There is rarely an election in which Democrats don't accuse Republicans of trying to suppress minority voting--and this election cycle is proving to be no exception. At a recent panel discussion sponsored by Harvard University, Democratic National Committee Chairman Joe Andrew said the GOP was at it again in several of last month's off-year elections. The GOP did not take kindly to the charge.

"Voter intimidation is a serious wrong," wrote Republican National Committee communications director Cliff May in a sharply worded response to Andrew. "Both the Republican and Democratic parties have a moral obligation to fight it. But it is also seriously wrong for you and your party to knowingly level false charges . . . and to engage in racial demagoguery in an effort to manipulate minority voters."

Not so, said the DNC.

"They overreacted to this," said party spokeswoman Jenny Backus. "It obviously must be a topic that is somewhat sensitive to them. If they really want to have an honest discussion about voter suppression . . . we would welcome that. . . . But their actions have not matched their words on this."

Democrats cite two examples for their claim: Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore's proposal to test a pilot program in 10 localities requiring voters to show identification at the polls (the Virginia Supreme Court blocked the plan before Election Day) and an alleged whisper campaign and racially tinged mailers sent out in the Indianapolis mayor's race. Republicans dismiss both charges and say Democrats are throwing out wild accusations with nothing to back them up.

Forbes Scores With Prominent Right-Wingers

Steve Forbes came to Washington this week and picked up the support of a handful of prominent conservatives who described the publishing magnate as the only credible alternative to Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

The group, including several who had previously indicated their support for Forbes, included Reagan administration officials Lyn Nofziger and John Herrington as well as conservative activists Bruce Herschensohn, Morton Blackwell, Brent Bozell, Richard Viguerie, Armstrong Williams, Paul Weyrich, Don Devine and Keith Fournier.

The Forbes campaign said the group would help rally conservative support in Iowa, New Hampshire and other primary states and would launch an advertising campaign and talk radio tour on behalf of Forbes in December. The ads will be paid for by the campaign.

Rabbi, La. Governor Part Ways on David Duke

Leave it to Louisiana to provide simmering religious and political controversy. When Gov. Mike Foster won his first term in 1995 he invited Rabbi Edward Paul Cohn, an influential Jewish leader, to offer a prayer at his inauguration. Cohn did so.

But now the rabbi has publicly revoked that prayer and refused to offer another at a second inauguration in January (Foster was easily reelected last month) because he says the governor has failed to publicly condemn former Klan member and perennial political candidate David Duke for his racist beliefs.

Not so, says Foster. In a letter to Cohn, the Louisiana governor argued that he has repeatedly said he disagrees with Duke's "racist and anti-Semitic" views but has not been able to "condemn" him because it would be against his religion.

"I have a religious belief that I, as a mere mortal, have no moral right to 'condemn' another human being," Foster wrote. "I am sincerely sorry that my religious convictions . . . have caused you to want to revoke the inspiring prayer which you offered at my inauguration. . . . I would very much like to have you once again deliver a prayer."

Not going to happen. In a letter to his New Orleans congregation, Cohn wrote that he and Foster would have to "agree to disagree" on the Duke matter.