Going Undercover at the GOP's Voter Vigilante Project to Disrupt the Nov. Election
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No, in Denver, she put on a plucky smile and earnestly pitched for volunteers to enroll in True the Vote’s training sessions—to either review voter rolls online, or to join their fall poll watcher brigades to prevent electoral skullduggery. Of course, she added that True the Vote was a “non-partisan” organization, even though they were selling black T-shirts with Ronald Reagan’s profile on them. (They also had Elvis shirts.)
Republican ‘Election Integrity’
True the Vote’s paranoid and possibly disruptive civic activism in 2012 comes from its very predictable history. It is hardly the first group to peer behind the curtain of how elections are run in America, and quickly assume that anything and everything that could go wrong, would go wrong, and be used against their comrades. As Englebrecht recited their history, it foreshadowed the tools and strategy they’ve since developed and are deploying in 2012’s presidential election.
“We had heard there was a need for people to go and work the polls,” she said, referring to their roots in 2009. “We thought we would go work for a day, and check it off our list and move onto something else...” But then they discovered how erratic elections can be, especially when states pass all kinds of complex laws and rely on poorly paid volunteer poll workers to implement them with little or no training.
“What we saw ranged from levels of confusion and incompetence, frankly that were very disturbing, when you consider the importance of the proceedings in the polls,” she said. “When you have so much slack in the process, you know, whether or not the code was followed based on a wink and a nod… We saw people not show any form of ID whatsoever and be allowed to vote. In Texas, you have to show some form of ID. In Colorado you have to show ID. In some of our sister states, it is even illegal to ask for identification.”
Here is where her propagandizing and right-wingers jump orbits. Engelbrecht was talking to an audience who, by a show of hands, were more than half Tea Party members, avid Drudge Report readers, and mostly vote by mail. In other words, most don’t vote in the venues they were hearing about. But they still shook their heads and gasped anyway.
“We saw people who would come in with multiple registration cards,” she continued. “And when they would present the first one and be told, ‘I’m sorry, it looks as though you already voted in an earlier election,’ they’d go, ‘Huh, how about this card?’” That was good enough for poll workers, she said, her voice rising. “People would come in and want to vote and they’d open the poll book—in Texas, we print out these little labels, and you stick this label in the book and sign your name. Well, the label was in the book and that person’s name was signed. But that wasn’t his signature. Somebody beat ’em to the punch… There’s a lot of latitude for people who want to subvert the process.”
I might have been the only one in the room to realize that most of her anecdotes—if they were true—probably have little or nothing to do with padding elections. They could just as easily be explained by bureaucratic bungling, bad poll worker training, confusion by voters who don’t understand what they got in the mail or other factors. These problems also are not solved by stricter voter ID laws. In some counties, election administration can be as drab as polling places are chaotic. But that’s not a political conspiracy.