Dirty tricks aim to keep voters from the polls

Updated
Voters in Cleveland now see a splash of billboards posing as public service announcements against voter fraud. The problem? Not only does voter fraud hardly...
Voters in Cleveland now see a splash of billboards posing as public service announcements against voter fraud. The problem? Not only does voter fraud hardly...

We’re coming down to the wire and the election looks to be nail-bitingly close. So it’s no surprise that those who want to reduce turnout are opening up their bag of tricks in order to fool as many voters as possible.

The courts have blocked or neutered many of the worst Republican-backed voting restrictions. But in several swing states, we’re seeing some even dirtier, under-the-radar tactics designed to mislead, misdirect, and confuse voters, of the kind that often surface around this time in an election cycle. We’ve also seen some flat-out screw-ups by local election administrators, which can end up having the same effect.

In a few cases, it’s not clear just who was responsible. But it’s worth noting that efforts to keep voters from the polls almost always hurt Democrats, who tend to benefit from higher turnout.

Here are some of the worst:

• ALLEGEDLY DUMPING VOTER REGISTRATION FORMS IN THE TRASH: In Virginia, a man working for a GOP-financed operation was charged last week after allegedly being seen dumping voter registration forms in a trash can. The man, Colin Small, was employed by a payroll company that had been used by Strategic Allied Consulting (SAC), which has been running a voter registration drive for the Republican Party. SAC, run by controversial Republican operative Nathan Sproul, was fired last month by the RNC amid reports of numerous registration irregularities.

• FALSELY TELLING VOTE PEOPLE THEIR ELIGIBILITY TO VOTE IS BEING QUESTIONED: Florida officials say they’re probing official-looking letters sent to voters in at least 20 counties designed to look like they come from the local elections supervisor. The letters inform voters that the elections office has received information “bringing into question your eligibility as a registered voter.” They go on to add that fraudulently registering to vote is a felony, and ask the voter to return a form within 15 days or risk being removed from the rolls.

• INTIMIDATING BILLBOARDS WARNING ABOUT VOTER FRAUD: In African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods in Wisconsin and Ohio, anonymous billboards recently appeared (pictured above), warning that voter fraud is a felony, punishable by time in prison and a $10,000 fine. After an outcry, the billboards were replaced by others with a pro-voting message.

• FALSELY TELLING PEOPLE THEY CAN VOTE BY PHONE: In both Miami-Dade County Florida, and in Virginia, voters have reported receiving calls telling them that thanks to a new law, they could vote by phone then and there, and need not bother showing up at the polls on Election Day. One Florida woman said the caller told her she was with the RNC.

• WRONGLY TELLING VOTERS THEY’VE REGISTERED TO VOTE: In Colorado, as Rachel Maddow recently reported (see video below), a software glitch was responsible for nixing 800 online voter registrations, after Secretary of state Scott Gessler, a Republican, had led a campaign urging people to register online. Voters weren’t given any indication that their registration hadn’t gone through. Then, on the final day available for voters to correct the error, the state’s website went down. In a public letter to Gessler, a group of county voting officials raised concerns over numerous errors and oversights in the voting process. In August, Gessler was the featured speaker at an event organized by the True the Vote, the Tea-Party-linked voter intimidation group.

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• GIVING THE WRONG ELECTION DATE DATE ON OFFICIAL BOARD OF ELECTION MAILERS: Ottawa County, Ohio, which in 2008 President Obama won with 52% of the vote, sent mailers to 2,300 voters telling them to vote on November 8 (the election is on November 6, of course.). The mailers also wrongly told voters that their voting precinct had been moved to a different building.  “There was certainly no intention of trying to make it more difficult for the voters,” the director of Ottawa County’s election board told The New York Times.

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Dirty tricks aim to keep voters from the polls

Updated