Minority and poor communities allegedly the target
by Lesley R. Chinn
From Indiana to New Hampshire, issues of voter suppression have taken form as both Senators Barack Obama and John McCain come into the home stretch of the presidential campaign.
Reportedly, issues surrounding voter suppression have mostly been targeted toward low-income families, minorities, senior citizens, residents who do not speak English, and first-time voters. Issues such as placing armed guards at the polls, telling voters they can cast their votes on alternative days after the election is over, demanding forms of identification not required by law, and telling voters that outstanding warrants or utility bills could prevent them from voting, are raising concerns with only fifteen more days left in the campaign.
ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), which recently registered 1.3 million young people, minorities, poor and working-class voters, is currently under investigation by the FBI about its voter registration activities. However, in a letter written to the Attorney General of the United States and the FBI, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), chair of the house judiciary committee questioned both the process and the timing of the investigation
“It is with shock and disappointment that I read today’s Associated Press report that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has opened and leaked an investigation into whether ACORN, a longstanding and well regarded organization that fights for the poor and working class, is involved in nationwide voter fraud,” Conyers said.
“As an initial matter, it is simply unacceptable that such information would be leaked during the very peak of the election season. Such leaks of information about ongoing criminal investigation matters are always inappropriate, and likely violate the provisions of the U.S. Attorney manual governing release of information about ongoing investigations…” he said.
“Moreover, this news is all the more troubling in light of the proven wrongdoing at the Justice Department in the United States Attorneys scandal. As you are aware, there is extensive evidence that political operatives improperly pressured United States Attorneys to investigate and prosecute spurious claims of vote fraud in close proximity to an election. When some did not, they were terminated. Thus, one must view the timing of this extraordinary leak with added suspicion, given that it comes less than 24 hours after the Republican Presidential candidate raised these allegations in a nationally televised debate,” he added.
NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, who recently hosted a press conference in Washington, D.C., condemned the recent attacks. Bond noted that Republicans have already tried to prevent Ohio registered voters from voting at its early voting registration sites and have gone to court to try to block early voting by closing sites in predominately minority cities such as Hammond, East Chicago, and in Gary, IN.
“Ever since they first practiced voter suppression, they’ve yelled ‘voter fraud!’ ” Bond said. “There is almost no evidence of fraud in today’s American politics, and it is nearly impossible to find a single proven case of anyone, anywhere casting an illegal vote as a result of a fraudulent voter registration application,” he added. “No one believes registration authorities will let Mickey Mouse or Elvis Presley vote. But surely some partisans believe that they can prevent qualified voters from registering or casting their legitimate votes, that they can frighten voters away from the polls, and that they can win elections through their own fraud and deceit and trickery. We think the American people are too smart for that,” he said.
Voters came to a courthouse in East Chicago, IN. last Wednesday to vote after the Lake County Circuit Court ordered the courthouse be reopened after representatives from the Lake County, Indiana GOP Party attempted to have the location, along with two other locations in Gary and Hammond, IN closed. Lawyers representing the party are currently appealing to the Lake County Superior Court to close the sites. The Lake County, Indiana GOP reportedly claimed that the polling places were opened without a state-required unanimous vote of the county elections board. Democrats went on the defense and responded by saying that the Republicans are trying to suppress thousands of legitimate votes in the county’s poor and minority communities.
“Closing down the site is nothing but politics and it’s unfair,” said East Chicago, IN., resident Earl Davis, who voted early on last Wednesday. Closing the site could make it “inconvenient for people to vote,” he said. “Any opportunity to keep the satellite offices open should be allowed to increase voting,” Davis further stated.
“You may not be able to get out because you might be sick or maybe the weather will be bad. If they’re able to cast their votes now, then why not?” said an East Chicago resident, who wished to remain anonymous after casting her ballot.
Responding to questions that surfaced in other jurisdictions nationwide, Election Board Chairman Langdon Neal said in a statement released on Monday that voter registration in Chicago is up. According to the Chicago Board of Elections, more than 1.4 million Chicagoans are registered to vote for the upcoming General Presidential Election, the highest registration total for a presidential election since 1992. Moreover, according to statistics from the Cook County Clerk’s Office, there are more than 1.403 million registered voters in Cook County; a new record that topped a previous one set in the same year.
While Attorney David Neely, a law professor at the John Marshall Law School said the recent allegations are least likely to have much impact in Illinois, he advised voters to stay informed as matters surrounding the issue are likely to continue to occur between now and Election Day.
To report problems or complaints, voters can call Election Central on Election Day at (312) 269-7870 or (312) 269-7900 for questions, comments or concerns associated with early voting.