Monday, September 17, 2012

Bullies at Ballot Box

Texas' Voter ID law has been struck down in federal court. So have significant portions of Florida's voter registration laws. Pennsylvania is currently in court, awaiting a decision on their over-the-top voter ID law (even though the state says it has no proof of, nor will it try and prove any instances of voter fraud in the Keystone State). It is very likely that efforts by predominately Republican state legislatures to roll back voting rights victories in our country, will not have the impact most of us feared a few months ago.

Unfortunately efforts to prevent the young, the elderly and minorities from exercising their franchise won't end here.

Not only will states like Texas will appeal the rulings, but there's more...

A new report by Demos, warns of efforts interference and intimidation at polls throughout the country by watchdog groups who will try to do on election day, what seems to be failing because of successful court challenges.

The report called 'Bullies at the Ballot Box' warns...

"As we approach the 2012 elections, every indication is that we will see an unprecedented use of voter challenges. Organizers of True the Vote claim their goal is to train one million poll watchers to challenge and confront other Americans as they go to the polls in November. They say they want to make the experience of voting “like driving and seeing the police following you.”1 There is a real danger that voters will face overzealous volunteers who take the law into their own hands to target voters they deem suspect. But there is no place for bullies at the ballot box."

"Even in states with clear legal boundaries for challengers and poll watchers, too often these boundaries are crossed. Laws intended to ensure voting integrity are instead used to make it harder for eligible citizens to vote – particularly those in communities of color. Moreover, the laws of many states states fall short when it comes to preventing improper voter caging and challenges. This should concern anyone who wants a fair election with a legitimate result that reflects the choices of all eligible Americans."

"Clear rules that protect voters from improper removal from the rolls by voter caging and challenging, as well as from intimidating behavior at the polls, can help prevent interference with voter rights. This report describes the threat posed by potential voter challenges in the 2012 elections, and assesses the extent to which ten key states — Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia — are prepared to protect the rights of eligible voters to cast a ballot in the face of such challenges. The ten states examined here include states where races are expected to be competitive, which makes voters in those states particularly vulnerable to challenges. We also survey states where a history of aggressive voter challenge programs in recent elections threatened to intimidate voters or interfere with their access to the ballot."

The best way to be prepared is to arm yourself with knowledge of your rights not only to vote, but your rights at the polls as well. 'Bullies at the Ballot Box' provides such information. For instance, in the case of Texas voters...

"Texas law does not allow a person to challenge a person’s registration or ability to vote at a polling place on Election Day."

"In Texas, poll watchers can be appointed to observe the conduct of election.To be eligible
to serve as a watcher, a person must be a qualified voter of the county and political subdivision in
which he or she will serve in a statewide election. Candidates, chairs of political parties, or, in the case
of a write-in candidate, a group of registered voters may appoint two watchers for each voting location."

"The appointment must be in writing, and the appointing officials or voters must issue a certificate of
appointment to the appointee and obtain an affidavit stating that the appointee will not have possession of a device capable of recording images or sound or that the appointee will disable or deactivate the device while serving as a watcher. This provision is good. The watcher must deliver the certificate of appointment to the presiding judge at the polling place and must counter-sign it to verify that the watcher is the same person who signed the certificate."

"A watcher is entitled to be near the election officers at the polls, and members of the counting team
when votes are being counted, inspect the returns, and make written notes while on duty.327An election judge at a central counting station must allow watchers to perform the activities described in the Texas Election Code, but the judge also has the authority to limit excessive or disruptive activity."

With groups like Texas based, 'True the Vote' promising to enlist up to 1 million poll watchers across the country, voters must be prepared to protect themselves. Reading 'Bullies at the Ballot Box'  is an important step towards doing that...

Download a copy of the report here...

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