Civil rights groups uneasy about tea party election-monitoring effort
An election-monitoring campaign spearheaded by the King Street Patriots, a local tea party group based in Houston, has civil rights groups worried about voter intimidation during the 2012 elections.
“They’re trying to put in place a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist,” Judith Browne-Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, told Roll Call.
The Justice Department in 2010 investigated the King Street Patriots’ anti-voter fraud campaign — called “True The Vote” — after receiving a number of complaints about voter intimidation in Hispanic and African-American areas. Poll monitors allegedly were hovering over voters and getting into election workers’ faces.
Some of the poll monitors also illegally told voters they must vote in English, according to the Campaign Legal Center.
“Those are the types of activities the Voting Rights Act was designed to stop,” said Gerald Hebert, the group’s executive director.
At the time, the group had trained 1,000 people to work at polls in Harris County.
But the King Street Patriots plans to vastly enlarge their campaign by recruiting 1 million poll watchers to monitor the 2012 elections. Catherine Engelbrecht, the group’s president, told Roll Call that they had already raised $140,000 and provided election-monitoring training to tea party groups in 30 states.
“Our goal is to bring focus to a national call for election integrity,” said Engelbrecht.
The group says its campaign is non-partisan, yet claims on its website that “vote fraud is nearly an exclusive crime of the left” and that the left wants “to be able to steal elections at will.”
The Democratic Party of Texas accused the King Street Patriots of being “hell bent on disenfranchising poor” after the group invited columnist Matthew Vadum to speak at a fundraising event. Vadum has said that registering poor people to vote was “antisocial and un-American.”