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Review finds poll watchers targeting minority precincts

By Jonathan Terbush
Monday, November 5, 2012 19:25 EDT
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Republican poll watchers set to monitor locations across Pennsylvania Tuesday will be focusing their efforts largely in minority precincts, according to an analysis by the Service Employees International Union.

The SEIU on Monday said they’d obtained a partial list of polling places where the state Republican Party and the Pittsburgh Tea Party planned to send poll watchers, and that more than 79 percent of the voters in the targeted precincts in one county were African-American. By comparison, 11 percent of the residents in non-targeted precincts from that same county were African-American.

In total, the SEIU said Tea Party-trained volunteers in Allegheny County are scheduled to monitor 111 of the county’s 1,319 polling locations Tuesday. Among those locations, the SEIU said they could find no history of voter fraud at fifty-nine of them, prompting concerns that those locations had been chosen because of their racial composition.

The SEIU and civil rights groups asked the Justice Department to look into the matter, writing that state Republicans had, “serious questions to answer” about the allocation of their poll watchers.

“On the basis of the above, the undersigned organizations are extremely concerned that the racial composition of the targeted precincts districts suggests that race may have been a factor in the decision of the Republican Party to target these 59 precincts in its voter fraud prevention program with the purpose or potential significant effect of deterring qualified African-American voters in Allegheny County from casting their ballots and thereby suppressing the minority vote,” the group wrote.

Members of the Pittsburgh Tea Party told the Huffington Post that race did not play into their decision making, saying that they were only sending poll workers to places where they’ve previously received reports of voter fraud.

Elsewhere in Ohio, a local political blog reported Sunday that a Tea Party-affiliated group there, True the Vote, was preparing to head primarily into minority-dense neighborhoods. By reviewing documents submitted to the state Board of Elections, the site said True the Vote had asked to send poll watchers to 28 precincts in Franklin Country—which includes the capital, Columbus. African-Americans comprise more than half the population in 20 of the 28 targeted precincts, though they make up around 12% of the state’s total population.

Jonathan Terbush
Jonathan Terbush
Jon Terbush is a Boston-based writer whose work has appeared in Talking Points Memo, Business Insider, the New Haven Register, and elsewhere. He tweets about politics, cats, and baseball via @jonterbush.
 
 
 
 
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