Cross-posted at WinningProgressive
Yesterday, it was revealed that Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk’s campaign is planning to send “voter integrity squads” into African-American neighborhoods in Chicago and other Illinois cities in the run up to election day. While Kirk and other Republicans claim that such efforts are designed to prevent voter fraud, the evidence shows that it is actually a continuation of consistent efforts by Republicans to suppress voting in Democratic precincts throughout the country.
Conservatives have engaged in numerous efforts to try to suppress the Democratic vote, including:
- Caging – Caging involves sending letters marked “do not forward” to voters, compiling a list of all of the letters that are returned as undelivered, and then challenging the voters on that list when they show up to vote. This approach ignores the fact that the letters might be undelivered because of a mistake in the address list, or because the voter is a college student or in the military, rather than because of a problem with the voter’s qualification to vote. The tea party and other conservatives were found to be planning a major caging effort in Wisconsin for the 2010 election, and caging has been carried out by Republicans in Florida, Ohio, Philadelphia, and other areas in the 2008 and 2004 elections.
- Misinformation – There has been a long string of examples of information targeting Democratic or minority voters with misinformation designed to reduce their voting. Such misinformation includes phone calls announcing that polling places have been moved or fliers informing people of the wrong election day or that people with unpaid traffic tickets will get arrested if they try to vote. Such misinformation targeting Democratic or minority voters was found to be “widespread and deliberate” in the 2006 elections in Virginia, and an organization known as Womens’ Voices has engaged in such misinformation campaign in numerous states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and North Carolina.
- Polling Place Challenges – Polling places in urban areas (which tend to be heavily Democratic), often have too few voting booths, leading to long lines that can discourage voters. These lines are made even longer by deliberate efforts to conservatives to challenge the qualifications of virtually every voter that shows up, with the intent of discouraging both the challenged voter and people who leave the line after staying in it for a few hours.
While Republicans attempt to justify such voter suppression efforts on the grounds that there is purportedly widespread voting fraud occurring, a five-year long investigation by President Bush’s Department of Justice found “virtually no evidence of any organized effort” to fraudulently impact federal elections and other analyses have similarly found no evidence of fraud. Instead, the Bush Administration’s five year effort led to very few arrests or convictions, and most of those were for simple mistaken efforts by non-eligible voters to register or vote.
While there is a complete lack of evidence of any significant voter fraud occurring in elections, Republican continued widespread efforts to suppress Democratic votes in 2008 and, as Kirk’s statements show, those efforts are likely to be replayed this year.
It is up to us to ensure that these Republican vote suppression efforts fail. To help make sure that every registered voter who wants to vote is able to, sign up for the Democratic Party’s voter protection effort, or volunteer to work on get-out-the-vote efforts for your local Democratic candidate. And, as always, write letters to your local newspaper editor and talk to your family, friends, and neighbors to make sure they have accurate voting information and are aware of the Republicans’ vote suppression efforts.