News Release

Scaring Away Voters in U.S Elections

JACQUELINE JOHNSON
Johnson is the executive director of the National Congress of American Indians. She said today: “In South Dakota’s June special election, erroneous signs were posted at the polls where Lakota people were voting in a special Congressional election. The signs read, ‘No ID, No vote.’ Many would-be voters went home feeling intimidated by election monitors who did not inform them of their right to complete an affidavit, which, even with no ID, would allow them to cast a ballot.”
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JANET RYDER
Ryder is the Philadelphia Voter Protection Coordinator for the AFL-CIO. She said today: “There has been a history of subtle and not-so-subtle voter intimidation in Pennsylvania, especially in Philadelphia but also in other pockets where African-American and Latino populations reside. Last year, white males in dark-colored suits in very official-looking black cars cruised around in such minority areas during the mayoral election. People in many of these communities are intimidated by police and law-enforcement presence, and this was designed to mimic exactly that. These fake ‘officials’ asked people for IDs and made blatantly false and intimidating statements like if you owed child support, parking tickets, or if there was anything ‘wrong with your papers’ you might get caught if you tried to vote. They harassed and intimidated poll workers, questioned their abilities of judgment and challenged their right to be there as poll workers. Many of these poll workers tend to be elderly and some were genuinely scared. These people had serious-looking badges but they weren’t real officials. Someone didn’t want minority voters to exercise their right to vote.”

Ryder added: “Another barrier has been the insensitivity of the poll workers to some members of the Latino community. Instead of helping non-English native speaker citizens cast their vote, some have acted in a manner to dissuade them from voting. This election we will be deploying attorneys and monitors to as many districts as we can.”

HAROLD MEYERSON
Harold Meyerson is Editor-at-Large of The American Prospect. He is co-author of “The GOP Deploys,” published in the Feb. 1, 2004 edition of the magazine. In that article Meyerson wrote: “Voter registration and identification weren’t the only mobilization programs that occupied the Republicans in 2003. They were involved in a major voter-intimidation program as well. The battleground on which they tested their latest tactics was the Philadelphia mayor’s race, where the campaign of the Republican challenger, Sam Katz, grew extremely nervous at the success the Democrats had had at registering minority voters. The Republican response was an attempt to scare black and Hispanic voters away from the polls. … To begin, according to Democratic consultant Tom Lindenfeld, who ran the counter-intimidation program for the campaign of Democrat John Street, the Republicans assembled a fleet of 300 cars driven by men with clipboards bearing insignias or decals resembling those of such federal agencies as Drug Enforcement Agency and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Thus arrayed, says Lindenfeld, these pseudo-cops spent election day cruising Philadelphia’s African-American neighborhoods and asking prospective voters to show them some identification — an age-old method of voter intimidation. ‘What occurred in Philadelphia was much more expansive and expensive than anything I’d seen before, and I’d seen a lot,’ says Lindenfeld, who ran similar programs for the campaigns of Harvey Gantt in North Carolina and other prominent Democrats. In a post-election poll of 1,000 black voters, 7 percent of them said they had encountered these efforts (this being Philadelphia, there were allegations of violence and intimidation against Street supporters as well).”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167