Voter suppression has already begun

This morning’s headlines on Democracy Now! included reports of people having problems at the polls during the early voting process that has already begun in many states. Two weeks out from Election Day and we’re already hearing this – what does this bode for November 4? The DN! reports include claims from voters in West Virginia that the touchscreen machines they used changed their votes from Obama to McCain, allegations from Democratic Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio that the Republican Party is trying to scare newly registered voters by challenging the status of almost 200,000 new registrations, and this most chilling report from North Carolina (a contested state that has been swinging towards Obama):

McCain Supporters Harass Obama Voters in North Carolina

In North Carolina, over 200,000 residents have already cast ballots in early voting. In Fayetteville, a group of John McCain supporters heckled and harassed a group of mostly black supporters of Barack Obama as they voted on Sunday. The Washington Times reported the McCain backers shouted and mocked the voters as they walked into the voting place. The website Facing South reports the McCain supporters likely broke the Voting Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits anyone from intimidating or threatening a person for voting or attempting to vote. On that same day in Fayetteville, North Carolina, thirty people reported having their tires slashed after attending an Obama rally.

UPDATE: Christina Bellantoni provides video of the hecklers and the heckled in NC on the Huffington Post.

And although it’s not an example of direct voter suppression per se, DN!’s next headline is inextricably linked to Republican efforts to cast aspersion on the newfound empowerment of newly registered, formerly disproportionately disenfranchised voters, many of whom have been registered by ACORN and similar organizations:

Obama Campaign Volunteer Assaulted in Wisconsin

In Caledonia, Wisconsin, a fifty-eight-year-old Obama campaign volunteer was assaulted on Saturday while canvasing. Nancy Takehara was attacked by a disgruntled homeowner who accused her of being connected to the community organizing group ACORN. Takehara said, “He grabbed me by the back of the neck. I thought he was going to rip my hair out of my head. He was pounding on my head and screaming.” Takehara said she was not seriously injured.

Between reports like that and the vile, racially-charged garbage that’s been coming out of the McCain camp and his supporters of late, it really does feel like we’ve been forcefully transported back to a darker time in American history. Or, more accurately, the venom and bile that’s been mostly simmering under the surface all along is boiling up thanks to McCain, Palin, and their surrogates stoking the flames.

It’s getting scarier and scarier out there. And we’ll all have to be that much more vigilant and vociferous in our defense of everyone’s right to cast their vote and have it properly counted – no matter who they are or who they’re voting for, and no matter the color of their skin or their chosen candidate’s.

Cross-posted at AngryBrownButch


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29 comments for “Voter suppression has already begun

  1. cockeyed
    October 21, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    I voted yesterday, and I’m from Texas. I know we’ll end up being a red state, but I still feel good about getting it done. I saw none of this harassment nonsense at the polls, and there was a fair amount of people there.

  2. October 21, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    I voted Friday in Tennessee and it went pretty smoothly as well. But I am in a large, comparatively urban area. I really wonder what it is like in some other parts of my state. I fear that there are a lot of examples like the one above around here in the outlying areas.

  3. Kristin
    October 21, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    Thank you for posting on this. I passed it on to everyone I know in North Carolina. This is really scary.

  4. October 21, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    I just wanted to let everyone know about the project that PBS and YouTube are putting together (note: I have no affiliations with either organization, other than being a vehement supporter of public broadcasting in general).

    It’s called “Video your Vote,” and they are encouraging voters to take videos while they are at their polling places (while respecting privacy and applicable laws), especially if there are any inconsistencies, problems with voting machines, or harassment going on. You upload your video to the PBS YouTube channel, and the News Hour will use some of the videos in their election day coverage. I think this can be another great tool to expose the situations described above that might otherwise be swept under the rug by the MSM. Click my name for the site for more info.

  5. October 21, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    I hope more commenters post on their experiences as they head to the polls. It would be interesting to know what’s going on.

    I’m up in Canada and I can’t begin to imagine things like that occuring in my city. Our election day has come and gone and was very calm, of course our election was also not as emotionally charged.

  6. Angela
    October 21, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    I’m not sure I really believe if what’s being reported by DN is true. I checked out the MSM websites and they have reported no such abuses. Because we all know “voter suppression” is a money making headline and they most certainly wouldn’t pass up a story like this. And, anything the Washington Post writes about, I treat as suspect. As for the case of the “touchscreen” malfuntions in WVA, you would think one would use common sense and report the broken machine to the pollsters and get a new ballot, geez, it’s not that difficult. Lastly, the SC has already ruled against the GOP regarding the OH early voter registration process. So that one’s a moot point.

