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Hullabaloo


Friday, October 07, 2016

 

Watchers watching watchers watching ....

by Tom Sullivan


Man in Civil War greatcoat outside entrance to polling station in African-American neighborhood. Asheville, NC, 2012.

As if there weren't enough wild cards in this election, Hurricane Matthew has Rick Hasen worried what it might mean for Florida:

Voter registration in Florida closes in just five days. According to Professor Dan Smith of the University of Florida, in the last five days of registration in 2012, 50,000 Florida voters signed up to vote. Many who might normally sign up to vote at the last minute are now following Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s order to flee the affected areas of the state, and they are not likely to register to vote on their way out or drop ballots in closed post offices or soon-to-be-flooded post office boxes. Hillary Clinton’s campaign has already called for voter registration deadlines to be extended, but the Republican governor has already turned down that request.

Some Floridians who have already registered and wish to cast an early ballot may find that they cannot get home to vote or get an absentee ballot, or perhaps that their ballot has washed away in the storm. Requests to deal with these problems could put a great burden on Florida election administrators, particularly if the storm displaces people for a period that lasts through Election Day. The good news here is that we are still four weeks out from Election Day and that Florida is a state with early voting, and so there is a chance to get some post-storm plans in place to help people as much as possible.
Well worth a read is Jamelle Bouie's brief history of election violence against people of color:
Now that he’s behind, Trump has returned to questioning the legitimacy of the election. More critically, the idea that he would respect the results of the election, full stop, ignores the hatred that’s come to characterize Trump’s campaign, the violence he’s condoned against protesters and other vocal opponents, the virulent prejudice he’s brought to mainstream politics, and the apocalypticism of his message, where he stands as the final hope for an embattled minority of resentful whites. These rhetorical time bombs, in other words, could be the catalyst for actual intimidation and violence, before and after Election Day. And if that violence and intimidation strikes, it will be against the chief targets of Trump’s campaign: people of color.

To that point, Trump has gone beyond his attacks on the integrity of the ballot. Now, he wants his supporters to monitor the polls in places where, he says, “fraud” is likely. “You’ve gotta go out, and you’ve gotta get your friends, and you’ve gotta get everyone you know and you’ve gotta watch your polling booths, because I hear too many stories about Pennsylvania, certain areas,” said Trump at a recent rally. “I hear too many bad stories and we can’t lose an election because of you know what I’m talking about. So go and vote and go check out areas, because a lot of bad things happen and we don’t wanna lose for that reason.”
Yes, they know what he's talking about and what "areas" he means. The rumor is there will be lots of those "watchers" where I live on Election Day.

Just when we might need extra watchers for the watchers, comes this unhappy news:
The Justice Department is significantly reducing the number of federal observers stationed inside polling places in next month’s election at the same time that voters will face strict new election laws in more than a dozen states.

[...]

For the past five decades, the Justice Department has sent hundreds of observers and poll monitors across the country to ensure that voters are not intimidated or discriminated against when they cast their ballots. But U.S. officials say that a 2013 Supreme Court decision now limits the federal government’s role inside polling places on Election Day.

“In the past, we have . . . relied heavily on election observers, specially trained individuals who are authorized to enter polling locations and monitor the process to ensure that it lives up to its legal obligations,” Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch told a Latino civil rights group over the summer. “Our ability to deploy them has been severely curtailed.”
Owing to the July ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that struck down major provisions of North Carolina's omnibus Voter Information Verification Act, we have an extra week of early voting in North Carolina. Meaning, two-thirds or more of votes could be cast by Election Day. States without early voting periods are not so fortunate, making Election Day more of a focal point than it is here. At my polling place on Election Day 2008, perhaps six people voted between 3 p.m. and the close of polls. The Obama turnout machine was so massive that by Election Day there was nobody except Republicans left to vote. With any luck, Hillary Clinton's closing blitz will accomplish the same.