As I eluded to previously, The Koch financed Tea Party is so determined to protect the election system’s integrity it is including eligible voters in its purge lists.
According to the LA Times, the Tea Party is trying to have 2100 people stripped of their right to vote in Ohio.
One of the people on the list is Lori Monroe, a 41-year-old Democrat who lives in central Ohio. Monroe called the local election board to protest, when she received a letter informing her that she is on the Tea Party’s purge list. The Tea Party claimed Monroe, who is battling cancer, should be removed because her apartment building is listed as commercial property. Monroe told the LA Times, “I’m like, really? Seriously? I’ve lived here seven years, and now I’m getting challenged?”
According to Mary Siegel, who is one of the leaders of the Ohio Voter Integrity Project, an offshoot of True The Vote, “We’re all about election integrity — making sure everyone who votes is registered and qualified voters.”
The problem is the Tea Party in Ohio and other states is trying to get registered and qualified voters, like Lori Monroe, removed from the rolls. Moreover, their intention is consistently focused on the very same groups of people who are most likely to be adversely affected by Voter ID laws and just happen to be more likely to vote Democratic.
According to the same report by the LA Times, The Ohio Voter Integrity Project is disproportionately trying to have Students (who are likely to vote Democrat) purged.
“In Ohio, election records show, one of the project’s top priorities has been to remove college students from the voter rolls for failure to specify dorm room numbers. (As a group, college students are strongly in Obama’s camp.) (my bold)
Rev. Rousseau A. O’Neal, told The Root, the Tea Party organization’s targeting of College students, trailer park residents, homeless people and African Americans in counties President Obama won in 2008 is “bigotry of the highest order.”
Reports suggest that True the Vote was behind Rick Scott’s voter purge lists in Florida. According to Philadelphia Weekly,
One of the groups initially pushing for the voter purge in Florida is True the Vote, a nonprofit run by conservatives (and affiliated with conservative legal group Judicial Watch) dedicated to encouraging “volunteer activism in the election process and to ensure that the votes of legal citizens are not canceled out by illegal voters including felons, illegal immigrants and dead people,” according to the group’s president, Catherine Engelbrecht.
Except, the Florida purge list included many eligible voters, including a World War II vet.
Back in May, Think Progress reported that the purge list error rate was disturbingly high. “But a Think Progress survey of several county supervisors in Florida reveals that the list of presumed non-eligible voters is riddled with errors. In large and small jurisdictions across the state, supervisors have found that a large number of the voters on the list are indeed eligible voters.”
When a group seeks to remove eligible voters from the rolls, they are in no position to talk about preserving the election system’s integrity. This is especially true when they resort to desperate measures like dorm room numbers, as a basis to remove people and other technicalities like in Lorie Monroe’s case. Combine that with hints of racial animus and there is reason to believe that the group’s motives are as suspect as those by politicians who admit they want Voter ID laws so that they can deliver their state to Mitt Romney.
According to The Atlantic,
The King Street Patriots, as they called themselves, started by scrutinizing voter rolls, ostensibly to weed out ineligible voters, dead people, and duplicate entries. However, because the activists focused on addresses with six or more registered voters, poor people and minorities tended to attract the most scrutiny. What’s more, critics charged that the group sometimes based its challenges on technicalities, and they picked up on occasional hints of racial animus. One early promotional video reportedly included a photo of an African American protester carrying a placard that had been doctored to read I only got to vote once!
Aside from purge list activism, there are reports that True the Vote has engaged in voter intimidation and intends to continue that practice.
A recent Editorial in the New York Times observed:
This is how voter intimidation worked in 1966: White teenagers in Americus, Ga., harassed black citizens in line to vote, and the police refused to intervene. Black plantation workers in Mississippi had to vote in plantation stores, overseen by their bosses. Black voters in Choctaw County, Ala., had to hand their ballots directly to white election officials for inspection.
This is how it works today: In an ostensible hunt for voter fraud, a Tea Party group, True the Vote, descends on a largely minority precinct and combs the registration records for the slightest misspelling or address error. It uses this information to challenge voters at the polls, and though almost every challenge is baseless, the arguments and delays frustrate those in line and reduce turnout.”
True the Vote is most widely known for its advocacy of restrictive photo voter ID laws. But while that might garner headlines, the group’s real focus is on policing the act of voting itself. As Ouren declared during the group’s national summit in April, and repeated again in Boca Raton, his recruits’ job is chiefly to make voters feel like they’re “driving and seeing the police following you.” He aims to recruit one million poll watchers around the country.
Even if we take True The Vote’s desire to “make voters feel like they’re ‘driving and seeing the police following you’ as merely a colorful way of expressing a desire protect election integrity, their methods resulted in a perception of intimidation by voters during the Wisconsin recall election.
Back in August NBC reported on the atmosphere that True The Vote’s version of poll watching produced:
As Jamila Gatlin waited in line at a northside Milwaukee elementary school gym to cast her ballot June 5 in the proposed recall of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, she noticed three people in the back of the room. They were watching, taking notes.
Officially called “election observers,” they were white. Gatlin, and almost everyone in line, was black.
Jamie Gaitlin told NBC, “That’s pretty harassing right there, if you ask me,” Gatlin said in the hall outside the gym. “Why do we have to be watched while we vote?”
There are far too many “coincidences” in True To Vote’s methods to lend credibility to True To Vote’s claims that this is about maintaining election integrity. These coincidences happen to target the same groups as Voter ID laws disproportionately affect in an adverse way. Moreover, the groups of people also are more likely to vote Democrat.
True to Vote’s methods of poll watching result in voters feeling intimidated perhaps because their methods are reminiscent of those used back in the day.
Image from Colorlines