Whatever shenanigans True the Vote and their tea party cells had or has in plans for November will run up against a brick wall in the form of civil rights lawyers and government officials who are striking back against threats to corrupt voting rights. News reports from across the nation this week are showing a formidable resistance to True the Vote’s operations, which include recruiting “a million” poll watchers and poll workers, and making voters feel “like driving and seeing the police follow you.”
It’s clear at this point that they won’t come anywhere close to a million, but whoever they recruit will be met at the polls by a much larger squad, an election protection team consisting of thousands of lawyers and poll watchers trained to answer any questions voters may have if approached or challenged by tea partiers who try to kirk out at the polls.
A few examples:
A group of Ohio state senators sent a letter to Sec. of State Jon Husted warning him of plans from True the Vote and their state affiliate Ohio Voter Integrity Project to challenge voters illegally. Sec. Husted responded by stating “he will act swiftly to investigate and seek prosecution of any offenders,” of voter intimidation, as reported by the Columbus Dispatch.
The Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights (IREHR) released a report about True the Vote’s infiltration and influence throughout the North Carolina electoral landscape, particularly through their local affiliate North Carolina Voter Integrity Project. While True the Vote says that they don’t target communities of color, the IREHR has mapped out predominantly African American communities where it reports True the Vote’s recruits will be focused (see below). The report prompted Rep. Elijah Cummings to issue yet another demand for True the Vote's procedural documents.
The labor group AFL-CIO held a conference call this morning where it discussed the deployment of its Lawyers Coordinating Committee, part of their My Vote, My Right voter protection program. Lawyers from Florida, Pennsylvania and Nevada described how they have already been fending off challenges and voter suppression efforts from True the Vote and their affiliates, well in advance of Election Day. Florida attorney Alma Gonzalez said their lawyer team is in regular communications with all but one of Florida’s county elections supervisors about True the Vote and have successfully blunted purges demanded by True the Vote’s recruits — the lone standout being Collier County, where purging has commenced. Said Gonzalez, “We have also communicated directly to True the Vote and (their local affiliate) Tampa Vote Fair that we are ready and we are watching them. We will also have poll monitors where we have seen Tampa Vote Fair's efforts undertaken in order to protect those voters in those areas.”
Today the U.S. Department of Justice announced that they will be monitoring early voting in Dallas and Harris County, Texas to make sure Voting Rights Act laws are being followed. Coincidentally, DOJ visited Harris County to monitor voting during congressional elections in 2010 also. And it just so happens that Harris County is the homebase for True the Vote, and the King Street Patriots tea party group they grew from.
Ari Berman reports in this week’s The Nation about the national Election Protection team, known by most voters by their help line 1-866-OUR-VOTE. Berman zoned in on Virginia where True the Vote’s affiliate Virginia Voters Alliance has been drumming up pipe dreams about “a tsunami of voter fraud” while recruiting and training hundreds of tea partiers for Election Day confrontations. But “The Election Protection coalition has been preparing for months to deal with voter suppression laws and vigilante groups,” writes Berman.
It’s probably especially important to have election protection forces in place in Virginia given that one of True the Vote’s most trusted advisors, Hans von Spakovsky, will be running elections there in Fairfax County. And that’s the thing — many people are focused on the damage True the Vote could do outside the polls, as watchers. But few are looking at their inside game, where they have positioned themselves to be selected as poll workers, the actual front line between you and the poll booth, and the eyes and hands handling provisional ballots. Thanks to a lot of great reporting and coverage, though, election protectors are hip to True the Vote’s game.
Join me, The Advancement Project, the Texas Organizing Project, Progress Florida and a host of other state and national voting rights organizations next Thursday for a Twitter Town Hall on voter protection efforts. The hashtag for the event is #yvote, and it will take place October 25 at 3:30 p.m. EST. Sign on to find out more about it here.
-- Brentin Mock