Voting Groups On Both Sides Deploy Thousands Of Election Monitors To Battleground States

Virginia Louise Boner, 69, left, waits in line with fellow Shelby County residents during the first day of early voting at El
Virginia Louise Boner, 69, left, waits in line with fellow Shelby County residents during the first day of early voting at Election Commission in Memphis, Tenn., Wednesday October 17, 2012,. (AP Photo/The Commercial Appeal, Mark Weber)

Voting rights groups from all sides of the partisan divide are deploying troops to the polls on Election Day to monitor voting activity in battleground states nationwide, as accusations of voter intimidation and suspicion over voter fraud continue to plague the run-up to the November elections.

Labor Unions are sending “election protection” workers to keep watch over polling places. Tea Party groups are massing to challenge voters’ legitimacy. And even the Department of Justice will have hundreds of monitors fanning out all over the country to observe election activity.

In some cases monitors will be deployed to monitor other monitors.

“Following two years of pursuing extraordinary measures to limit the ability of many Americans to vote, there’s no reason to believe that effort won’t last through Election Day,” Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, said in a statement Friday morning. “On Election Day, we will be prepared and on hand to assist voters who find they face barriers at their polling place.”

The Advancement Project, a voting rights group, will be sending more than 3,000 monitors to blanket polling places in nine key states “to help voters address any last-minute attempts at voter intimidation and/or nefarious challenges to the rights of voters to cast their ballots.”

The monitors, including teams of lawyers and election experts, will be providing real-time reports and video footage of any voter problems in those states, including Florida, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin and Virginia, according to a statement.

Such voting rights groups and Democrats say Republicans across the country have undertaken an unprecedented and coordinated effort to chip away at key Democratic voting blocs, including the poor, African Americans and Latinos. They’ve done so through the elimination of early voting, strict voter ID laws and voter purges, voting rights advocates say.

Dianis said The Advancement Project’s main concerns on Election Day are wide spread voter confusion, the lack of trained poll workers and third-party challenges to voters’ legitimacy.

True the Vote, a conservative Tea Party group, has attempted to purge thousands of registered voters from voting rolls, including college students who didn't specify their dorm room on their registration cards and eight members of an African American family who happen to live under the same roof. True the Vote has said it hopes to recruit 1 million people nationwide to monitor polls.

The organization has pursued an aggressive ground campaign to challenge people's right to vote based on their residency and citizenship. True the Vote recently became the target of a congressional inquiry launched by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who said the group appears to target specific groups to namely purge voters in poorer minority communities.

Catherine Engelbrecht, the group's founder, recently told the Associated Press that “we support lawful election processes.”

"Every eligible American voter deserves the opportunity to participate in a fair and legal election process, even those Democrats and left-leaning organizations who continually cast false aspersions about our efforts," Engelbrecht told the AP.

On Thursday, Cummings sent a letter to Engelbrecht requesting documents related to the group's plans to deploy monitors on Election Day, to challenge access to the polls for people they believe should not be allowed to vote.

“There have been reports from multiple states during the past two years that your organization is targeting predominantly minority communities and coordinating with the Republican Party in an attempt to intimidate legitimate voters,” Cummings wrote in the letter.

It’s the second letter in as many weeks that Cummings has sent to True the Vote. On Oct. 4 Cummings requested documents related to allegations that the group and its offshoots have been challenging the registration of thousands of legitimate voters “based on insufficient, inaccurate, and faulty evidence.”

True the Vote has declined to produce a single document, Cummings said.

“If you are truly committed to transparency in our nation’s voting process -- and if you continue to deny that your organization is challenging thousands of legitimate voters across the country for partisan political purposes -- then you should have no reason to withhold documents from Congress about your activities,” Cummings wrote in Thursday’s letter.

The AFL-CIO also announced plans to send teams of people to key states to monitor polls, to monitor other monitors and to counter any confusion that might arise over voting rules.

During a conference call on Thursday to discuss the union’s “election protection” plans, Arlene Holt Baker, the group's executive vice president, cited organization names like the American Legislative Exchange Council and True the Vote as opponents of expanding voting rights. She noted ominous billboards that have cropped up in Ohio and Wisconsin in mostly black neighborhoods that threaten, “Voter Fraud is A Felony!” (as well as voter purges and other barriers to voting).

“We can not let tactics like this to stand,” Baker said.

The union has teamed-up with The Lawyers Coordinating Committee and “election protection coordinators” to send monitors to states including Pennsylvania and Nevada, to fan out on Election Day and keep watch for any irregularities.

The teams will also be “monitoring efforts by groups to suppress votes in those areas,” said Matt Gauger, a labor lawyer in Nevada.

In Pennsylvania Friday, the legal team challenging Pennsylvania’s partially enjoined voter ID law filed a petition asking a judge to order the state to stop disseminating false information about what voters need to cast a ballot on Election Day.

The legal team -- which includes the ACLU and The Advancement Project -- filed the petition after the group says several recent mailings by both government and non-government entities contained outdated information about the law.

The outdated information has “added to voter confusion,” the group writes in its petition.

In Florida, where thousands of suspected non-citizens and ex-felons have been purged from voter rolls, Alma Gonzalez, another lawyer working with the AFL-CIO, said she has helped to recruit dozens of lawyers and hundreds of poll watchers.

“In Florida, when it comes to voting rights, this is where we’ll stand our ground,” Gonzalez said during the Thursday call. “Florida is called a battleground state but when it comes to voting rights it is a sacred ground for us.”

The Advancement Project says it will staff attorneys at various command centers on Election Day, as well as man an Election Protection hotline to allow quick response to any problems nationwide.

“We’ve had a good deal of success over the past two years fighting for the rights of voters to exercise that right unhindered by the largest coordinated attempt to restrict voting in decades,” Penda D. Hair, the co-director of the Advancement Project said. “November 6 ends up being the most important day in this fight because organizations like True the Vote are still concocting ways to limit voting, especially in communities representing people of color.”