Tuesday, September 21, 2004

voter intimidation

Read this Salon.com story, "Voter terrorism", and become enlightened.

Along the same vein as an earlier post, its not enough to just jump up and down and point our fingers. That is not going to stop some groups of people who have found the rewards way too lucrative--and the punishments non-existent.

Not one of the incidents cited in the Salon article resulted in a change in the election. As far as I can tell, not one of them resulted in a legal conviction. Instead the only outcome appears to be promises not to transgress again--promises that were systematically ignored.

No, this fight isn't just about calling people to task after the fact. It's about preventing it before and during. Here are some ideas off the top of my head:
  • Get the right information out to the neighborhoods before the election. That means getting out flyers and mailing, doorbelling, talking up TV and radio media.

  • Give people a place to call when they get worried or feel harassed. If some authority figure--or pseudo-authority figure--tells them they can't vote, give them a number to call to get the right info, and if possible a warm body to escort them if that's what they want.

  • Organize neighborhood groups to go down to the polling place together.

  • Patrol the neighborhood on election day for odd situations. Document them for sure, and if possible try to remedy the situation.

  • Get a digital camera or video camera and make yourself obnoxious with it. You see anything strange, start filming and make sure the intimidator knows you've got his/her number. Get as confrontational as you dare. (These last two activities are probably best not done alone.)

  • Volunteer to drive people to their polling places. Make sure that you go in with them and watch out for "challengers" and other poll workers or volunteers who act overly concerned about people's right/ability to vote.

  • Volunteer for organizations like Election Protection, which expects to field thousands of legal and other observers into sensitive areas. (This is what I'll be doing during election week.)
One thing--be sure to have your facts straight about the local regulations on registration and voting. You've got to know, for example, whether it's legal for a poll worker to demand ID (only in a few circumstances), and what remedies are available if an obstacle crops up.

Also, I have a vague idea about ways for a neighborhood to push back--with some help. Maybe it would be possible to get house signs that say something like "Don't even try it. I know my rights, and I'm voting." Something that directly speaks to potential intimidators coming into the neighborhood. Not that it would do much to dissuade them, I'm thinking more about empowering the people in the neighborhood.

Any other good ideas out there?????? It'll take some work, but if even just a few people decide this is the fight they want to take up, it would be worth it.