Enter the lawyers:
President Barack Obama’s campaign has recruited a legion of lawyers to be on standby for this year’s election as legal disputes surrounding the voting process escalate.
Thousands of attorneys and support staffers have agreed to aid in the effort, providing a mass of legal support that appears to be unrivaled by Republicans or precedent.
ACORN, The New Black Panther Party, Dead Zombie Voters, did I miss anything? Let the paranoia and misinformation begin.
I do election protection in Ohio and I’ve been doing that in this county since 2006, so I thought we could discuss this in a calm and rational manner. I also know a lot of commenters and readers do this work too, so please speak up about your experience in your state.
First, the difference between voter access people (Democrats and liberals) and voter fraud people (Republicans and conservatives) on the ground is this: access people concentrate on the state role in voter suppression (whether intentional or not) and fraud people concentrate on the voter role in defrauding the state. The two sides are always portrayed as doing the same thing, but that’s not true. We’re watching the state and they’re watching individual voters. We start with the assumption that voters are acting in good faith. They don’t. Big difference, if you’re a voter.
In Ohio, there is a state code process to volunteer and enter as a poll watcher. I won’t go into a whole lot of detail, but I file an entry with the county Board of Elections and then each polling place that I visit, and am sworn in with a slightly different oath than that of a poll worker. I hit those precincts where I have noticed problems in the past, submit the copy of the entry, get sworn in, and observe. I was a poll worker so I know a lot of the poll workers and I live and work here. They can always find me later. This makes the whole thing easier and less hostile because I’m accountable for my actions.
What I am looking for and listening for is a voter being given information that is incorrect or incomplete, particularly on provisional balloting. I am watching the process used to determine whether a voter is given a provisional ballot and then looking for poll worker error on instructions for how to complete the ballot properly so it will be counted. I want to stress something here. Any errors that I have observed are not malicious on the part of poll workers. The provisional balloting rules are complicated and they either don’t know them or apply them in ways that are arbitrary and, well, personal. In my observation, there is a “belt and suspenders” attitude that crops up frequently in GOP poll workers. If demanding one piece of paper is GOOD, demanding two is BETTER, hand out a provisional ballot just to be on the safe side, like that. Whoa there, drunk-with-power Republican. This isn’t an interrogation or an obstacle course. Back off or we’ll have to demote you to handing out the “I Voted” stickers.
None of what I do is directed at the voter. I am speaking, always, with the head poll worker. If there were a legal issue that required a court, I would know enough to be able to respond to that quickly because of the training we take, but I’m not an election lawyer. If it became necessary to pursue a legal challenge I would be quickly replaced with someone who knows what they’re doing.
Finally, I get asked in emails where to donate for voter registration, education and protection. Donate to the Obama campaign, or your state Democratic Party. The Obama campaign are doing all the voter contact on the ground in Ohio and it makes a lot of sense to do voter registration, education and protection while they’re talking with voters anyway. In my experience (which is based on the 2004 Kerry campaign in Ohio) outsourcing nuts and bolts voter stuff to an alphabet soup of outside orgs is a chaotic and error-ridden disaster.
I can confidently predict that the Tea Party group True the Vote will be a mess, judging by their performance in 2010:
True the Vote said they weren’t responsible for the actions of individuals, who they said were properly trained.
“Any alleged actions that may have occurred of that nature were purely individual actions, and not in any way representative of, or connected to, True the Vote,” the group said in the statement. “True the Vote conducts extensive citizen training of poll watchers and makes it explicitly clear in the training that poll watchers are never to impede, interact, challenge or interfere with any voter.”
Hiram Sasser, a lawyer representing True the Vote, referred TPMMuckraker to the statement, and said he couldn’t know for sure if those accused of voter fraud had been trained by the organization. “We don’t know the answer to that question,” Sasser said. “We would like to know but we don’t know that answer to that.”
They’re not responsible for their actions and they know nothing, but they would LIKE to know. Great.