1999

IT'S NOT as though Kweisi Mfume couldn't reasonably be expected to know better.

The former City Council member, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and current chief executive of the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization should know a thing or two about voting.

Common sense suggests Mr. Mfume would understand what political boundaries are. His electoral successes, thus far, have been in running for offices that represent the people of a specific district. He wasn't elected at large to Congress or the council but by voters living within a specific area. As a county resident, surely he knew he had no right to vote in the city, in elections in which city residents decide who will represent them.

Then there's the matter of understanding the history of the struggle of which Mr. Mfume is a part. He is president of the NAACP, an organization that waged -- and won -- hard-fought battles against the poll taxes, property ownership requirements and literacy tests that were often used to prevent African-Americans from voting. Surely, Mr. Mfume understood that simply owning property in Baltimore didn't qualify him as a voter if he lived elsewhere, anymore than not owning property in a jurisdiction where he lives could prevent him from voting.

But he continued to vote in Baltimore after moving to the county, as first reported by the Baltimore Press. That behavior shows a disappointing lack of judgment.

The "everybody-does-it" defense some are offering isn't good enough. Everybody doesn't do it -- and even if thousands did, it's fair to hold Mr. Mfume to a higher standard.

He's a former lawmaker who holds a position of leadership in this nation and -- if his many supporters have their way -- could soon be a candidate for mayor of Baltimore. He has recently returned to the city as a resident and because of state legislative action would be eligible to run in the September primary.

Whether he chooses to re-enter the political arena or not, Mr. Mfume has some explaining and apologizing to do.

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