With a little more than two weeks left until Election Day, get out the vote campaigns, lawsuits, arrests and even Supreme Court decisions are helping determine what voter participation may look like in 2012. Here are some of these week’s voting rights updates, including those from our amazing team of community journalists:
GOP Contractor Arrested Over Dumping Virginia Registration Forms
Hermelinda Cortez is our community journalist based in Virginia, where an arrest has been made in a crucial case over registration forms being dumped for trash:
While most Virginia voters expected countless smear ads and overflowing mailboxes full of candidate fliers, few expected that their voter registration forms might not ever make it to the registrar’s office by October 15. This past week has been ripe with countless reports of voter suppression in the Old Dominion including phone banking targeting elder voters who are primarily Latino and African-American to let them know they could “vote on the phone.” Even more disturbing, a contracted employee of the Republican Party of Virginia, Colin Small, was arrested in Harrisonburg, Virginia, for dumping a bag of completed voter registration cards in the dump behind a local business. Hours later the Justice Department announced they were placing US Attorney Sharon Burnham in the area to police voter fraud, but what will become of the trash bag full of registrations remains unclear, and more Virginia voters have to wonder if they’ll show up to the polls only to be turned away.
Montana Tribes Demand Early Voting on Reservations
Members from the Northern Cheyenne, Crow, Gros Ventre and Assiniboine tribes and nations are suing Montana because the state won’t provide early voting on those reservations. Although Montana—one of the states with the highest percentages of Natives—remains crucial for the Senate election, the lead defendant is Democrat Linda McCulloch. The presiding judge is Richard Cebull, who sent out a disparaging, racist e-mail Colorlines.com wrote about in March. Indian Country Today reports that Rosebud County’s election officer, Geraldine Custer insists the choice to not allow early voting on the reservations is “not about race.” And in case you were wondering—yes, she’s related to Colonel George Custer of the Battle of Little Bighorn infamy.
Spanish Speaking Voters Misled by Maricopa County
Bad news for Spanish speaking voters in Arizona: Maricopa County’s Election Department has printed the wrong election date—only in Spanish—on cards it’s issued to voters. The department says that fewer than fifty people were handed the document before it fixed the error. No word yet whether those fifty people have been contacted in order to ensure they know their official voting materials list a date on which they won’t be able to cast their ballots.