    To all of the Obama supporters out there, if you think your candidate is truly winning, don’t resort to stories like these to try and get your supporters to the polls.

  7. Banisteriopsis
    October 21, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    Jesus christ, isn’t this stuff illegal? It might be a good thing to have cops around the polls after all.

  8. October 21, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    Angela, are you really saying that because the Mainstream media didn’t report it, it doesn’t exist?

    Why do you even read feministe? because the mainstream media doesn’t report a lot on feminist issues, so they probably don’t exist either.

  9. cockeyed
    October 21, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    Angela, this a current event, upon many of us regular readers of feministe are really interested in. It’s important to know and practice a citizen’s duty of making sure these things don’t go on (and I don’t mean by physical violence, but by making sure people feel like they are in a safe environment to vote, and not publicly castigate them for their views).

    I have a feeling you are not a regular reader of feministe. I do feel everyone is entitled to their opinion, though, even if I feel it’s incorrect.

  10. October 21, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    The mainstream media way under reported the massive voter fraud and intimidation in the 2000 election. If it weren’t for foreign media outlets like the Guardian and BBC (which may be mainstream elsewhere but covered a lot of stories on that election the MSM wouldn’t touch). As a result, I have no confidence with their coverage this time around.

    I also remember which country I live in and I know that there’s no way in hell that some powerful forces in this country are going to let a Black Democrat get in without a fight.

  11. October 21, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    OMFG! Is anyone else having George Wallace/ Civil Rights movement flashbacks, too?

    What I’m even more concerned about is this: http://www.hbo.com/docs/programs/hackingdemocracy/synopsis.html It shows that, even before the polls open(ed), the memory chips in the election machines could already be rigged in one party’s (guess whose?) favor.

  12. October 21, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Touch screens are evil. My city was one of the first to tout them, all kinds of problems. For one thing, they have all sorts of problems. They were banned for use by the Secretary of State until better accountability mechanisms could be installed. So now we’re back on paper.

    But there’s a case out here where people registering people changed registration forms of Democrats to reflect that they were Republicans. Now it turns out the guy registered himself at an address he never went to to be eligible to register voters. The state Republicans naturally are outraged at his arrest on fraud and perjury charges and not the fact that voter register forms were being altered.

  13. Angela
    October 21, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    Ripley, voter suppression is very serious matter and would have dire consequences for the McCain camp if the allegations were found to be true. That’s why I made the statement regarding the MSM. Pass the story on to them. They can have greatest impact and reach a much larger audience than any blogsphere or niche news magazine can. They’re not perfect, but they are very effective. Also, I do read this blog and I read others as well.

    Cockeyed, I agree, but if you feel something is not right, then bring it out into the open and not chat amongst yourselves. Find out who the local news station is in Fayetteville and tell them.

  14. October 21, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    The Obama people are mostly writing off SC and want us to go to NC to do campaign work. Do I need to tell you? After reading about the hubbub in Fayetteville, I am scared to go.

    I think there will be substantial ugliness, yall. :(

  15. Nic
    October 21, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    This is kind of off topic, but does anyone know if there is any way to request a paper ballot instead of a touch-screen? This the first time I’ll be voting in a new state and I just found out that they use touch-screens here, and I don’t trust them after reading about all the problems they can cause.

  16. October 21, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    this just in: REGISTRATION FRAUD SCANDAL By COMPANY HIRED BY THE GOP TO REGISTER PEOPLE AS REPUBLICAN IN CALIFORNIA!!!!

    Mark Jacoby, who owns a firm hired by the California Republican Party, violated state laws with his own registration, authorities say.
    By Evan Halper, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
    October 20, 2008
    SACRAMENTO — The owner of a firm that the California Republican Party hired to register tens of thousands of voters this year was arrested in Ontario over the weekend on suspicion of voter registration fraud.

    State and local investigators allege that Mark Jacoby fraudulently registered himself to vote at a childhood California address where he no longer lives so he would appear to meet the legal requirement that all signature gatherers be eligible to vote in California. His firm, Young Political Majors, or YPM, collects petition signatures and registers voters in California and other states.
    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-fraud20-2008oct20,0,3842357.story

  17. October 21, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    DaisyDeadhead, we’re not all like that here in NC, I promise! Most of us are very nice!

    And it would be so sweet if you, and me, and other people made it so that NC is colored in a nice shade of blue the morning after the election….

  18. Kristin
    October 21, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    Daisy–I’m from around there. I wouldn’t worry about it… If you’re worried, go somewhere other than Fayetteville. Fayetteville has a huge military population, as Fort Bragg is there.

