With a little more than a week before Election Day, grassroots campaigns are hoping to maximize voter participation among often disenfranchised communities. Cuéntame has launched a series of public service announcements targeted at some 50,000 new Latino voters in three swing states: Colorado, Nevada and Florida. The PSAs, made in conjunction with 300 partner groups, are airing on major Spanish language television stations like Univision, MundoFox and Azteca America.
But it’s not all good news. Our community journalists write in that schemes to confuse voters are coming to a head. Here are some of this week’s most important voting rights updates:
‘It Feels Like Sabotage’ for Nevada’s Early Voters
Kate Sedinger works with the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada—one of the groups that paired up with Cuéntame to create some of the PSAs we just told you about. Kate writes in that there are already problems with early voting for some people in Nevada:
Saturday was the first day of early voting in Nevada. PLAN had an early voting rally in Sun Valley, which is a community just north of Reno that has a high percentage of low income and Latino residents. Those residents are the reason why we chose that location for our rally. I’ve never waiting in line for more than a couple of minutes to early vote at the university or some of the shopping centers in higher income neighborhoods.
As KOLO 8 reports, however, people waited hours in line—and that some were even asked for identification, which isn’t law in Nevada.
Colorado’s Arapahoe County’s Sticky Situation
Our Colorado-based community journalist, Rosemary Harris Lytle has had a busy week. She heads the Colorado/Montana/Wyoming State Conference of the NAACP, and because Colorado is a battleground state, every vote will definitely count there. You may remember Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who demanded the Department of Homeland Security hand over an immigrant database in order to purge voters, and then gave up on using it. Rosemary writes in that Gessler now faces allegations of state ethics rules violations.
But that’s not all. This election could well be decided by Arapahoe County voters, who are essentially split three ways between Democrat, Republican, and independent voters. Rosemary tells us that The Denver Post is reporting a troubling update in the swing county:
More than 230,000 ballots last week were mailed to Arapahoe County’s voters in envelopes that possibly contained a participation sticker that rubbed up against the ballot and in some cases left a faint, near-linear mark that appeared exactly where voters draw a line to select their candidates.
The story concludes that the voting machines won’t count the marks, but this may not be the last we hear about Arapahoe County.
Maricopa County Strikes Again and Again
You may remember we told you last week that Maricopa County misled Spanish-speaking voters about the day on which to cast their ballots. The county’s election department explained it was an honest mistake, and that it fixed the error. The Phoenix New Times is reporting, however, that the county also produced Spanish language bookmarks with the wrong date as well.
But wait, it’s Maricopa, so of course, there’s more. Some early voters are getting letters stating that their signatures need verification. The letters allow voters four business days to respond from the date on the letter so that the ballot can be validated. One voter, Jason Spence, took to his social media site to explain that although his letter was dated October 22, he didn’t receive it until after work on October 24. Spense claims that none of the phone numbers listed were answered, and none had the voicemail set up. He kept trying and subsequently got through and was able to verify his ballot. Voting Rights Watch called all four phone numbers Thursday morning, and verified his initial experience: no answer, and no voicemail setup. When we called back Thursday evening, one of the phone numbers was answered, but although the letter is also addressed in Spanish, no one at the Election’s Department was able to talk in Spanish, aside from kindly asking to call back “mañana.”
Intimidating Letters Sent to Florida Voters
The Advancement Project tipped us that voters in at least twenty-six Florida counties have been sent fraudulent letters questioning eligible voters’ citizenship. Whoever is behind the intimidation is violation of Florida law, and could be charged with a third-degree felony and fined up to $5,000. Voting rights advocates demanded federal investigation into the matter, and the Tampa Bay Times reports that the FBI is looking into the letters.
Voter ID: A Threat to Tribal Sovereignty
Hillary Abe, our Community Journalist who’s keeping an eye on Native American voter disenfranchisement, writes in that The National Congress of American Indians has released a new report that outlines how voter ID laws disproportionately affect Native voters and threatens tribal sovereignty. Indian Country Today explains:
The new report, “Voter ID laws & the Native Vote: States of Concern,” says that state voter ID requirements create three problems. First, it strips American Indians of their rights when states refuse to accept tribal IDs. Second, it costs money, travel and time for American Indians to get a state ID. And these laws risk disenfranchising voters by rejecting provisional ballots. Three states—Alaska, Florida and Minnesota—either have rules or proposed measures that do not allow the use of tribal IDs for voting.
Minnesota’s voter ID ballot measure would require a physical address with which to vote in the future. Natives who live in rural areas use PO Boxes instead of physical addresses, because some homes are in areas that are so remote, there are no street names or addresses.
Don’t think it’s all that hard to get an ID? Then watch Hillary’s video, which might help you reconsider.
Minnesota County Commissioner Candidate Stands Corrected
Community Journalist Lolla Mohammed Nur is based in Minnesota, where voters will decide whether to amend their state’s Constitution to make state-issued identification a requirement for voting. Lolla writes in that a local candidate was more than confused, and made a wildly incorrect claim about registered voters:
The Twin Cities Daily Planet recently published a column correcting a claim made by Sue Jeffers, a candidate for Ramsey County Commissioner and a voter ID proponent. Jeffers allegedly claimed there are more ballots than registered voters in the Twin Cities during a local radio interview, a claim which Mary Turck, editor of the Twin Cities Daily Planet, refuted. Turck interviewed a Hennepin County Elections Manager, who said it is impossible for there to be more ballots than registered voters, because Minnesota state law has procedures that account for every person who votes and every ballot cast.
Pennsylvania Still Misinforming its Voters
Our Philly-based Community journalist James Cersonky writes in that Pennsylvania has been slow to catch up with the ruling that affirms that voters won’t need an ID to vote on Election Day:
Though Pennsylvanians won’t need photo IDs this election cycle, voters are still receiving twisted or flatly incorrect information about ID requirements. A petition backed by the Advancement Project, Philadelphia’s Public Interest Law Center, and the state ACLU states that thousands of seniors received a mailing from the state’s Department of Aging that included a card saying, “Voters are required to show photo ID on Election Day.” The petition also notes that state Department of Transportation centers, which administer voting-only IDs, still had up outdated posters telling people that they needed ID as recently as October 11. Meanwhile, the state has barely changed the “Show It” ads that it was running before the voter ID law was put on hold.
On Wednesday, Judge Robert Simpson asked the state to respond to the petition, filed on October 19, by October 30. In response, the petitioners have filed a follow-up motion for the state to move faster so it has enough time before the November 6 election to mail corrective notices and resolve other misleading information—or, if the petitioners’ case is rejected, to give enough time for an appeal.
All-Time Low Turnout Expected for Military Voters
Military voters’ absentee ballot requests have dropped to an all time low—especially in the key swing states of Ohio and Virginia. Although Congress moved to increase participation for those stationed overseas, the Department of Defense has resisted the move. No military voter assistance office has been installed, leaving thousands of overseas troops disenfranchised in this election.
Check out the Voting Rights Watch 2012 blog for frequent updates on the voting rights battle leading up to the election