In the weeks before Election Day, voters are again being targeted with intimidation tactics and deceptive practices to confuse or scare them out of casting a ballot. In Ohio and Wisconsin, for example, billboards popped up in primarily African-American neighborhoods with messages such as "Voter Fraud is a Felony! Up to 3½ YRS and a $10,000 Fine," designed to alarm and confuse residents.
Voters in Virginia and Florida recently received calls from unidentified individuals, who falsely claimed that a new law allows them to vote by phone. And in Arizona, a county election office distributed voter registration cards in English and Spanish - with the wrong election date (November 8, instead of November 6) listed only on the Spanish-language section.
This is nothing new. Like clockwork, shortly before elections this kind of voter deception and intimidation emerges, particularly in communities of color. As musician will.i.am says in a new public service announcement from Advancement Project, "You have the whole world depending on you not to vote. You have the whole world saying, 'Don't even come to the ballot.' I say: Prove them wrong."
He is one of several celebrities to pair up with us for a new series of PSAs starring actress Jessica Alba, film director Robert Rodriguez, and television personality Star Jones. The clips feature each star explaining what voting means to them and encouraging Americans to exercise their right to vote. Some of the spots will air on USA Network, MSNBC, Cloo and local television affiliates. Additional PSAs, produced by the Hip Hop Caucus, star some of hip-hop's influential voices, including artists 2 Chainz, Kandi Burruss and chart-topping producer Sean Garrett. They will air on BET Network.
"To vote gives our discussion and debate purpose. It defines us as Americans," says Robert Rodriguez in one of the spots. In another clip, Jessica Alba says that the voting booth is the one place where "we all have an equal voice."
Don't let election bullies and deceptive tricks stop you from participating in our democracy. Just make sure you're properly registered, know the rules, and show up at the correct polling place. You can find easy-to-use tools for confirming all of these things at APVote.org, along with other practical tips for how to cast your ballot.
Above all, remember that every eligible citizen has an answer to these orchestrated attacks: Vote. As Robert Rodriguez puts it, "Protect your voice. Prepare to vote."