Houston based "True the Vote", a fake "anti-voter fraud" group run by Catherine Engelbrecht, the head of a Texas-based Tea Party Organization that has publicly declared its opposition to President Obama, and has taken it upon themselves to "protect" the country from the nonexistent scourge of "voter fraud", was caught sending letters to minority voters in Ohio challenging their right to vote.
ABC News' Dan Harris investigated recent claims of "voter harassment" among poor blacks in Ohio by the Tea Party-backed group, speaking to Teressa Sharp, a low-income African-American grandmother that says she has voted in every election since she was 18, yet received a letter in the mail from TTV saying her "right to vote has been challenged by a qualified electorate" (FYI: an "electorate" is a population, not a person). The justification for this challenge? The report never says.
When Harris tells Engelbrecht that cases of "Voter Fraud" are more rare than prosecutions of "migratory bird violations" and "virtually nonexistent", Engelbrecht responds that that means "there's room for improvement."
Actual cases of "in-person voter fraud" in Ohio is 0.00004% [ibid]. That means that for every four people that these groups might actually stop from voting illegally, TEN MILLION "legal" voters are potentially disenfranchised. The very idea that stopping ONE person from fraudulently voting... which would have NO discernible effect on the outcome of an election, justifies potentially disenfranchising 2,500,000 legitimate voters... which WOULD unquestionably have a catastrophic impact on our elections... is an absolute farce, and should be prosecuted proportionately.
Racist far-right partisan Republicans think they have found a cloak of respectability in challenging the rights of the poor and minorities, who typically vote Democratic, on the grounds of "protecting our elections from voter fraud". What justification is there to believe the poor and minorities are any more likely to commit "voter fraud" than rich white suburbanites that typically vote Republican? None. Yet for some odd coinky-dink, those just always seems to be groups they focus on.
Show me a teabagger who doesn't vote their feelings. Go ahead, I dare you. The entire Tea Party "movement" is based on emotion. On angry, hot, flowing, oozing emotion. If you're a college student and you're reading this, it's your turn to be angry over this little clip of New Hampshire House Speaker Bill O'Brien explaining why he wants to disenfranchise you and stop you from voting.
"They go into these general elections, they'll have 900 same day registrations, which are the kids coming out of the schools and basically doing what I did when I was a kid, which is [vote liberal]," he said. "They don't have life experience and they don't have life experience and they just vote their feelings and they're taking away the town's ability to govern themselves, it's not fair."
The remarks were caught on tape by a tracker with the New Hampshire Democratic party, but up until today they haven't caused O'Brien much embarrassment.
Now while this little whine wouldn't ordinarily be a huge big deal, it is offensive, condescending and selfish, which is to be expected from the far right wing these days. But when it backs up a defense of Voter ID initiatives in 18 states which in turn is backed up by the Koch/Bradley/Olin triumvirate in the form of an organization known as ALEC, whose "Private Enterprise Board" includes Mike Morgan (Koch Industries), Toby Spangler (Altria Client Services), and not one, but two representatives from the American Bail Coalition, it should definitely cause winger alert radar to bleep loudly.
Deemed the “political player you’ve never heard of” by Fortune magazine earlier this year, ALEC was launched in 1973 by Heritage Foundation founder Paul Weyrich and is funded by conservative organizations including the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and the John M. Olin Foundation. ALEC’s “Private Enterprise Board,” includes representatives from companies including Peabody Energy, Coca-Cola, AT&T, Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, and Wal-Mart, as well as Koch Industries.
ALEC charges corporations a fee and gives them access to members of state legislatures. Under ALEC’s auspices, legislators, corporate representatives, and ALEC officials work together to draft model legislation, generally on business-related issues. As ALEC spokesperson Michael Bowman told NPR, this system is especially effective because “you have legislators who will ask questions much more freely at our meetings because they are not under the eyes of the press, the eyes of the voters.”
Tea Party organizations, like the Wisconsin Patriot Coalition, also look to ALEC for guidance. The group lists the Voter ID Act in its legislative agenda [PDF] and directly links back to ALEC as its source.
Charles Monaco, the press and new media specialist at the Progressive States Network, a state-based organization that has been tracking this issue, says, “ALEC is involved with a vast network of well-funded right wing organizations working to spread voter ID laws in the state legislatures. It is clear what their purpose is with these laws—to reduce progressive turnout and tilt the playing field towards their preferred candidates in elections.”
Some of the ties between these networks are easily identifiable: Courtney O’Brien, the staff member at ALEC responsible for the group’s elections task force, previously worked at the Charles G. Koch Foundation.
The legislation targets college students by requiring a photo ID issued by the government. That excludes students from using student IDs and voting from their campus unless they choose to vote by absentee ballot. It also would set up the perfect caging scheme for Republicans by allowing them to challenge any ballot where the address on the photo ID didn't match the address on their voter registration. Since that's a fairly common issue with students and indigent people, it effectively disenfranchises the groups who typically vote liberal, even if it is "with their emotions."
Now Wisconsin, as you may recall, is where there was a coordinated effort between the Tea Party, the Wisconsin Republican Party under the direction of Reince Preibus, and Americans for Prosperity to target minorities and college students in a voter caging scheme.
The Republican Party of Wisconsin will use its “Voter Vault” state-wide voter file to compile a list of minority and student voters in targeted Wisconsin communities.
Americans for Prosperity will use this list to send mail to these voters indicating the voter must call and confirm their registration information, and telling them if they do not call the number provided they could be removed from the voter lists.
The Tea Party organizations will recruit and place individuals as official poll workers in selected municipalities in order to be able to make the challenges as official poll workers.
On Election Day, these organizations will then “make use” of any postcards that are returned as undeliverable to challenge voters at the polls, utilizing law enforcement, as well as attorneys trained and provided by the RPW, to support their challenges.
One Wisconsin Now has requested an investigation into this plan, but in the meantime, Republicans are quietly placing Voter ID legislation on their agendas in the hopes that the confusion and challenges will simply suppress young and poor voters. Wow, I'm so glad they love democracy enough to let people vote. It doesn't escape my notice that young and poor voters don't usually vote Republican in droves, and it shouldn't escape yours.
For decades, the right wing has cried about voter fraud when there is none so they can legislate away voters who don't agree with them. Now for the very first time, they're on the verge of seeing their dreams come true. While we're out there protesting union-busting, we might also want to toss democracy-busting into the mix, since they're busy little bees these days.
And by the way, has anyone seen any legislation that might actually create jobs introduced? Yeah, me either.
These are only a few of the stories we're not seeing about voting machines and their role in shaping government and politics, particularly in areas with heavy Latino and African-American populations. It could almost be called a pattern -- one that threatens to undermine the fundamental pillar of our democracy: one person, one vote.