Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"True the Vote" Poll Watchers are Dangerous Vigilantes

Photobucket  Photobucket

cartoon by Garry Trudeau, Doonesbury

Most ordinary people think of election observers as people who come into third world countries to view elections to make sure the process is fair to all - like Jimmy Carter's UN group. In this country, the history of "Poll Watching" is much more dark, and was originally allowed by states that wanted to suppress the African American vote during the Jim Crow years after Reconstruction.

This year and true to form, the Republican Party wants to use Poll Watchers to intimidate voters in states like Ohio, where Secretary of State Husted is helping the cause by cutting out early voting on weeknights and weekends, prohibiting many minority voters from participating.

Rachel Maddow has done several great reports on "True the Vote," a group formed to allegedly combate "voter fraud" by placing watchers at polling places where they could signal officials if they saw something they thought was a "gotcha" moment.

To give you an idea of what True the Vote is all about, you have to see Their Official Website. It has nothing to do with wanting to make the process fair. It has everything to do with blocking voters from the polls.

Under "Latest News" here is just one article about Pennsylvania Voter ID filled with a sense of palpable disappointment that voters might actually get help in carrying out their right to vote:
The anti-ID crowd continues to have the wind taken out of its sails.
First, Pennsylvania plaintiff Viviette Applewhite gets a photo ID the day after the ACLU’s Voter ID challenge is shot down in court on grounds that the law disenfranchises no one. Now, PennDOT is rolling out its program to provide free voter identification cards to all Pennsylvania voters who can’t otherwise get a state photo ID

Yeah, that's a real bummer. It's too bad the State of Pennsylvania is helping more voters have a chance to vote. That spoils all the fun.

Here's the leader of True the Vote, Catherine Engelbrecht, speaking to her followers. She loves her some Voter ID Laws!!! Basically she is a vigilante bully who believes there is fraud where none actually exists, and she wants to make the process more difficult for everyone. She is an alarmist, and how dare she talk about "civil rights leaders" when some of them would roll in their graves at the thought of an all-white posse looking over an election. Her call for "Election Integrity" is a big dog whistle to the Tea Party because her goal is to favor the white vote over the minority vote.

True the Vote 2012 Summit - Catherine Engelbrecht from True the Vote on Vimeo.

But of course, there is still Ohio, with Tea Party sympathizer Jon Husted, the Secretary of State who is trying his best to do the one-man election body-block. Last week I posted this impassioned speech by State Senator Nina Turner on The Ed Show, expressing the outrage many feel towards Husted as he tries to rig the system against elderly and minority voters.

And Husted has also been busy threatening to fire two Democrats who stood up to him over the new voting schedule.

In a 15-page decision filed Aug. 27, Jonathan Allison concluded that Husted has the authority to remove Dennis Lieberman and Tom Ritchie Sr. from their posts.
“Furthermore, I believe the facts warrant removal and recommend that the secretary take such action,” Allison wrote.“It’s not justice when you already know the outcome of being put on trial,” he said. “A hearing examiner appointed by SOS Husted has agreed with his boss. This is not news.”
Husted spokesman Matt McClellan said the state’s chief elections official will make a decision Aug. 28 on whether to remove the two board members.

Lieberman and Ritchie were called to Columbus a week ago for a hearing in Husted’s office after they backed a motion to open Montgomery County’s early polls on weekends in the weeks before the Nov. 6 election, just days after Husted issued a directive ordering boards to adopt uniform weekday in-person early voting hours, with no Saturdays or Sundays.

. . . “We do not want to return to the long lines, the hours upon hours of waiting that took place in 2004 when J. Kenneth Blackwell was in Secretary Husted’s job,” Lieberman said. “Secretary Husted needs to follow Jennifer Brunner’s model in 2008 that led to a historic voter turnout and abandon Blackwell’s 2004 model that was a disaster and made Ohio a poster child for voter suppression.”

