Joyesha Chesnick, Arizona Daily Star, October 15, 2004
Three hundred volunteers will be waiting outside 45 Pima County polling places on Election Day to make sure voters aren’t intimidated, discouraged or harassed as they cast their ballots.
“It happens all the time,” said Doug Ramsey, media coordinator for Election Protection Coalition 2004.
And Republicans said Demo-crats might make false allegations of intimidation.
Ramsey spoke of police cars parked next to or patrolling polling sites, polls that have been moved or are poorly marked, voters illegally asked to show identification and other delays causing long lines.
“The majority of problems are with people who have registered to vote but haven’t got their voter card,” he said.
The coalition, made up of 60 national voting rights organizations including People for the American Way Foundation, formed after the 2000 election when President Bush prevailed in a bitterly disputed tally of votes in Florida.
It has a toll-free number, 1-866-687-8683, or 1-866-OUR-VOTE, staffed by 150 attorneys and law students to answer legal questions pertaining to voting.
Poll monitors — 800 around the state — will hand out copies of the Arizona Voters Bill of Rights, published by the League of Women Voters in English and Spanish, and assist voters who have questions or problems at the polls.
“I’m not saying all these things are designed to prevent people from voting,” Ramsey said, referring to the examples he gave of intimidating incidents. “But accident or not, they shouldn’t happen.”
Isabel Garcia, co-chairwoman of Derechos Humanos, a Tucson human-rights group, said groups questioning voter integrity — based on allegations that illegal immigrants are voting — are affecting this year’s election in Arizona.
She referred to an incident in September involving Russ Dove, a supporter of Proposition 200, the “Protect Arizona Now” initiative that would, among other things, require voters to show proof of citizenship before being allowed to cast a ballot. Dove showed up at a “Get Out the Vote” and anti-Proposition 200 party at a South Tucson restaurant. He was wearing a T-shirt with “U.S. Constitution Enforcement” on the back.
“He showed up and was taking pictures of people,” Garcia said. “He has vowed to go to the polling places in November.”
Dove, editor of a Web site dedicated to curbing illegal immigration and bolstering border security, wore the same T-shirt to five polling places during the September primary, prompting complaints from overseers with the AFL-CIO.
After the incident he said he simply wanted to see for himself if illegal entrants were violating the law by voting in an American election.
“There are a couple of things going on,” Dove said of the upcoming elections.
Citizens for Prop. 200 sent out a call for volunteers to stand outside polling stations and hand out cards saying, “Vote yes on Prop 200,” he said.
Dove said he will not be handing out cards. Instead he will be observing, with a digital camera and a voice recorder in hand to record “anomalies.” And he’s called on others to bring video cameras.
“The concept of me going out in my black shirt and intimidating people — I laugh at that. If there’s anybody that’s intimidated by my presence, it’s because they are violating the law,” he said. “I don’t have a problem intimidating them.”
Dove said he wasn’t sure what he would would be taping but said he was within his rights to do so.
In a statement released Thursday, Debbie Lopez, state director of the Arizona Project Vote/Latino Vote Project, said there “may be an organized effort of individuals that are encouraged to work polls wearing their side arms and asking all brown voters in the southern border counties for identification as they are waiting to vote.”
A call to Citizens for Prop. 200 was not returned.
But Dove said he would not be carrying a weapon.
“I have one antique Colt .45, and I think it’s in storage,” he said. “If I was carrying a firearm, then it would be hard for me to say I’m not trying to intimidate.”
U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., who supports the Election Protection Coalition, said the project is important based on 2000 in Florida.
“A lot of people are mobilized and registered and this has become an intense, polarized election across the nation,” Grijalva said.
Also Thursday, Arizona Republican Party Chairman Bob Fannin issued a statement decrying a 66-page Democratic National Committee Election Day manual “which encourages Democrat poll workers to ‘launch a pre-emptive strike’ on voter-intimidation charges, even where none exist.”
Excerpts from the manual, which appear online at www.drudgereport.com, quote the Colorado Election Day Manual as saying “If no sign of intimidation techniques have emerged yet, launch a ‘pre-emptive strike’ (particularly well-suited to states in which there (sic) techniques have been tried in the past.)”
“The Democrats’ abhorrent call for poll watchers to make knowingly false charges of voter intimidation is indefensible and undermines Americans’ faith in our democracy,” Fannin said in the statement.