Election 2012: Fighting Voter Intimidation and Confusion is Serious Business

While the pundits weigh who won or lost in Monday night’s debate, voters must make sure they are able to vote and to watch for errant directions that may or may not have been intended to discourage primarily black, Latino, seniors and college students – often registered Democrats – from voting.

In Arizona, for example, a voters’ guide written in Spanish published the wrong date for Election Day. In Oneida County, N.Y., the president’s name was misspelled on the ballot. In Virginia, a man was arrested and charged in connection with the dumping of a stack of Democratic voter registration forms in a trash bin behind a local store in Harrisonburg.

In Florida, some voters have received phony letters telling them they are ineligible to vote, while other voters received telephone calls telling them they did not have to leave their homes but could vote by phone on the spot.

Meanwhile, ballots in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, which includes the city of Cleveland, voters complained that GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s name was at the top of the ballot, but President Obama’s name was listed at the bottom, following a long list of minor party candidates.

While some of these problems may not have been intended to intimidate voters, if people feel that they were, it could still discourage them from exercising their right to vote.

Even though several onerous voter ID laws have been struck down in court, early voters in some cities are reporting being asked for photo ID and told they cannot vote without it, even though such behavior is illegal.

In Ohio and Wisconsin, which are considered battleground states, about 150 billboards owned by radio giant Clear Channel that warned of “the criminal consequences of voter fraud” will be taken down after the signage’s sponsor would not reveal their identity, according to The Huffington Post.

The GOP has been hammering hard on the issue of voter fraud this election cycle even though Electoral-vote.com has reported that the instances of actual voter fraud is virtually non-existent and where it did occur it did not involve fraudulent voting at the polls.

NPR reported that before Clear Channel announced the billboard ads would be taken down, 145 of the ads had appeared in Milwaukee, Columbus, Ohio, and Cleveland, Ohio, primarily in predominantly minority or college-student neighborhoods.

Texas-based Clear Channel, NPR said, is known for backing conservative causes.

“During the early days of the Iraq War, for example, it reportedly organized pro-war rallies featuring conservative talk show host Glenn Beck,” the network said.

So if you think the fight to disenfranchise voters isn’t serious business, consider this:  The Hill reports that 44 United Nations-sanctioned monitors will be deployed around the country on Election Night to look for voter intimidation and other irregularities.

The action was prompted by a joint letter from a coalition of groups, including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the NAACP and the ACLU, warning that a coordinated effort was afoot to disenfranchise millions of voters, especially minorities.

Prospective voters need to find out what the law is in their states, especially if voter ID laws still stand, make sure their registration is current, that they have any the necessary ID if required and know where their polling places are located.

At the polls, any irregularities should be reported to the local Board of Elections or 1-866-MYVOTE-1 as soon as they believe they have run into a problem.

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