10 States Where Voter Suppression Scams Target New Voters, Minorities and The Elderly
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Voting misinformation from shadowy sources. Avowed partisans pushing anti-voting propaganda. Election officials sending out mistake-ridden mailings. It’s all happening in 2012, reminding liberals that in many states not all eligible voters are welcome.
The targets, more often than not, are likely democratic voters who’ve been targeted all along by the GOP’s voter vigilante efforts, most notably passing new strict voter ID laws. The best response is not to get mad at low-rent tactics and errors, but get out and vote.
Let’s go through the latest state-by-state run down, many of which have prompted secretaries of states to issue statements telling voters to not be fooled.
Several shady things are happening in the Sunshine State. First, someone (gee, who?) has been impersonating county election officials and sending official-looking letters to non-white voters in 23 Florida counties to discourage voting by non-citizens. The forgeries, dated October 18, have an American flag and eagle in the lefthand corner, a title that says, “Supervisor of Elections” and tells recipients to “please stop by our main office with any original documentation that demonstrate U.S. citizenship. Do not mail these documents.” (Their italics).
They also suggest scheduling “an administrative hearing” and enclose a “Voter Eligibility Form” that must filed “within 15 days of receipt. Failure to submit this form within fifteen (15) days will result in removal of your name from voter registration rolls…[and you] may be subject to arrest, imprisonment and/or other criminal sanctions.”(Their bold lettering).
The Florida Department of State and FBI is theoretically investigating these letters, according to Florida news reports. However, considering that Florida’s Tea Party Gov. Rick Scott earlier this year falsely said that more than 180,000 non-citizens were on the state’s voter rolls, it would be naïve to think that anything substantive will come from the state’s part of that effort. According to the FBI’s Tampa office, the letters were mailed from Washington state, Businessweek reported.
The voter intimidation letters are not the only Florida voter scam. Some Floridians have also reported receiving “phone calls about casting a ballot by phone and wromg voting hours,” the Secretary of State’s October 22 press release said.
The nuts and bolts of Florida elections are run by county supervisors, not the statewide election officials—who, in contrast, maintain the statewide voter lists. In Palm Beach County, the supervisor recently discovered that a vendor misprinted 27,000 absentee ballots that would not be read by electronic scanners because of their page alignment. While that has raised more than a few eyebrows, that office has hired a team of workers to copy the misprinted ballots that hae been returned so they can be counted.
Some of these same kind of voter snares have also been seen in Ohio. The correlary in Ohio to Florida’s forged non-citizen voter intimidation letters have been billboards that that have run in 145 locations in Cleveland, Columbus (and in Milwaukee, Wisconsin). Voting rights activists launched a campaign to pressure Clear Channel Outdoor to take down the billboards—which did—but they still delivered their message: warning of prison time and a $10,000 fine for voter fraud.
Another eyebrow-raising ‘error’ also was recently discovered in Ottawa County, Ohio, where the Board of Elections mailed a post card to 2,200 people—equal to 7 percent of the county’s 30,000 registered voters—saying Election Day was Thursday, November 8, not Tuesday the sixth. The county, which is near Toledo, voted 52 percent for Barack Obama in 2008, suggesting the ‘error’ was an effort to tilt a blue county into the red.
Ottawa election officials apologized and said that they would resend a correct card.
The threatening billboards have not just been confined to Ohio and Wisconsin cities with big populations of African-Americans. In Pennsylvania, where voting rights activists won a major voting rights case suspending the implementation of that state’s tough new voter ID law until 2013 elections, the state has been slow to inform voters what is—and isn’t—legally required to vote in November. One state-sponsored billboard in Philadelphia says, “Si Quieres Votar Muestrala,” which means “if you want to vote, show it.”
The state’s ACLU chapter has urged Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson, who suspended the new voter ID law for the 2012 election, to act sooner than an October 30th deadline he imposed on the state to correct misleadding voter information. “This is really a situation where justice delayed is justoce denied,” said Vic Walczak, ACLU state legal director. “Even a favorable ruling next week will be too late to undo the damage.”
And there is other widespread misinformation in the Keystone State. Several newspapers owned by rightwing activist and billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife have been publishing articles telling people that “all voters will be required to show a photo identification (ID) before voting at a polling place.” That’s deliberately incorrect. The state’s prior voter ID standards remaoin in place, allowing new voters to present a range of documents without photos that contain their name and current address, including bills and bank statements.
As was the case in Ohio, election officials in Arizona’s largest county, Maricopa, also “mistakenly” sent out a card to voters entitled “Important Election Dates” where the Spanish-language translation said that 2012’s Election Day was on Thursday, November 8. The card was attached to other documents sent to people who had updated their file to ensure they could vote this November. County officials said fewer than 50 people received the incorrect cards, and would be sent corrections.
Indiana and Virginia
Another 2012 voting scam has been misleadling phone calls giving other incorrect instructions on how and when to vote. In Tippecanoe County (one hour north of Indianopolis), voters reported receiving calls saying that they could vote before November 6th over their telephone, according to the Indiana Secretary of State.
“They told the county clerk, who reported it to our office,” said Valerie Kroeger, Communications Director. “No one recorded the phone call.” But Kroeger said the calls were traced to a front company named “Vote USA” and a Washington state number. “After we put out the release [waring voters to ignore it], the calls stopped.”
The same tactic has also been reported in Virginia, according to the State Board of Elections where “voters, particularly older Virginians, are receiving phone calls from unidentified individuals informing voters that they can vote over the phone.”
Oregon, Delaware and West Virginia
Some Oregon voters—where everyone votes by mail—have been receiving another variety of misinformation call from people posing as election officials.
“Oregonians statewide are receiving robocalls saying that the voter registration of someone in their household may be inactive,” Secretary of State Kate Brown reported earier this month. “County election officials say in most cases the registration of voters in the household are found to be up to date.” Brown’s office said that the people called were though to be identified through ‘Do Not Call Lists.
In Delaware, state election officials have also been responding to voters who incorrectly have been told that they need a photo ID to vote in November.
That state’s election officials prepared a flyer saying, “We have been receiving many phone calls regarding Delaware’s voter identification laws. Delaware does not have a photo identification law. When you arrive at a polling place, you will be asked to show identification. If your name is on the poll list and you do not have identification with you, you may sign an affidavit affirming your identity.”
Another variety of this tactic has appeared in West Virginia, where Secretary of State Natalie Tenant reported that first-time voters were told that they needed to “bring their birth certificate with them to the polling place, as some voters have received calls.” In Tenant’s state, an ID is required for new voters—but not a photo ID.
Perhaps the most intriguing voter scam to emerge this year comes from—of course—the social media world. According to Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman, “there have been untrue reports of Facebook posts and also e-mail messages regarding the need to ‘re-register’ in the upcoming election.”
All of these tactics are not new. They have been seen before in past presidential elections and in some cases may have more to do with tilting the outcome of local elections than the top of the ticket. Their overall goal is to make the process seem more complicated than it is, discouarging voters—particularly young people and first-timers. And with elderly voters, they obviously are intended to thwart their intention to vote.
The best response is not to get angry, but get even. And that’s done by voting.