L.A. Latinos Told to Vote on Nov. 3; Watchdogs Cite Trouble Nationally
By Julianne Hing at Color Lines
UPDATE 6pm ET: Election Protection also said voters have reported problems at:
Benedict College, a traditionally black college in Columbia, South Carolina, where students were turned away from polls because the addresses on their drivers’ licenses did not match their university addresses. Similarly, students in Ann Arbor, Michigan reported having similar troubles voting at their colleges. When students turn 21 in Michigan the state automatically renews their drivers’ licenses and updated their voter registration to match the address on their license instead of their local school addresses.
In Wake County, North Carolina, over-eager Republican campaign workers had violated the buffer zone and was giving voters at polling stations election material, telling people who to vote for.
In Tucson, Arizona’s Armory Park precinct, a person had snuck behiind poll workers and was filming voters who had turned up at the polls, which is against the law.
Election Protection also fielded around 60 calls of malfunctioning equipment with new electronic voting machines in New York.
Election Protection said that even though many of the issues people reported today were standard Election Day fare about malfunctioning machines and uninformed poll workers, the group had also seen an uptick in organized efforts of groups to challenge, deceive and intimidate would-be voters.
Voters in Los Angeles neighborhoods with large Latino immigrant populations have been receiving fake letters telling them, erroneously, that Election Day is Wednesday, Nov. 3.
Rumors began circulating earlier this week that monolingual Spanish-speaking households were opening their mailboxes to official-looking fliers that told them to go to the polls on Wednesday instead of today, Nov. 2, said Unai Montes-Irueste, head of outreach with Cuentame, a voter mobilization project of Brave New Foundation. The fliers, which were written in Spanish, told voters that there had been a problem with the election and that voting day had been moved to Nov. 3. It’s a voter suppression tactic that has recurred in recent elections around the country, since at least 2006.
“It looks like somebody had stuffed something that looked like an official flier from the county clerk into people’s mailboxes,” Montes-Irueste said. “It wasn’t like somebody sent out a mailing or did direct mail.”
Montes-Irueste said he had yet to see a copy of the mailer for himself, but the report was confirmed by the California Democratic Party, which said that voters in South LA, Pico Heights, Echo Park, Hollywood, Weslake, Athens and Watts had received similar fliers. The incident has been reported to voter protection groups and many candidates have been alerted.
But the voter suppression tactics today have not been limited to Los Angeles, nor just Latino immigrant communities. In Maine, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Florida, Texas, Illinois and Maryland, voters have been reporting similar schemes targeted at primarily black and Latino precincts, reports Election Protection, a national nonpartisan voter protection coalition.
In Kansas, the attorney general has opened an investigation to robo-calls statewide giving voters a range of false information, including that they must bring proof of homeownership to the polls. In Woodland Park, Colo., just north of Colorado Springs and in an area where there are already reports of voters being told they need to provide proof of citizenship, a local business owner put a sign up in a shop window that said: “Democrats vote on Wednesday,” reported Jon Greenbaum, legal director for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which is part of Election Protection.
Election Protection is hosting its regular election protection hotline today, from the start of voting on the East Coast running all the way until polls close in Hawaii tonight. Voters can report problems or find out their polling locations by calling or logging onto 1-866-OUR-VOTE. (For Spanish, call 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA.)
Greenbaum said that by noon on the East Coast, the group had already received more than 10,000 phone calls today, most of which were informational—people who wanted to know what they had to bring and where they should go to cast their ballots. Greenbaum said that most of their calls were from California, Texas, Pennsylvania, New York and Georgia. One third of the calls have been coming in Spanish.
Election Protection has 14 call centers set up around the country, and dispatches teams of volunteers to polling areas that report problems. But there’s only so much the group can do to protect people’s right to vote. Many voters might be staying away because they’ve already been misled.
“I’m in Maryland and my mother received a call three weeks ago telling her that she was such a great, loyal voter that she could vote on the Internet by e-mail,” said Barbara Arnwine, the executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Arnwine said that voters in New Hampshire, Maine, Pennsylvania and Louisiana had also reported receiving misleading robo-calls or door hangers.
“The tough thing with robo-calls is in the past, the hardest thing is figuring out precisely who is making the calls,” said Arnwine, who also said that some groups had ties to the tea party movement.
“Anybody who has access to…voter data access programs can get voters’ language preference, see who chooses Spanish,” said Montes-Irueste. “They can do a hundred different things to screw people over.” He said that the California Democratic Party was sending poll watchers to the precincts where people had reported receiving the false mailers, and groups have been trying to spread the word among watchdogs.
“There is no voting tomorrow,” reminded Arnwine. “Today is their only day to vote.”