Voter Suppression And You: A Guide For Unreal AmericansThere's been a lot written lately — including here — about how disenfranchising Americans is part of the GOP electoral strategy. In times like these, when the polls, the economy and possibly God Herself seem to portend against a McCain victory in two weeks, it's time to bring out the big, bad voter disenfranchisement guns. And, like the Brooks Brothers protest in Florida, they still don't care if you know about it. Both Rolling Stone and Mother Jones have extensive articles out in their new issues about what the GOP is doing (or has done) to make sure that if you're not voting for them, you won't be voting at all. Those stories — plus a look at who's being disenfranchised this week and what you can do when they inevitably come for your vote — after the jump.Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Greg Palast start off their Rolling Stone piece with the election supervisor of Las Vegas, NM who — like 1 in 9 Democrats — was thrown off the election rolls in his and was forced to cast a provisional ballot, half of which were later discarded. That's right, the state is throwing its own elected officials off the rolls due in no small part to the completely unironically-named Help America Vote Act of 2002. An example of its usefulness?
Since 2003, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, at least 2.7 million new voters have had their applications to register rejected. In addition, at least 1.6 million votes were never counted in the 2004 election — and the commission's own data suggests that the real number could be twice as high.
Don't you feel helped? If you don't, amusingly, you can blame convicted bribe-taking Republican (former) Congressman Bob Ney and Republican superlobbyist Jack Abramoff; the former co-authored the bill and the latter "worked to cram the bill with favors for his clients," for a law that "Republican election officials at the local and state level have used... to give GOP candidates an edge on Election Day by creating new barriers to registration, purging legitimate names from voter rolls, challenging voters at the polls and discarding valid ballots." The law which was sold to the American public as a way to help prevent another Florida actually forces states to implement many of Florida's voter match purge programs and the statewide voter registry that enabled Katherine Harris to conduct said purges. Kennedy and Palast identify 6 key things to GOP is doing to keep voters away from the polls: discouraging or disallowing voter registration drives (remember ACORN?); creating electronic matching systems and rules that typos disqualify potential new voters; purging voter rolls of veteran voters; requiring voters to show government-issued identification; requiring states to use touch screen computers without requiring paper trails; and challenging voters and provisional ballots to get them thrown out. Oh, it's going to be a fun election day. Sasha Abramsky at Mother Jones takes a look at those issues, as well as some GOP tactics that can't claim the veneer of HAVA-sponsored legitimacy. In addition to the tactics outlined by the Kennedy and Palast, Abramsky notes that disallowing those with a felony record to vote disenfranchises as many as 1 out of 8 African-American men who have, technically, paid their debts to society. In addition, in 2004, at least one sheriff in North Carolina tried to initiate immigration violation investigations of voters in his county with Hispanic-sounding names, while Kentucky Republicans sent armed, white poll monitors to minority polling stations to prevent violence by standing around with guns visible. In 2004 and 2006, robocalls and flyers went out to people trying to convince them to vote in different polling places or on different days in order to reduce Democratic turnout and experts expect that similar misinformation will be posted online through spoof sites or by hacking official sites (an alarm also sounded by Wired). Sound unlikely? Talk to Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, who in addition to defending in court her decision to allow new registrants to take advantage of their early voting rights, has already had one hacker attempt to deface her website. If all that doesn't scare you enough, Katrina Vanden Heuvel at The Nation checks in on some other GOP tactics, like the last-minute challenge of 6,000 voter registrations in Montana, the Virginia Board of Election's misleading residency questionnaire for students and local boards throwing out student registrations and telling students they'll risk their scholarship by being honest about where they spent 8 months of the year (which, notably, requires any working students to pay taxes as full time Virginia residents regardless of their "official address"), and the 9,000 remaining voter registrations that Florida's system of perfect-matching have rejected. Vanden Heuvel's one bright spot is the aforementioned Brunner's efforts in Ohio to fend off the many, many GOP challenges to new voters and early voting. Of course, the GOP is continuing to fight the case despite the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling against them, and is calling on its elected prosecutors in various counties to investigate every new voter who voted to determine whether they committed fraud or might yet do so. And if that's still not enough for you, reports are rolling in from West Virginia and Ohio that the worst boogeyman of all has reared its ugly head — many voters are watching their electronic voting machines switch their votes to all Republicans. So what can you do? Here's a list of things to try to make sure your vote is counted:
  1. Vote early, preferably in person. Most of the people who will be out and about to mount challenges will be doing this on Election Day proper. This also gives you a chance to makes sure you are registered properly and challenge back if anything is wrong.
  2. Insist on a paper trail. Many states have this as an option now, but in some it's only upon request. Request.
  3. Don't wear anything that signals your voting preferences. Some states have little-used laws that prevent "electioneering" in polling places, and there have been signals that the folks there to challenge some voters will be challenging people wearing Obama stuff. Leave it at home or in your car.
  4. Bring picture ID. Your state may or may not require that you have it, but it is one good way to verify your identity and residency if challenged. If your address isn't up-to-date, many states can issue free temporary change-of-address cards, or just do the paperwork to get it officially changed today.
  5. Stand your ground, politely. The point of a challenge is to keep you from voting, and they can win in two ways. The easiest thing to do — which is why they're doing it — is to embarrass you into leaving. Fuck that. If you can't win the challenge at the moment, demand a provisional ballot and a written explanation of what you need to do to make sure that it is counted. Speak only to official poll workers, and ignore the partisan hack if s/he tries to "help."
  6. Ask for help. If there is a problem with your electronic machine, do not press done and leave the polling place. Insist that a poll worker help you until your vote is cast correctly. If it cannot be, tell them they need to request assistance from the appropriate authorities and refuse to leave or cast your ballot until the problem is corrected. If you leave, you've probably already lost. Do not forget to have a paper trail.
  7. Ask for more help The Brennan Center For Justice, among other groups, will have lawyers on hand to take reports of problems and offer legal assistance by called 1-866-OUR-VOTE. Use it if you have to. Hopefully you won't have to.
Block The Vote [Rolling Stone] Beyond Diebold: 10 Ways To Steal This Election [Mother Jones] Report: Operatives Will Use Internet To Suppress the Vote [Wired] Ohio Secretary Of State Site Hacked [Wired] Voter Registration Flashpoints [The Nation] In Ohio, Charges Fly In Fight Over Absentee Ballots [Washington Post] Voting Machines Switch Votes; Officials Blame Voters — Update [Wired] Earlier: There's Nothing Some Fear More Than Citizens Exercising Their Constitutional Rights The McCain Campaign, Looking For A Scapegoat In ACORN