voting

Tales from the Crypt! Challenges Everywhere! The Voting Front Lines (Part One)

by Charley James

The Republican Party is doing everything in its power to disenfranchise, challenge and intimidate voters across the USA. Here are examples from across the USA

Ohio
Ginger Weigel, a 47-year old administrative assistant in Columbus Ohio, showed up at her polling station in a working- and middle class neighborhood five minutes before voting started at 6.30 am Tuesday morning. There was a long line of people waiting for the doors to open and, when people were let in, it took her an hour to vote.

“There weren’t enough machines,” Weigel complained, “and it was taking forever to check ID’s.”

She wasn’t challenged by any of the raft of poll watchers but 62-year old Ken Paap in Roanoke Virginia was.

“I’ve been voting at the same school for 20 years,” he said, “and this was the first time I’ve ever been challenged.”

Paap said he had both his driver’s license and voter registration card but was challenged anyway by someone who reluctantly identified themselves as being sent by True The Vote, a far right wing group that has been accused in the past of harassing minority voters.

“They weren’t challenging white people,” he claimed, “but there aren’t a lot of black and minority voters living in my precinct.”

Paap was allowed to vote after he complained to the woman in charge of the voting place. She stopped the challenge, perhaps because she lived on the same street as Paap and so knew him personally. He said he planned to call a toll free number to report the harassment.

He also reported long lines that moved slowly.

Arkansas
Elle Wood, who lives in Fayetteville Arkansas, said her right to vote was challenged by a poll watcher who refused to identify which campaign or organization she represented.

“I’ve been voting for years,” she stated, “and this is the first time anyone has ever challenged me.”

Over her objection, she was given a provisional ballot even though she’d brought her passport and driver’s license with her. Wood figures her ballot will get lost or not be counted, adding, “I wonder how they know who looks like they’ll vote for Obama?”

Arizona
A state worker in Arizona found herself involved in a dispute at her polling place mid-morning on election day. The woman, who was a source for an earlier story (LINK to “If They’re Brown Turn ‘Em Down”) about unwritten state policies intended to discourage homeless Latino families from seeking aid and does not want her name used out of fear of retaliation, is of Hispanic heritage but was born in the United States. When she showed up to vote, the three forms of ID she produced – a driver’s license, a passport and her state employee ID card – weren’t sufficient to keep her from being challenged by an Anglo Republican poll watcher.

“First, he said my ID was fake,” she stated, her voice seething with anger. “But even the voting officials said I can’t fake a passport. So then he challenged how long I had lived where I am. Fortunately, I had my telephone bill with me and that proved I’d lived there long enough to be eligible to vote.

“Finally, the man demanded I be given a ‘temporary ballot’” – she meant provisional – “but I was allowed to vote anyway. There was no reason I couldn’t vote. This was just trying to make it difficult for me to exercise my rights as a citizen.”

She is still trying to decide whether to report the incident. “I would have to give my name and when you are Hispanic in Arizona, that can be costly. I need my job.”

Pennsylvania
In a Pittsburgh suburb, three voters waiting in line outside at two different precincts were approached by individuals who identified themselves as “poll monitors” and demanded to see identification.

“I told them they could fold it five ways and put it where the moon doesn’t shine,” stated Jeff Brolin, a 55-year old accountant reported who then used his cell phone to complain to authorities. He said identification was also demanded of his wife; she also refused to show any. Later in the morning, an Allegheny County judge issued a restraining order blocking anyone from demanding ID from people waiting to vote.

Kelly Bishop, who was at a different polling place than the Brolin’s, also said she was asked to see ID as she got into line. But as she was digging for her driver’s license, someone else in line told her she didn’t have to produce any ID so she didn’t.

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Charley James View more

Charley James
Charley James, a pseudonym, is a long-time independent journalist based in Toronto who covers social justice, politics and economic issues. He's worked in print and broadcast media for national magazines, large newspapers and major market radio and television outlets.