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DOJ gets a call on voter intimidation allegations

Day Two of early voting saw far fewer allegations of voter intimidation and the possible arrival of the Justice Department to keep an eye on things.

Responding to complaints that poll watchers were intimidating voters in predominantly minority polling locations, County Attorney Vince Ryan summoned the county chairmen of both major parties to his office Tuesday and reminded them of their responsibility to make sure the observers were obeying the law.

Ryan also announced in the meeting that he has requested a monitor from the Justice Department to observe the voting process in Harris County through Nov. 2.

In a follow-up letter to the county chairmen, Ryan pointed out that poll watchers are entitled to be at a polling location, but cannot be present at the actual polling station when the voter is preparing his ballot and cannot converse with an election officer about the election, except to call attention to an irregularity or violation of the law.

Harris County Democratic Chairman Gerry Birnberg said his office had received reports Monday that poll watchers were “hovering” over voters, “getting in their face,” and talking to election workers.

“This is the fourth general election I’ve been involved with,” Birnberg said, “and we have never had this kind of problem in the past.”

TPM has more on this.

“We are currently gathering information regarding this matter,” Justice Department spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said in a statement confirming the Civil Rights Division’s involvement.

[...]

Chad Dunn, a lawyer who is representing the Texas Democratic Party, told TPMMuckraker a number of witnesses have been interviewed by Civil Rights Division lawyers already. “We’ve gotten a number of reports — quite a few out of the Houston area — that poll watchers, King Street Patriot training poll watchers, are following a voter after they’ve checked them out and stand right behind them,” Dunn said. There’s at least a dozen reports that they could confirm with witnesses, he said. “Interestingly, it’s all in the polling places in Hispanic and African-American areas,” he added.

Terry O’Rourke, the first assistant in the Harris County Attorney’s office, told TPMMuckraker that there have been allegations of poll watchers talking to voters, which they are not allowed to do, as well as hovering over voters as they are waiting to vote. He said the complaints came from Kashmere Gardens, Moody Park, Sunnyside and other predominantly minority neighborhoods of the county.

Here’s more from TPM, in which they document some of the racist, threatening, and harassing emails that Houston Votes has gotten from these lovely people. I’m very glad to see this being taken seriously, and I hope this action will curtail the illegal behavior. KTRK and Mediaite have more, as do Martha, Stace, and John.

As for the Day Two numbers, here’s the same calculation I did yesterday, updated to include the October 19 vote totals.

2010 Day Two Strong R = 46.4% Medium R = 9.5% Medium D = 18.1% Strong D = 23.3% Total R = 55.9% Total D = 41.4% 2010 Overall Strong R = 46.7% Medium R = 9.2% Medium D = 18.1% Strong D = 23.4% Total R = 55.9% Total D = 41.5% 2006 Overall Strong R = 43.7% Medium R = 11.2% Medium D = 19.2% Strong D = 23.2% Total R = 54.9% Total D = 42.4%

Not a whole lot of change from yesterday, and still not a whole lot of difference from 2006. Again, this is a crude measure, there are more and different voters in each district, yadda yadda yadda. Make of it what you will. Statewide Day One early vote numbers for the top 15 counties are here

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4 Comments

  1. JJ says:

    It’s only intimidation if white folks look at voters the wrong way, if the New Black Panthers stand there with weapons then our lovely DOJ led by Obamaite Eric Holder will just look the other way and issue memos telling the DOJ lawyers not to pursue.

    What a country!!

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Houston Heights and MartinHajovsky, Lorena Gomez. Lorena Gomez said: RT @HoustonHeights: RT @MartinHajovsky Heights' @Offthekuff details early voter intimidation in Houston, aimed at minorities http://offthekuff.com/wp/?p=32093 [...]

  3. Mainstream says:

    I think the county attorney’s advice is overbroad. When a voter is assisted by one of the polling place officials (rather than by a helper brought to the polls of the voter’s own choosing) the pollwatcher does have the right to be present at the voting booth.

    There are much more sophisticated analyses of the early voters available, since each of them has a past voting history of primary participation or not. So I am surprised at the rough process you are using. In short, not as heavily R as some were expecting, but instead more balanced.

  4. joshquasimoto says:

    JJ. I believe the voter intimidation cases involve overzealous poll workers. There are specific election laws which regulate appropriate actions for poll workers. All poll workers go through training approved by the state but often by their parties as well. The cases that have been brought up have happened in primarily minority voting areas. At this point the DOJ has been made aware.

    Are you not for fair elections? Are you not for the DOJ to investigate any possible election crimes?

    As far as the white part goes, I think that many in the Anglo community, Latino community, African-American community, etc feel that the rhetoric persistent in the conservative over the last 2 years makes the case that their are high emotions attached to this election as well as the last election. Voter intimidation by any means is inappropriate and un-american and can be punishable by fine and/or criminal charges. As for the New Black Panther case, well I have sen the videos, I have read the stories and really don’t se anything there. First and foremost neither does our justice department with the exception for a former DOJ employee, who was previously associated as being a hire by political means. Also this was the only case of the New Black Panthers being associated with any sort of effort at polling station. One case in the entire country and yet US commission on civil rights (which has conservative political appointees appointed by the Bush administration) they have spent 175,000 dollars on the new black panther case. So while policeman are getting shot by right-wing extremist, while legal residents are questioned for papers in Arizona, while americans have to endure the semi-racist billboards about our current president around the country the US commission on civil rights has decided it wants to put 175,000 dollars into a case where their are no voters/witnesses to say they were intimidated by these two members of the new black panthers. Talk about an outrage.

    here are some the links if you choose to open your mind:
    http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/08/civil_rights_commission_asks_congress_to_sue_doj.php

    http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/10/civil_rights_commission_chalks_ups_bush_doj_illega.php?ref=fpblg

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