Living the Past in the Present: Voter Intimidation Tactics Still Thrive in America

by: project vote

Sun Feb 07, 2010 at 10:30

(This ties in directly to my diary last weekend about voter suppression as justified by the use of bogus "voter fraud" narratives.  Tom Tancredo's recent remarks are another reminder of just how crucial this is. - promoted by Paul Rosenberg)

Cross-posted to Project Vote's blog, Voting Matters

In observance of Black History month, it is fitting to revisit America's less than stellar record in the ongoing effort to move toward true equality. The key to equality was recognized more than 100 years ago when newly freed African Americans were given the basic rights of citizenship and voting under the 14th and 15th Amendments, though it was not until the 1960s that equality for African Americans and other disadvantaged groups was finally acknowledged on both a legal and cultural scale with the passage of the cornerstone Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. Yet citizens of color continue to be underrepresented in U.S. electorate, and as recently as 2008 have been the target of thinly veiled voter intimidation and suppression efforts.

project vote :: Living the Past in the Present: Voter Intimidation Tactics Still Thrive in America
Several federal voting laws, including the VRA and the National Voter Registration Act, were designed to protect citizens from being intimidated, threatened, or coerced from voting: tactics that, throughout history, have often been aimed at low-income and minority groups. According to a newly released Project Vote legislative brief on voter intimidation and caging, little has changed in terms of voter suppression targets, and tactics that skirt around the law are thriving. Where there were once literacy tests and polls taxes, there are now stealth misinformation tactics and "voter caging"-most commonly by sending non-forwardable mail to targeted populations in order to compile a list of voters to challenge at the polls on the basis of residency.  

"Challenge laws are currently on the books in many states, although they were rarely utilized until the relatively recent ascendance of pre-election voter caging operations by Republican state and national entities," according to 2007 Project Vote report by Teresa James, Caging Democracy: A 50-Year History of Partisan Challenges to Minority Voters. "The state challenge laws are racially neutral, but they can and have been widely used to disenfranchise minority voters."

Between the 1980s and 1990s, minority voters were specifically targeted by the Republican National Committee in caging and voter intimidation efforts in several states. In 1981, the RNC and the New Jersey Republican Party sent a mass mailing to voters in predominantly African American and Latino neighborhoods, from which a caging list of 45,000 voters were compiled based on returned mail. The RNC attempted to have the listed voters purged before the election. When the request was denied, the RNC announced plans to challenge those voters at the polls instead and used intimidation tactics, including the posting of off-duty law enforcement officials at polls in targeted areas and the placement of posters in heavily African American neighborhoods, warning that violating elections laws is a crime. Subsequently, the Democratic National Committee filed suit in the New   Jersey court, contending that the RNC program harassed and intimidated African American and Latino voters, in violation of the VRA. In a settlement to the suit, the RNC entered into a consent decree, in which it agreed to refrain from discriminatory activities in their "ballot security" efforts.

However, the consent decree was modified in 1986 after a Louisiana case was brought forward, involving a caging operation and an RNC memo that said its caging program "'will eliminate at least 60,000 to 80,000 folks from the rolls...If it's a close race...this could keep the black vote down considerably,'" according to the report. As a result of this case, the consent decree was tightened to require the RNC to obtain approval from the District Court before implementing a ballot security program.

Still, in 1990, the DNC filed suit against the RNC again, alleging it violated the N.J. consent decree by using voter suppression tactics against African American voters in North Carolina. The N.C. Republican Party had mailed misinforming postcards to 125,000-150,000 voters, 97 percent of which were African American. The cards had misinformed recipients for voter eligibility, warning of criminal penalties of voter fraud. While the RNC successfully defended itself against the DNC charges, alleging it was a state operation and therefore did not violate the N.J. consent decree, the Department of Justice stepped in and monitored the elections to ensure voters were not discriminated against.

"Between 2004 and 2006, the Republican National Committee challenged more than 77,000 Americans voters in targeted communities," the new brief states. Threats of caging persisted just before the 2008 presidential election, when the Republican Party in Montana matched the statewide voter database with the USPS National Change of Address database and filed challenges against 6,000 voters in democratic strongholds, "even though Montana voters who have moved may legally vote in one election at their old precinct." Similarly, partisan operatives in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio were allegedly planning to use lists of foreclosure victims to challenge them at the polls. Public backlash, lawsuits, or administrative action prevented such "foreclosure caging."

According to the new brief, "a few states prohibit the abuse of state challenge laws through caging. Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, for example, issued a 2008 directive that pointed out that the practice of granting a challenge based solely on returned mail violates the National Voter Registration Act. Minnesota, Rhode  Island, and California have also passed legislation to prohibit the use of returned mail as grounds for challenging a voter's eligibility. As part of this encouraging trend towards prohibiting partisan voter caging, an anti-caging bill is currently pending in both houses of Congress."

