The snafus, alleged dirty tricks and problems that could deprive voters of a fair vote on Tuesday have already begun. But there are steps voters can take, from calling 1-866-Our-Vote, volunteering for Election Protection work, or following a marathon broadcast on voting integrity co-hosted by Brad Friedman of the Brad Blog, one of the leading bloggers on voting rights. Citzens can become their own election observers by joining up with Verified Voting's Election Transparency Project, complete
with monitoring questionnaires.
An early omen of problems ahead: Missouri's Secretary of State, Robin Carnahan, even reports that a poll worker asked her three times for photo ID -- even though a court has struck down the state's photo ID law as unconstitutional.
In Arizona, a group called the Arizona Advocacy Network is still seeking volunteers to help avoid the massive disenfranchisement of voters through strict new voter ID requirements. I chronicle the fate of Arizona voters under the law in a new Salon article. Some excerpts:
On Tuesday, Democrats stand an outside chance of picking up several House seats and a Senate seat in the once beet-red state of Arizona. Democrat Harry Mitchell is in striking distance of Rep. J.D. Hayworth in the 5th House District, and challenger Jim Pederson has closed within single digits of incumbent Republican Sen. Jon Kyl. But the prospects for Pederson, Mitchell and Democrats in general would be much better had the U.S. Supreme Court not recently upheld the state's new voter ID law.
Republicans nationwide have been proposing and passing various laws that require would-be voters to produce photo identification on Election Day. The nominal intent of the laws is to discourage fraudulent voting. In the absence of any real evidence of such fraud, however, the more likely effect of the laws is to disenfranchise members of Democratic-skewing groups -- blacks, Latinos, the poor and college students. Arizona passed its tough photo ID law by direct voter referendum in November 2004.
While lower courts in other states have tossed out similar laws, the Supreme Court's decision was its first direct ruling on a photo ID law. The court upheld the law on procedural grounds, and pointedly did not rule on its merits, but the decision was still a boost to the largely Republican proponents of voter ID laws across the country. The decision takes on added importance since the House of Representatives split along party lines in late September to pass an immigrant-bashing "Election Integrity" bill that would bar would-be voters nationwide if they can't produce a passport or other proof of citizenship at the polls.
On the ground in Arizona on Tuesday, the voter ID law means election officials may now shoo away or discourage enough Democrats to make a difference in any of several close races. Maricopa County alone, which encompasses Phoenix and has a population close to 4 million, has more than 1,100 precincts. If only a dozen voters are rejected or leave in frustration in each precinct, it could mean a difference of more than 13,000 votes. Democrat Janet Napolitano won the governor's race in 2002 by less than 13,000 votes. And last week, a state court ruled that nonpartisan poll watchers would not be permitted into the polling places to count the number of people turned away. "If anyone is interested in using voter suppression to win an election," says Linda Brown, director of Arizona Advocacy Network, a voting rights group, "Arizona is the place to do it."
While watching the election returns on TV, it's also worth turning in to Brad Friedman's co-hosted radio show reporting on election abuses and problems, available on some syndicated networks and streaming through this Velvet Revolution website tomorrow. Some highlights:
Beginning Tuesday, Nov. 7nd at 3pm PT (6pm ET) and continuing until 1am PT or as long as events on the ground warrant
Peter B. Collins (host of the daily syndicated Peter B. Collins radio show) and Brad Friedman (radio personality, investigative journalist at BradBlog.com, election integrity advocate and co-founder of VelvetRevolution.us) are announcing plans for a coast-to-coast Election Night Marathon Broadcast to be carried LIVE over multiple air affiliates via the Jones satellite feed and multiple streaming internet outlets. The landmark broadcast is as a joint effort of Collins, Friedman and VelvetRevolution.us' Election Protection Strike Force effort in coordination with a number of national organizations and sponsors to be announced soon.
All interested networks, air affiliates, and Internet networks are invited to carry this special one-of-a-kind programming free of charge all evening!
This special broadcast is available to any radio station in the country, and stations are welcome to carry as much of the broadcast as they wish. The satellite feed will be on the Jones Starguide system, channel Jones 1 left.
Voting problems could be especially severe in 10 states highlighted in a new report co-sponsored by Common Cause and the Century Foundation. As the study found:
The report, "Voting in 2006: Have We Solved the Problems of 2004?" is a follow up to a report on voting problems issued in 2004 by the three organizations that had closely monitored voting on Election Day 2004. The groups revisited these problems in time for Election Day 2006 to determine to what extent they had been addressed. The results on the whole were troubling. For example, some states have made it harder to register to vote, rather than easier. This is critical because problems with voter registration were among the most common complaints of voters in 2004. Another critical problem two years ago -- long lines for voters -- is likely to recur because few states have dealt with that issue. New voter ID laws in certain states are likely to disenfranchise voters and only one state has acted aggressively to address voter intimidation tactics. In every state, there is much room for improvement.
The report looks at ten states - Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, Michigan, Florida, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Washington, Georgia and Arizona - and assesses what each has done since 2004 to address key issues, such as poll worker training, maintaining registration databases, voting machine distribution and provisional ballot distribution.
The states chosen all have had election problems in recent years, and all have races that are close and likely to most severely test the system.
"While some states have made progress in certain areas, most states have a long way to go in order to make sure their electionswill befair and accurate," said Tova Wang, the report's main author. "Some states have even taken steps to make the process more difficult and more likely to disenfranchise eligible voters than before,a totally unacceptable development."
That's why activists need to focus on election protection as much as get-out-the-vote efforts on Tuesday so that everyone is entitled to the right to vote.