Saturday, September 15, 2012

This Week's Voting Rights Victories: Colorado and Florida Halt Their Voter Purges

As we approach Election Day, the push back against voter suppression efforts is paying off. Innovative social media based registration schemes, coupled with legal victories may encourage more voters to participate in November. And while voting rights advocates remain “cautiously optimistic” about Pennsylvania’s voter ID Supreme Court heading, other states already have reason to celebrate legal victories. Here are some of this week’s voting rights updates—including some major triumphs.

New Tool Targets New Mexico’s Latino and Youth Voters
Our community journalist in New Mexico, Goerge Lujan, writes that his organization, the SouthWest Organizing Project, has partnered with other groups to reach out to potential new voters:
Groups in New Mexico are launching Nuestra Elección, a campaign to reach the more than 200,000 eligible, non-registered citizens in the state, to register to vote in the upcoming election. SouthWest Organizing Project, Progress Now New Mexico, New Mexico Vote Matters, and are presenting an online registration tool that targets Latinos and youth, two groups that can make a huge difference in our elections when they get involved.

Victory for Former Felons in Virginia
The Advancement Project has been working to restore voting rights to former felons in Virginia who have already served their time. This week, Secretary of Commonwealth Janet Kelly agreed to make sure that all former felon applications received by August 15 will be processed by the voter registration deadline of October 15. This will likely result in the restoration of voting rights for hundreds of people by Election Day.

Colorado Quits its Dubious Voter Purge
Colorado’s Secretary of State Scott Gessler has turned back on his plan to purge voters, just weeks before Election Day. The Department of Homeland security maintains what’s called the SAVE database, used to identify non-citizens’ eligibility for public assistance. As we reported in July, the department agreed to allow Florida and several other states access to the database to potentially purge voter rolls. Gessler, who previously issued 4,000 letters challenging voters’ citizenship, says that his office is running out of time, and will allow county clerks to challenge voters’ eligibility instead.

Florida Halts its Voter Purge, Too
The Advancement Project is also celebrating another victory in Florida this week. In exchange for plaintiffs dropping their discrimination claim in Arcia v. Detzner, Florida will restore its voter list to include anyone whom the Supervisor of Election cannon confirm as non-citizens. Florida Secretary of State Kent Detzner had sent letters in April, erroneously informing voters they were not eligible—Florida has now agreed to send letters confirming these voters’ right to cast a ballot. It appears that Florida’s voter purge saga may finally be coming to an end, and thousands of eligible voters will be able to participate in November.

New Video Aims to Mobilize Rural Native Youth to Register to Vote

Sixty-six percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives who were eligible to register to vote in 2008 did so. The other 34 percent—more than 1 million people—did not. There’s a concerted effort to register Native voters in 2012, and make an big impact on Election Day.
Meet Voting Rights Watch’s newest community journalist, Hillary Abe. He works for College Horizons, a national nonprofit focused on facilitating the higher education of Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian youth. Hillary is also an accomplished videographer and aspiring filmmaker. He recently shot and directed a short video in Northern Arizona geared towards mobilizing rural Native youth to vote. Check out and share his video, and expect to see more from him about the Native vote this election season.
—Aura Bogado

Why You Should Be Very Afraid of This Year’s Ballot Bullies

The scrutinization of True the Vote, and their voter-stalking Tea Party co-signers across the nation, is growing. Today, Common Cause and Demos released a report called “Bullies at the Ballot Box” that raises awareness about groups determined to challenge voters at the polls, even at risk of intimidating voters. Says the report:
As we approach the 2012 elections, every indication is that we will see an unprecedented use of voter challenges. Organizers of True the Vote claim their goal is to train one million poll watchers to challenge and confront other Americans as they go to the polls in November. They say they want to make the experience of voting “like driving and seeing the police following you.” There is a real danger that voters will face overzealous volunteers who take the law into their own hands to target voters they deem suspect. But there is no place for bullies at the ballot box.
The Nation’s readers may recognize that “police following you” line from our Voting Rights Watch 2012 reporting on the group True the Vote, which you can read about here.
The “Ballot Bullies” report examines laws around challenging voters in ten states, looking at how well or bad voters are protected from pre–Election Day voter registration challenges that can lead to reckless purging, voter caging, voters’ being challenged at the polls on Election Day and obnoxious behavior by poll watchers. According to the report, Florida and Pennsylvania have some of the worst voter protection laws, yet these are pivotal states that hold tremendous sway in the upcoming presidential elections. True the Vote has a substantial presence in Florida and has pressed hard for Governor Rick Scott’s reckless purging program there.
People of color in particular should be most wary of these groups:
With comments about the “illegal alien vote” and “the food stamp army,” King Street Patriots and their allies have created a climate of fear that voter fraud is rampant in minority precincts and used that fear to justify their discriminatory targeting of poll-watching efforts—again, without evidence to support the targeting.
The King Street Patriots is the Houston-based Tea Party group that gave birth to True the Vote and its spawn of poll harassers around the United States.
This report follows another released by the Brennan Center for Justice last week, “Voter Challengers,” which delves deep into the racial history and politics behind poll watching in America.
—Brentin Mock

Voting while black - the GOP's last stand at voter suppression

Chicago : IL : USA | Sep 15, 2012 at 8:34 AM PDT
The right to vote.  (Photo:  Flip Schulte CORBIS)

Voting is a right not a privilege.  (Photo:  Flip Schulte CORBIS)     

“Bullies at the Ballot Box” is the title of a new report by Demos and Common Cause which traces the rise of a new right-wing, so-called “conservative” group bound and determined to keep as many Democrats from the polls as humanly possible this November. According to the report, “True the Vote,” based in Texas, has already trained and is prepared to deploy more than a million like-minded, fellow traveling “conservatives” to challenge, confront and/or intimidate “suspect” would-be voters as they approach the polls.
This group, True The Vote, is courageously serving as the Republicans’ last line of “defense,” the final bulwark, against supposed Democratic Party’s obvious intention to steal this election.
Demos, out of New York City, and Common Cause, based in Washington, D.C., are public interest groups which are generally trying to counter right-wing voter suppression laws and restriction of early voting days and hours.