"Voter intimidation, groundless challenges, and partisan caging are tactics that should be relics of another era. Yet they persist to an alarming degree," the brief states.  In 2010, as we reflect on a both ugly and triumphant history, it is imperative for our nation's leaders to set a precedent and truly rid our voting systems of these "unjust anomalies."

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literacy tests of the fifties (0.00 / 0)
play to the other conservative myths - outright lies debunked by this:

They only call it class war when we fight back.

Since there's been some complaint about the legibility of this graph (4.00 / 1)
which I otherwise think is wonderful, I posted a different version as a comment to your graph.

sTiVo's rule: Just because YOU "wouldn't put it past 'em" doesn't prove that THEY did it.

[ Parent ]
Aw crap, it displays tiny. (0.00 / 0)
Just click on ezdidit's graph, and you'll come to my comment, which contains an expandable link to my graph.

Hey ezdidit, how did you embed your graph (as opposed to a link to it) in your quick hit?

sTiVo's rule: Just because YOU "wouldn't put it past 'em" doesn't prove that THEY did it.

[ Parent ]
Pls also consider other changes to the text (0.00 / 0)
How about replacing "post WWII presidential terms" with "Presidents after WWII"? The diffeerent terms are already shown in your graph now, for instance GW Bush 2005-2009. Not necessary to explicitly state this above.

And instead of "Debt/GDP ration change" "Change of US Debt°" and at the lower border of the graph in small print thw explanation "°Debt/GDP Ratio"? And maybe also putting "Higher" and "Lower" on the Y-Axis, so that really everybody understands that the red columns on the right indicate higher debt?

[ Parent ]
Hmm. Gray, not sure I agree (0.00 / 0)
but you may yet convince me of some of these points.  Possibly with different suggested wordings.

"Presidential terms" seems more accurate to me even if "Presidents" is simpler.

And I agree that "Debt/GOP Ratio Change" is kind of wonky, but "Change of US Debt" doesn't quite cut it, either.  

As for Higher/Lower, I don't think it's needed.  A picture is indeed worth 10000 words and that's what this picture shows.    

sTiVo's rule: Just because YOU "wouldn't put it past 'em" doesn't prove that THEY did it.

[ Parent ]
Fuhgedabout "accuracy". Keep it simple, stupid! (0.00 / 0)
Really, the idea was to make this easily understandable for everybody, right? Then get rid of everything that requires some kind of higher education! "Ratio" in the title is a total NoNo. Good enough if its accurately explained in fine print, which the people can ignore. And "term" is only an unncessay distraction, either. Come to think of it, you may altogether strike that line. That this about the pesidential terms is evident from the names and dates at the X-axis.

Really, treat this as if you're really dumb and have to figure out what this means!

[ Parent ]
How about making it even sinmpler (0.00 / 0)
"How the US debt really changed under postwar presidents°"

And in fine print: "°Debt/GDP ratio change"
In fine print because most people don't care about this detail, and it would only confuse them.

[ Parent ]
I came up with a title similar to yours. (0.00 / 0)
The only reason I didn't make the technical explanation tinier was that it just didn't look good rotated 90 degrees.

But all in all, I think you'll agree this is better than the first one.

sTiVo's rule: Just because YOU "wouldn't put it past 'em" doesn't prove that THEY did it.

[ Parent ]
Yeah, that's it! Only the title is now missing. (0.00 / 0)
Uh, I didn't mean to get rid of the title "Fiscal Consevatism? You Got to be joking!", of course. Add this, and it'S a graph that can be understood by almost everyone, a powerful message! Especially to those independents who may think that voting GOP in Novemeber will reduce the deficit...

[ Parent ]
With title now (4.00 / 1)
Here ya go!

sTiVo's rule: Just because YOU "wouldn't put it past 'em" doesn't prove that THEY did it.

[ Parent ]
Hey, take a look now. I have posted a second version. (0.00 / 0)

sTiVo's rule: Just because YOU "wouldn't put it past 'em" doesn't prove that THEY did it.

[ Parent ]
I'm all for calling on "our nation's leaders" (4.00 / 1)
to fix these problems, but I am skeptical that they will. Establishment Democrats are not interested in a large influx of new voters either. I suspect we need to address this issue in a bottom up way.  

The recent diary about the Oregon Bus Project is relevant here.  Democracy is a powerful symbol, and no one in the US wants to be seen as against it. Community organizing is democracy in action - it ought to make renewing our democracy a key goal.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


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