As I’ve said and commented on many times before the incidence of voting fraud in the U.S. is so negligible that passing new voter ID laws to solve the non-problem simply isn’t worth disenfranchising millions of legitimate citizens. However, it appears that conservatives aren’t content with just trying to prevent people from voting via the law (de jure), but that they are also willing to use intimidation to prevent them from voting or make them wish they’d never voted in reality (de facto). Here’s a quote about some intimidation tactics by a project called True the Vote (a Tea Party project, mind you):
Although voter challenges have been used for decades by partisans seeking electoral advantage,7 a new threat emerged in 2010 when an organized and well-funded Texas-based organization with defined partisan interests, the King Street Patriots, through its project True the Vote, was observed intimidating voters at multiple polling locations serving communities of color during early voting in Harris County.8 Members of this Tea Party-affiliated group reportedly interfered with voters — allegedly watching them vote, “hovering over” voters, blocking lines, and engaging in confrontational conversations with election workers.9 Under Texas law, poll watchers are not allowed even to speak to a voter.
These activities have not been limited to Texas.
In a 2011 special election in Massachusetts, a Tea Party group was reported to have harassed Latino voters and others at the polls in Southbridge, Massachusetts. The Southbridge town clerk protested these actions, reporting that targeted voters left saying, “I’ll never vote again,” while a retired judge witnessed “citizens coming from their voting experience shaken or in tears.”10
In the June 2012 Wisconsin recall election, many students reported being challenged by True the Vote poll watchers, as the organization even mocked the students on Twitter.11 The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board issued a statement saying “in recent elections we have received disturbing reports and complaints about unacceptable, illegal behavior by observers. Voters expect a calm setting in which to exercise their right to vote.”12
I don’t know how much you know about election procedures but a Poll Watcher is technically a partisan. They are a representative of a party, a candidate or a proponent/opponent of a measure. There are very strict rules about what they are allowed to do and not allowed to do. In Texas, one of the examples above, they are not allowed to even speak to voters. What they are allowed to do is simply that…watch and inspect. That’s it.
There is a True the Vote project here in AZ. I found their call for volunteer poll watchers online (I won’t post link because I despise the Tea Party, sorry, you will have to google it yourself). They are actively recruiting people to examine the Registration Lists to find problems—they prefer to comb through precinct lists with lots of minorities (this is not speculation, it is a proven fact). So heaven forbid you made the slightest error in spelling your street or if a secretary somewhere mistyped your address or misspelled your name. These folks will pull your info and will try to challenge you at your polling station. In some cases the states bowed to pressure from this group and “suspended” people’s registration–for the offense of a misspelling.
Arizona has such a lousy history of providing for minorities with language barrier issues, the Feds Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division of DOJ will probably be there to monitor foreign language assistance plus the GAO to see how the state complies with those who need physical assistance or accommodation (such as people in wheelchairs, the hearing impaired, the elderly, etc).
In AZ, there is a very brief law that says that poll watchers must be signed off on by the Party Chairperson for the party they represent ahead of time and that there can only be one Watcher/Observer per Party at a polling station UNLESS the parties agreed to more but there must be an EQUAL number for each party. So, if you’re voting in AZ and if you see multiple Watchers for the Republican party (or the Dems or Libertarian, or any other party) and only one or none for the other parties, then they are potentially violating the law. Bring this to the attention of any law enforcement officer present (or a poll worker if they aren’t) and give them a copy of this statute (follow link above and print). Demand to see the Watcher/Observer’s credentials and permission to be there. Remember there can only be one for the Republicans, one for Dems, one for Green Party, etc…..Hell take pictures if you can but be careful, this can cause belligerent people to get worse. Don’t cause a disturbance unless you think your physical safety is in jeopardy. Just quietly and calmly inform the people I’ve mentioned. Then follow that up by calling the Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osbourne (602) 506-7960 to report it as well. Make sure you make note of the polling location, the time this occurred and the number of watchers you saw. In addition, each County determines the rules that govern poll watchers. So, the rules are maintained by each County Recorder’s Office (all I found was a document showing slides used in a presentation). Maricopa County calls them Poll Observers and 6 training sessions in all were given (no mention of how many people attended or from what parties). The following is part of the PDF I linked to above but here it is again (http://recorder.maricopa.gov/voteroutreach/pdf/english/10-2008%20General%20Election%20Preview.pdf) . Here is what these Observers are NOT allowed to do:
If you see any Poll Observers violating these rules, get a picture or a video of it if you can (again, be very careful with this). Try to find out who they are supposed to represent and try to view their credentials. Notify a Police Officer and/or a Poll Volunteer. If Federal Observers are there, even better, tell them. Make note of the time and the names and parties who they represent and as soon as you leave the polling station call the Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osbourne (602) 506-7960 to report it as well. And finally, come here, and tell me!
And finally some info to help you vote. You can find your polling place here: http://recorder.maricopa.gov/pollingplace/pollingplace.aspx Here’s some other tips on what you need to bring and need to know ahead of time (also from the same slides):
- All voters WILL be asked for ID.
- If the voter has ID from the list and the address doesn’t match they vote a provisional but DON’T have to come back.
- The ID does NOT have to be a photo ID—2 non-photo IDs suffice. (Here’s an FAQ regarding what ID is acceptable under what circumstances–clear as mud, right? http://recorder.maricopa.gov/pdf/ID_AT_THE_POLL_FAQS2009.pdf)
- Voter must vote in the precinct where they live in order for their vote to count
- Voters can drop off their early voter ballot at ANY polling place in the county and do NOT have to show ID
- Voters designated as an early voter in the roster (but who did not vote early and decided to go to a polling station instead) must vote a provisional ballot.
Let’s not let them bully us or anyone else. I am going prepared with both a printed copy of the statute, what they are not supposed to do and an attitude. The right to vote is sacred and should never be influenced by bullies. Let’s keep it that way.