  19. Kristin
    October 21, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    Also, note that there’s a Democratic administration there, and I would be surprised if the voter suppression came from them (even though they’re corrupt and racist fuckers, they’re corrupt Democratic fuckers, and they won’t do anything to obstruct an Obama win.).

    I do think there could be some hate group activity–probably most of it from somewhere else. In my more than 20-odd years in NC, I only heard of a handful of Klan rallies. All came from other states, consisted of six or ten people, and were mightily protested by the residents of the state. Honestly, I’m more worried about the organizing efforts of the fundamentalist Christians there than anything else. They are very influential in the state, and they will push for voter purges. That scares me.

    That said… This is certainly a different political environment than I have ever witnessed there, and I can’t really predict what will happen. NC has never been in play for Democrats in the presidential race in my lifetime (that is, not since 1976), and I’m really excited to see the state that elected Jesse Helms year after year after goddamn year leaning blue. I think that’s indicative of a political shift in this country, and it gives me some hope.

  20. October 21, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    Ripley, that’s the case that I mentioned that we’ve been following out here. They’re already suspected of changing people’s political parties when they register them which has been a problem particularly in San Bernardino County for over a year.

    People found out when they voted in state primaries and got the wrong ballots. In federal elections like the presidency, they ask you which one you want because it’s an open primary state for presidential elections though some polling places assume you want the one you’re registered for.

  21. October 22, 2008 at 1:18 am

    @RedPersephone: Thanks for the info about Video Your Vote! Hadn’t heard of it. I’m all about more ways for folks to document their experiences and share their stories.

    @Angela: Between your comments here and on the Troy Davis thread, I’m detecting a pattern – one that indicates that it’s probably not worth it to argue with you.

    @charlotte: As a professional techie, the low security standards and hack vulnerability of the electronic voting machines seriously scares me. There are just too many ways to mess with those machines as they are currently designed. I take comfort in using the old mechanical lever voting machines that we still have here in Brooklyn, though I have no actual stats on relative accuracy to back up that sense of security. I’ve actually never used a voting machine that wasn’t a mechanical lever machine.

    @DaisyDeadhead: Listen to Caroline! Of course, only do what makes you feel safe, but we can’t let ourselves be intimidated away from either voting or helping/encouraging others to vote. Maybe if you work with a decent sized group of people or make phone calls or something like that?

  22. October 22, 2008 at 2:51 am

    I’m also really worried about the fact that police departments are gearing up for election day because they are apparently afraid of black rioters. that does not bode well at all

    http://thehill.com/leading-the-news/police-prepare-for-unrest-2008-10-21.html

  23. October 22, 2008 at 6:21 am

    Angela —

    As an example of how MSM covers stories that are potentially election-altering, witness the “mob”of”angry local voters”that were harassing clerks trying to do recounts in Florida in 2000.

    Just *how*long did it take for the pictures to have real names attached. Names that were of well-known political operatives who were there at GOP expense from around the country.

  24. Amanda
    October 22, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    In small victories, a Republican challenge to early-voting in some (primarily minority, primarily democratic-leaning) areas of Northwest Indiana has been struck down:

    Early voting satellite centers in Gary, Hammond and East Chicago will remain open following a Wednesday ruling in Lake Superior Court.

    In her ruling, Judge Diane Kavadias-Schneider struck down Republican efforts to have the satellite voting locations deemed illegal and shut down.

    The judge granted a petition by Democrats and the United Steelworkers union to keep the sites open on grounds the centers provide better access to early voting to minority communities, which don’t have the time or transportation to reach the early voting center in Crown Point.

    From: http://www.nwitimes.com/articles/2008/10/22/updates/breaking_news/doc48ff60a09dbea615856809.txt

  25. greg
    October 22, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    i’ve been working the early voting sites since in houston, texas they opened, on monday, and voter suppression has already begun. when computers went down briefly on monday, people were turned away and told to have their voter registration cards, even though they could have filled out a provisional ballot by hand. thats at one site. at another site, a poll worker has been telling voters, in vietnamese, not to vote democratic because obama is a black man, then she would turn the dial from democrat to republican and cast their ballot. we have been trying to get her fired and leave the site, but it has proven to be extremely difficult because 1) we dont have enough vietnamese workers at that site, and 2) the head of the precinct is unwilling to act on her.

  26. October 27, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    I am so glad that almost all of Washington State is vote by mail. This cuts down on a lot of problems.

  27. October 29, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    According to Greg Palast 1/9 voters in New Mexico, and 1/5 in Colorado have their names taken off the rolls
    http://www.gregpalast.com/7-easy-steps-to-steal-back-your-vote/

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