Saw John’s post from last night and the comments and I wanted to elaborate on the Tea Party plans to confront individual voters.
I’ve been a voter protection volunteer in Ohio for the last two cycles, and I’m entered to do that work again this cycle. Election law is state law, so my experience is specific to Ohio. There are federal laws that come into play: the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, but the election day work is primarily state law.
Commenter ZuZu’s Petals volunteered to do this job in Ohio, in 08, and I’m sure she’s not the only Balloon Juice commenter or reader who has personal experience in this area.
Tea Party members have started challenging voter registration applications and have announced plans to question individual voters at the polls whom they suspect of being ineligible.
The first (challenging voter registration applications) they can do if they’re trained in the state law process and able to apply it. From the linked article, it sounds like they have had some success attempting to purge minority voters from the rolls in Texas, with the help of a conservative lawyer.
The second (announced plans to question individual voters at the polls) is typical Tea party bullying, and mostly bluster. They’re probably feeding this to media to suppress the vote, ahead of the vote. It’s going to be difficult for them to harass individual voters inside a polling place, because there are rules, a lot of rules, different in every state, and you have to know them, and follow them.
They may enter and remain in a polling place in Ohio if they are: a voter in that precinct, assisting a disabled voter, a poll worker or other election official, or an “entered” observer.
I “enter” as an observer in Ohio by filing an entry with the county Board of Elections. That’s how I gain access to the polling place. That has to been done well prior to the election, because I can’t act as an observer if I’m a convicted felon or have violated election law in the past, and the Board of Elections has to verify my entry. We have election protection volunteers entered in every polling place in Ohio.
Further, even if they are voters in the minority neighborhoods they’re targeting which would give them lawful access to a polling place – highly unlikely given the demographic makeup of the Republican Party/Tea Party-they can’t stick around filming people or confronting voters, because there are rules about that.
Election protection observers in Ohio are lawyers, and a lot of us were once poll workers in the precincts and counties where we enter. This is a little more complicated than plans to beat a protester at a Rand Paul rally. They can’t throw the scheme together in 20 minutes. I think it’s unlikely that some roving band of vigilante Tea Party members screaming FRAUD are going to intimidate us, in the counties where we live and work. We know the rules and will insist conservative activists follow each and every one of them.
Remember: these are the people who elected a candidate for the United States Senate who is apparently not familiar with the Bill of Rights, but chose to belligerently challenge the First Amendment, in a televised debate. Their candidate for Vice President of the United States famously had to take a crash course on civics and geography at an Arizona ranch, none of which she retained.
They’re not big on preparation, or, well, work.