From: roberthuffstutter 

“As we approach the 2012 elections, every indication is that we will see an unprecedented use of voter challenges,” the report stated. There is “a real danger that voters will face overzealous volunteers who take the law into their own hands to target voters they deem suspect. But there is no place for bullies at the ballot box.” Keep in mind that True The Vote has no "official" or legal standing as an agent of any state, county or city. These are just a group of "concerned citizens" who've taken it upon themselves to insure that their guys win this election -- by any means necessary. How do you spell "vigilante"? It's V-I-G-I-L-A-N-T-E.

The report quoted Bill Ouren, True The Vote’s national elections coordinator, as saying that they (his volunteers) should make certain voters feel “like driving and seeing the police following you.” The group has a traceable record of harassing and intimidating voters, most recently in Wisconsin’s gubernatorial recall election.  

No matter who you are, it is still ONE VOTE per person.

No matter who you are, it is still ONE VOTE per person. 

From: roberthuffstutter  

In its defense, however, True The Vote relies on the same old bromides that “voter fraud” advocates have used consistently since the state of Indiana (sadly, my home state) enacted the country’s first voter suppression law in 2005. True The Vote’s intentions are as pure as the driven snow:

“Unfortunately, Americans have lost faith in the integrity of our nation's election results and fraud and law-breaking has become all too common in our electoral system,” says the group’s mission statement. “We are helping stop corruption where it can start -- at the polls.”

The Demos/Common Cause report, however, counters that, “We’re concerned about this well-organized, well-funded effort to suppress the vote by challenging voters in the run-up to the elections and on Election Day, and fostering a climate of intimidation,” said Stephen Spaulding, a co-author of the study.

One of the techniques used to deny a voter, according to Spaulding, who is also counsel for Common Cause, is comparing voter data to information found on Facebook. If your Facebook entries do not match exactly what is on your voter's registration card or the state's records, well....sorry, you lose.


From: roberthuffstutter 

“We’re concerned that these techniques are being targeted at voters of color, students and the poor specifically,” he said. Those voters, of course, are more likely than not, Democratic Party voters.

Tanya Clay House is the public policy director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "This is definitely continuing the narrative of suppressing the vote,” she says. And she also directly addressed the claims of conservatives and Republicans that voter fraud is rampant and must be stamped out:
“The claim that they’re trying to protect against voter fraud has been proven false,” she said. “These efforts are not going to protect the ballot…. They’re going to protect a particular candidate’s ability to stay (or be placed) in office.”
As the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is now set to hear (and settle) a voter ID case for that state, it’s clear that this issue will not be settled until after the election itself. That court, by the way, is evenly divided between three Republicans and three Democrats. Should they split evenly, the Pennsylvania law will be in effect on election day, keeping as many as 1 million people from voting.
My guess is that no matter who wins the presidency on Nov. 6, we will never again hear of True The Vote or even a peep out of so-called “conservatives” about “voter fraud.” A Romney-Ryan win will satisfy them, and allow them to get down to their real agenda of dismantling and destroying America’s social safety net, ending abortion, relegating women back into the kitchen and bedroom, ending gay rights, shoveling more and more money into the coffers of the already super-wealthy, attacking Iran, Syria or both, etc.
An Obama win will finally shut them up -- and down -- once and for all.

Voter Suppression: Brought To You By Conservative Billionaire Oil Heir

Since launching its 2012 Election Integrity Project in February, the right-wing Judicial Watch has been a leading player in the push for more voting restrictions. The group — best known for its Clinton-era lawsuits — has demanded more voting roll purges like Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) failed efforts in Florida. But a ThinkProgress examination of tax filings reveals that the group has received millions of dollars from foundations tied to conservative billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife since the start of 2001.
Though other rich right-wing funders like Sheldon Adelson and Foster Friess have gotten more attention in this campaign, Scaife has bankrolled the conservative movement for decades. A 1998 Washington Post story dubbed him the “funding father of the right.” Since the 1960s, the Pittsburgh media baron and heir to the Mellon banking and oil fortune has distributed hundreds of millions of dollars to conservative causes including the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, and the Hoover Institution. He controls the Scaife Foundations — a group of conservative and philanthropic tax-exempt organizations. Between 2001 and 2010, the Allegheny Foundation, Carthage Foundation, and Sarah Scaife Foundation — all part of the Sciafe empire — gave at least $5.8 million to Judicial Watch.
The Carthage and Sarah Scaife Foundations focus on “public policy programs that address major domestic and international issues.” Each has given millions to Judicial Watch. The Allegheny Foundation claims it “concentrates its giving in the Western Pennsylvania area and confines most of its grant awards to programs for historic preservation, civic development and education,” yet it too gave $67,000 annually to Judicial Watch in 2009 and 2010.
Judicial Watch’s Election Integrity Project has pushed states to purge what it believes to be ineligible voters from the voter rolls, criticized voter registration efforts, and fought for voter ID laws. While the group claims “election fraud was a significant concern during the 2008 and 2010 election season,” studies show that you a more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit voter fraud. And while these tactics to combat the alleged problem are likely to suppress voter turnout and registration, especially among minority groups, they would do little to stop actual voter fraud even if someone did want to commit it

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