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October 14, 2008

Adding to a lengthening string of voter suppression tactics, the GOP has now been accused of telling Democrats they can call in their vote for Barack Obama.

In the Florida Panhandle county of Okaloosa, Democratic Party headquarters received a report last week from a voter who claimed that she received a phone call advising her she could vote for Obama by telephone.  A volunteer who overheard the report relayed to OEN that the voter advised she was asked if she were Democrat and if she planned to vote for Obama.  Answering yes to both, she was told, “You can skip the lines and the inconvenience of voting at a polling place by dialing this telephone number…”  After the voter dialed it, a pleasant voice said, “Thank you for your vote for Barack Obama.” 

A second source from Okaloosa would only confirm that the matter had been forwarded to the legal department.  A phone call to the attorney for the Okaloosa County Democratic Party went unreturned.  OEN could not confirm the language of the alleged phone call.  Okaloosa has nearly 125,000 registered voters, one-fourth of whom are Democrats. 

Tactics employed this year in Florida include: 

* Jewish voters were targeted by phone calls claiming that Barack Obama donated funds to the Palestinian Liberation Organization. 

* Democrats received a GOP fundraising letter indicating they were registered as Republican.  “The first-class GOP mailing has a ‘Do not forward’ instruction on the envelope, meaning they will be returned to the GOP if a recipient has had mail forwarded, perhaps to a summer address, or has moved,” reported the St. Petersburg Times.  Letters returned as undeliverable can be compiled into ‘challenge lists’ that will slow down voters on Election Day.  

In 2000, Florida taught the nation how Democrats could be removed from the voter rolls en masse on the grounds they were convicted felons.  Greg Palast exposed the Florida tactic while writing for the BBC, whereby nearly 100,000 voters – mostly black males who usually vote Democratic – were removed from rolls.  Most of those illegally purged from the rolls had names similar to convicted felons.   

“Purges were first instituted immediately after African Americans were granted the franchise,” reports the ACLU

This year, in a similar tactic, millions of voters have been removed from the rolls nationwide on the grounds their voter registration information did not agree with motor vehicle or Social Security information on that voter.  A recent report by the Brennan Center revealed that 13 million voters were purged from the rolls from 2004 to 2006.  In its study of twelve states, it found that none of them advised voters they were being purged. 

A more outrageous tactic by the GOP to suppress votes is to target voter registration organizations.  Today, the Buckeye Institute, a neoliberal think tank headed by Ohio’s notorious vote suppressor, J. Kenneth Blackwell, filed a state RICO action against the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) on behalf of two Warren County, Ohio voters.  Reviving an unsuccessful tactic employed against the organization in 2004, the allegations recycle discredited claims from 2004, and attempt to link unsubstantiated stories to ACORN, raising sensational news stories and patently false and unattributed congressional testimony.   

“Such a legal filing by the right wing Buckeye Institute, an organization that features the well-known voter suppression Commissar Ken Blackwell who sought to block Ohio voters from access to the ballot in 2004, has about as much credibility as if they had announced that it was Al Capone that was behind the lawsuit,” responded ACORN in a statement to OEN.  Click here for the full report. 

This year, ACORN, along with Project Vote, recently completed a wildly successful voter registration campaign in twenty-one states, logging 1.3 million new voters