by Pablo Ros | September 13, 2012
A very different kind of organizing campaign than AFSCME’s is going on in states across the country with a single undemocratic purpose: to keep voters away from the ballot box.
According to a new report by Common Cause and Demos called “Bullies at the Ballot Box,” there is every indication that as we approach the 2012 elections “we will see an unprecedented use of voter challenges.”
It’s true that challenges to voters’ eligibility at the polls and pre-election challenges have been partisan tactics for decades. But a new threat has emerged since 2010 in the form of the tea party-affiliated True the Vote, which in its short life has already managed to intimidate voters and interfere at the polls on multiple occasions and is now active in 30 states.
The report describes the threat posed by potential voter challenges in 10 key states and examines whether those states are doing a good job of protecting citizens’ right to vote. They include states with highly competitive races, including some that are expected to play a key role in the outcome of the presidential election, and states where aggressive behavior against voters has been reported in the past.
The findings suggest that five out of the 10 states have unsatisfactory laws governing challenges to voting rights before Election Day:
- New Hampshire
Pennsylvania and Texas also allow behavior by poll observers that could interfere with voters’ casting of ballots and endanger their rights, according to the report.
“We call upon election administrators and officials with the Department of Justice to take steps in advance of and during the elections to protect voters from bullying at the ballot box,” the authors state. “Our intent is to help minimize the level of activity that moves from positive civic engagement to voter intimidation and suppression.”
AFSCME reminds its members that activities meant to intimidate voters are against the law and threaten to disenfranchise eligible Americans. Instances of bullying of voters can be reported at 1-866-OUR-VOTE or to the U.S. Department of Justice by contacting the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division at 1-800-253-3931.