Saturday, October 23, 2004

Voter Suppression, Anyone?

Ohio would be a good place to go if you'd like to try your hand in some. Here's an example of how it's done:

The caller interrupting a North Side couple's dinner earlier this week said he was from the Franklin County Board of Elections.
He told the elderly woman that her voting site had changed and that on Nov. 2 she and her husband should cast their ballots at a South Side precinct. The caller even left the phone number of the board.
Her husband, who didn't want their names published out of fear of retribution, called the board, sat through a long menu of automated options and finally spoke with an employee.
"They said there was no way in the world they would make such a call," he said. "I think it's hankypanky and somebody in the election is trying to kill some votes."

The Election Officer's office has received a dozen similar calls from voters who were given similar instructions. The important question is how many voters just wrote down the "new" polling site instructions and never called anybody.

A slightly different threat is presented by the election monitors. Election monitoring is perfectly legal, but it is easy to see how a large number of stern observers questioning a voter about his or her right to be at the voting place could work to suppress votes. Who wants to walk through a gauntlet just to press a button or pull a lever?

The Republicans are employing election monitors in large numbers in Ohio:

Republican Party officials in Ohio took formal steps yesterday to place thousands of recruits inside polling places on Election Day to challenge the qualifications of voters they suspect are not eligible to cast ballots.
Party officials say their effort is necessary to guard against fraud arising from aggressive moves by the Democrats to register tens of thousands of new voters in Ohio, seen as one of the most pivotal battlegrounds in the Nov. 2 elections.
Election officials in other swing states, from Arizona to Wisconsin and Florida, say they are bracing for similar efforts by Republicans to challenge new voters at polling places, reflecting months of disputes over voting procedures and the anticipation of an election as close as the one in 2000.

I don't like the sound of this at all. Especially the "suspect" bit. What exactly are the monitors going to use as a sign of being suspicious? Race? Social class?