Originally created 08/24/04

Democrats' mailing invokes draft



COLUMBIA - A state Democratic Party effort to enlist new voters calls on people to make a choice between being drafted for military service and registering to vote.

The first page of the mailing shows a draft notice with orders to report to a Pittsburgh military induction center. The next shows a helicopter with troops in the foreground beneath a headline that says "Officials in Washington are calling for more troops in Iraq." Below, the mailing asks, "Which form would you rather fill out?"

Republicans say the mailing is off-base.

"That's the worst of all political worlds - when you have a deceptive, despicable tactic of saying you are going to be drafted to go to war if you don't register to vote," said Katon Dawson, the state Republican Party chairman. "In a time of war, to use that piece of mail, I think speaks volumes of where they are as a party."

State Democratic Party Chairman Joe Erwin said "it's a powerful piece. It's designed to grab attention. ... I can understand why they think it's despicable, but, sorry, we really do need to get potential voters' attention."

The Democratic Party is trying to recoup some of its losses in the 2002 elections that cost them the governor's mansion, more seats in the South Carolina House and a shot at replacing Republican U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond with a Democrat.

The party hopes to ride the success of its February presidential primary into November, when the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings is up for grabs and voters will have to fill every seat in the General Assembly.

The party mailing, which went out in June and July, was "very successful," as part of an effort to register thousands of people to vote, said Wyeth Ruthven, a Democratic Party spokesman.

But mixing the imagery of a draft notice with drafting voters has risks, Brad Gomez, a University of South Carolina political science professor said.

War has changed the national vocabulary, Mr. Gomez said. Sportswriters, for example, try not to refer to quarterbacks' passes as bombs. Drafting voters doesn't seem to be "an appropriate metaphor at this point in time," he said.

War is "a subject of great importance to voters," Mr. Erwin said. The mailing emphasizes "the long-term ramifications of this war. ... It's to let people know that their vote impacts what our role in the war may be down the road."