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.
Latino Leaders Turn Place Emphasis on Registration
Felipe Gutierrez, our Community Journalist based in Texas, writes in that national Latino leaders held a conference call this week who shared stories of the progress the US has seen among Latino voters. But registration efforts need to catch up with population increases:
The common response that the National Council of La Raza has received from Latinos is that they have never been approached to register. Voter participation hotline calls have jumped with voters wanting information on how to register. NCLR’s Clarissa Martinez-De-Castor mentioned it’s now time to move into the education face and get out the vote with these new registrants. More than 90,000 new applicants have come in from key states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, North Carolina and Idaho.
Nevada Voting Rights Advocates Concerned about Voter Challenges
Kate Sedinger, our community journalist who works with Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN) , writes in that her organization is getting proactive about pushing back against voter suppression:
Bob Fulkerson, Executive Director of PLAN, and members of the Advancement Project met with Luanne Cutler, the Washoe County Elections Department administrative secretary to discuss the current status of voter challenges and voting accessibility. Luanne identified a major issue as lack of bilingual poll workers for Election Day in the Reno area: of 525 workers, twenty-nine, or 5.5 percent, are bilingual. Reno’s Latino population hovers right around 25 percent. Numbers for early voting poll workers are even lower. Las Vegas reports having sufficient Spanish-speaking poll workers but insufficient Tagalog speaking workers, which is a concern considering most of Nevada’s 124,000 Filipinos live in the Las Vegas area, and many speak Tagalog as their primary language.
Republicans in Clark County sent a list of 284 voter names to the Clark County Registrar of Voters claiming the individuals listed were ineligible to vote. Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller has issued strict guidelines for anybody wishing to challenge a voter’s eligibility:
The challenge must submit a written affirmation and fill out all information requested and sign under penalty of perjury.
The challenger must be from the same precinct, which must be confirmed and initialed by the poll worker.
The challenger must mark the type of challenge.
The challenger must provide a written statement of facts setting forth the basis for the challenge.
The basis of challenge and statement of facts must be made upon personal knowledge.
If the challenger fails to meet any of these criteria, the challenge shall be rejected and no further challenge shall be taken with respect to the challenge.
Per these requirements, the Clark County Republican’s list of supposedly ineligible voters will be discarded.
The Washoe County Registrar of Voters ran out of registration forms prior to the end of voter registration. Many of Washow County’s forms ended up in Clark County.
True the Vote Video Full of Inaccuracies
George Lujan, our Community Journalist in New Mexico, writes in that Progress Now New Mexico has outlined a series of errors in a True the Vote  training video. The video links were sent out to subscribers despite the fact that New Mexico’s Attorney General is investigating voter suppression in his state. Among the serious errors sited, the True the Vote video instructs poll challengers to “compare the photo on a voter’s ID to the voter,” despite the fact no ID is needed to cast a ballot in New Mexico. You can read about these and other disturbing video highlights here .
‘Bee’ a Winner Video Targets Desis to Vote
LA based Community Journalist Maegan E. Ortiz writes in about a hilarious new video produced by 18 Million Rising, aimed to persuade Desis to vote:
One way to empower and engage people of color immigrant communities and their children is to turn them into a constituency. South Asian civic participation has not reached its full potential in terms of it feeling essential for their own interests and the interest of politicians. There’s no better way to get people into the electoral process than by making it fun.
And fun it is. Click here to watch the video .
Intimidating Billboards Still Plaguing Ohio
As we write last week, intimidating billboards are popping up in Ohio and Wisconsin. Ohio-based community journalist Rev. Nelson Pierce Jr. participated in a press conference to denounce the billboards. Nelson writes:
The billboard was place on a semi-major intersection as you cross the line from a historically lower to working class mostly white neighborhood within a isolated city (Norwood) into a working to middle-class black neighborhood (Bond Hill).
He added he’s “appalled at the blatant attempt to intimidate voters, and that so many people and companies would be complicit in the process.”
Also in Ohio this week, the Supreme Court declined to hear the Ohio early voting case —a win for voting rights groups.