It turns out we have proof that Husted is all in cahoots with True the Vote - he was listed as a "featured speaker" for their Ohio State Summit Meeting, but after Rachel Maddow announced that on her show, he withdrew, to be replaced by Ohio State Senator Bill Seitz.

As Maddow reported, when True the Vote started in Harris County, Texas, the mainly white watchers showed up in African American precincts and intimidated registered voters. The group understood that they were intimidating people - but they seem to think that's okay. Hello Jim Crow!

Talking Points Memo, 2010
Harris County, the biggest county in the state, is where a Tea Party group called the King Street Patriots launched an anti-voter fraud initiative called “True the Vote,” which recruited poll watchers and amped up fears over groups like the community organizing group ACORN.

Chad Dunn, a lawyer who is representing the Texas Democratic Party, told TPMMuckraker a number of witnesses have been interviewed by Civil Rights Division lawyers already. “We’ve gotten a number of reports — quite a few out of the Houston area — that poll watchers, King Street Patriot training poll watchers, are following a voter after they’ve checked them out and stand right behind them,” Dunn said. There’s at least a dozen reports that they could confirm with witnesses, he said. “Interestingly, it’s all in the polling places in Hispanic and African-American areas,” he added.

Terry O’Rourke, the first assistant in the Harris County Attorney’s office, told TPMMuckraker that there have been allegations of poll watchers talking to voters, which they are not allowed to do, as well as hovering over voters as they are waiting to vote. He said the complaints came from Kashmere Gardens, Moody Park, Sunnyside and other predominantly minority neighborhoods of the county.

The action group Colorlines posted an in-depth story on True the Vote:
Catherine Engelbrecht is the founder of both the King Street Patriots and True the Vote, in that order, and only months apart. Name and IRS status appear to be all that differentiates the two groups. The former, a 501c4, is a Tea Party group that lobbies for conservative issues, chiefly election reform; the latter is a 501c3 that takes a hands-on approach to making sure election reform is implemented—Dr. Jekyl and Dr. Jekyler.

The 2008 ACORN “scandal,” where ACORN was found with thousands of falsified voter registration forms, is partially what inspired Engelbrecht to form the King Street Patriots. Even though no fraudulent votes were cast, Engelbrecht’s King Street Patriots lionized the ACORN tale and used it as a mobilizing tool to recruit hundreds of volunteers for 2009 Election Day poll watching, mostly in black and Latino districts. . . .
. . . Only a handful of fraud cases were tried after the election, and none led to full convictions. Still, the King Street Patriots spun off as “True the Vote” and came out again for the 2010 elections—bulkier with more recruits, again at black and Latino polling places. A local Houston newscast noticed the bulge in poll observers and reported, “As the number of poll watchers have increased, so have the number of complaints.” A video True the Vote circulated at the time contained doctored photos of black people falsely pictured as advocating for voter fraud.

True the Vote’s lawyer Kelly Shackelford, of the Christian rightwing organization Liberty Institute, explained away the intimidation complaints this way: “Poll watchers show up for the first time and [the poll watchers are] a different color than them and they just don’t like that.”

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  1. I am sick to death of these Progressive talking points. The sad truth, voter fraud is growing OUT OF CONTROL. There can BE only ONE rationale for NOT wanting to secure honest voting registrations,because the Left has made voter fraud into an art form.Ask Hilliary who, good soldier thet she was,saw massive fraud during her primaries. Many years ago,there certainly was intimidation used to prevent minorities from voting ... ancient history and NO excuse for the present day behavior. Ask yourself this, why else would anybody fight against removing dead people and illegal aliens from voter rolls? The notion that poor people have no access to photo ID, pure folly for they can not participate in any assistance without proper ID.
    No, the ONLY clear cut case of intimidation at the polls in 2008 is via the image of New Black Panthers in combat fatigues swinging billy clubs...and Holder's DOJ decides THAT is acceptable behavior.

  2. This chick needs to get laid!

    Where is her husband, oh yeah . . .