10.28.2008

reports of vote suppression continue to surface

When I worked on voter registration before the 2004 US "election", one anti-voting tactic we encountered from the other side was very memorable. Republican operatives in Pennsylvania were circulating postcards saying that Republicans were to vote on November 2 (election day) and Democrats should vote on November 3. They blanketed rural areas with this disinformation, and if it strikes you as naive or foolish of the residents to believe it, you haven't studied how propaganda works.

Of course the Republicans denied any responsibility. The perpetrators were acting on their own.

The strategy must have been somewhat effective, or at least worth another try.
A phony State Board of Elections flier advising Republicans to vote on Nov. 4 and Democrats on Nov. 5 is being circulated in several Hampton Roads localities, according to state elections officials.

In fact, Election Day, for voters of all political stripes, remains Nov. 4.

The somewhat official-looking flier - it features the state board logo and the state seal - is dated Oct. 24 and indicates that "an emergency session of the General Assembly has adopted the follwing (sic) emergency regulations to ease the load on local electorial (sic) precincts and ensure a fair electorial process."

The four-paragraph flier concludes with: "We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause but felt this was the only way to ensure fairness to the complete electorial process."

No emergency action has been taken by the General Assembly. It is not in session and lacks the authority to change the date of a federal election.

State Board of Election officials today said they are aware of the flier but disavowed any connection to it.

"It's not even on our letterhead; they just copied the logo from our Web site," said agency staffer Ryan Enright, noting the flier has been forwarded to State Police for investigation as a possible incident of voter intimidation.

Election officials did not specify in which Hampton Roads localities the flier had been spotted.

State Police are aware of the complaint and are looking into it, said spokeswoman Corinne Geller.

In 2007, the General Assembly passed a law making it a Class 1 misdemeanor to knowingly communicate false information to registered voters about the date, time and place of the election or voters' precincts, polling places or voter registration statuses in order to impede their voting. The measure is one of the few such deceptive voting practice laws in the country, according to the watchdog group Common Cause.

6 comments:

redsock said...

More fun from Virginia -- and a replay of what happened in many states in 2004:

"The Virginia NAACP sued Gov. Tim Kaine on Monday, arguing that the state has failed to prepare for an unprecedented voter turnout in next week's presidential election.

"The complaint, filed late Monday in U.S. District Court in Richmond, alleges that with record increases in voter registration, the state has failed to provide enough polling places."

Kaine is a Democrat.

In several states in 2004, voters in non-white areas had to wait up to 12 hours to cast their votes -- hard to do since most voters head to the polls before going to work that day.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

At the risk of stirring the sleeping masses, let me just say that this is one of many reasons why, although I strongly believe free speech is essential to a fair and democratic society, I believe equally strongly that free speech absolutism is antithetical to it.

L-girl said...

I believe equally strongly that free speech absolutism is antithetical to it.

IP, how would this apply in this case? It would be illegal to circulate this information because it's not true?

One of the problems with restrictions on free speech is that those restrictions can only function for the greater good in a democracy. With an autocratic government, or any society that is dangerouly close to an autocratic government, restrictions on free speech will benefit only the government, not the greater good.

That's one of the many reasons I'm an absolutist about free speech.

But regardless of that, I'm not sure I see the connection between your old post and this disinformation.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

The old post was just the first time I expressed that opinion in public, and contains my reasoning with respect to one particular situation. The available evidence suggests to me that free speech absolutism has not served the United States well. The post illustrates one example of that.

L-girl said...

I/P, I got that. I was trying to tie it back to this current wmtc post. If you have any thoughts on that, I'd be very interested.

impudent strumpet said...

If this is fooling people, that makes me wonder if anyone takes the headlight thing seriously.

Does anyone know whether that flyer looks realistic compared with other official documents from Virginia? It looks fake and amateurish to me, but I don't know what Virginia's letterhead/fonts etc. really look like, and faking government letterhead shouldn't be terribly difficult.