Vote suppression volunteers out in full force
Update: A video from Media Matters showing right wing media promoting the myth of voter fraud.
An optimistic commenter named serious bette on my last post suggested that one under-reported aspect of the GOTV effort has been outreach to African-American communities.
The media reports on every single burp that limbaugh spews out into the airwaves and all but ignores urban radio stations which have spent countless hours since Labor Day working to get out the vote. I can’t count the number of times I have heard the president, first lady and any number of other democrats on urban radio getting out the vote. The goal being to get just as many African Americans to vote this year as we saw in 2008 and the effort is bearing fruit, particularly in places where early voting is allowed.
This is good news, and she’s right that it’s way under-reported. But I want to say that while it’s absolutely true that the mainstream media isn’t reporting this story, the right wing media is all over it. Granted, they do it in the most spintastic way possible, but they are all about making sure their racist listener base knows that racial minorities are voting, that there’s massive outreach to often underserved communities, and that this is likely to show up in the polling data. And they’re determined to stop it.
When James O’Keefe and Andrew Breitbart promoted those fraudulent ACORN videos, I honestly doubt they thought they could bring an end to venerable organization. I think the intention is the same as with Fox News pretending that the “New Black Panthers” are a widespread, dangerous organization. All of this is aimed at getting the conservative base to believe one, very important myth: That black and Hispanic voters are out to get you, which means you’re justified in believing they don’t really have a right to vote. It’s the Real American thing—it’s about rationalizing the belief that black or Hispanic voters voting at all is fraudulent, because they aren’t what you the wingnut consider Real Americans.
Getting angry conservatives to grouse about people who they don’t consider Real Americans isn’t hard to do, but this election, it’s been way over the top. Roy collected a number of examples of right wing bloggers bringing in cases of “fraud” they’ve seen. What’s interesting about each and every “fraud” is that nothing happened. Except that someone the witness doesn’t want voting voted. I’m not exaggerating. The examples of “fraud” that Roy collects wingnuts complaining about are:
*A professor letting students out early to vote.
*Union leaders giving union members rides to the polls, and waiting around for their fellows while they’re voting. This was interpreted by the paranoid witness as “forcing” them to vote.
*Disabled voters getting help from poll workers, who were probably not white enough in the eyes of the angry witness.
The common theme is a) all are incidents of completely legal voting and b) are assumed to be fraud, because the complainers don’t think those people should have the right to vote that they actually do.
One group in Houston called True The Vote has been getting a lot of positive attention in the right wing press. Their purpose is to shore up the belief that any random black person you see voting is doing so illegally, and trying to get conservatives to interfere with black voters so they don’t vote. In case this doesn’t seem immediately obvious, their banner prominently features a picture of what they object to—black people voting.
Fox News gave them blow job coverage, with another helpful picture of the activity “concerned citizens” should be out there trying to fight.
All this is working. True The Vote has been turning angry conservatives out in order to get them to fight with black and Hispanic voters in Houston.
In Texas, for example, on the first day of early voting, there were reports of poll watchers, some suspected with ties to a tea party group called “True the Vote,” appearing at minority polling sites in Houston. They reportedly interfered with voters — allegedly watching them vote, following them and engaging in confrontational conversations.
Voter fraud is largely a myth. To matter at all, it would have to be conducted on a scale that would be impossible to pull off, since each discrete “fake” voter would have to get two registrations without the system flagging them. It’s impossible. Accusations of “fraud” are cover for people who wish to single out people who have a different skin color or ethnicity and challenge their right to vote. Houston is ground zero for a lot of this, because it has turned blue in recent years strictly due to demographic changes. While white people are still the majority in this country, they aren’t in Houston. The diversification of Houston got a lot more attention in recent years because of the influx of new residents that permanently relocated there after Hurricane Katrina. This didn’t really change the make-up of the city in any dramatic way, but it basically reinforced the angry conservative freakout over the demographic changes already in progress. So now you have this situation—a bunch of angry conservatives, mostly white and mostly from the suburbs I’ll bet, showing up and randomly harassing black and Hispanic voters.
They’re also armed by True The Vote with poor information. The website has a disingenuous list of issues they claim falsely are problems, but one of their claims is repeated over and over:
A photo ID and proof of citizenship should be required to register to vote.
Clearly, the idea is to get their volunteer harassers to show up at the polls and demand of every black and Hispanic person they see that they have a birth certificate and a photo ID in order to vote. You need neither, but I imagine that the people who read this believe that they’re reading what is actually law. True The Vote claims they have 1,000 people on hand to challenge people perceived to be frauds—perceived no doubt by their skin color—and if they have even half of that, they could do serious damage. This is nothing to laugh off. There’s been a lot of focus on suppressing Democratic vote for the state legislature this year, in order to redistrict yet again. The last redistricting was successful to a degree, but was overrun in the Houston area by demographic changes, making seats the Republicans thought they had secured for themselves Democratic again. I’m guessing they don’t want to make that mistake twice.