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Right Wing Voter Suppression Efforts Take Off As Election Day Nears

Suppressing the vote in historically disenfranchised areas is a time-honored tradition for the right-wing machine, and this year is no exception. With just two weeks to go until the elections, the gloves have officially come off. Here are a few of the notorious incidents that have surfaced in recent weeks:

  • Illinois Senate candidate Mark Kirk was caught on tape saying that "lawyers and other people" would help him implement the state's largest "voter integrity program" in 15 years, targeting four largely African-American precincts that he claimed "might be tempted to jigger the number somewhat." The Brennan Center has also documented similar efforts in Texas, Michigan, California, New Mexico, and Arizona.

  • Another tape in Wisconsin revealed plans between the state tea party, state GOP, and the Wisconsin branch of the conservative Americans for Prosperity to mail thousands of postcards to targeted student and minority voters and challenge the registrations of those returned as undeliverable - an illegal practice otherwise known as voter caging.

  • A local Tea Party-affiliated group in Texas, True the Vote, claims that low-income civic participation group Houston Votes engaged in massive voter fraud in Harris County, a predominantly minority district that is also the largest and poorest in the city. Citing an eight-bed halfway house with more than 40 voter registrations to its address as well as registration addresses that lead to vacant lots, True the Vote called the Houston Votes headquarters "the Texas office of the New Black Panthers." Houston Votes has sued True the Vote for libel and insists that the "vacant lot" registrations were filed in 2008-2009 before Houston Votes was even founded. Though Houston Votes is still operating, their voter registrations have plummeted to 200 people a day, compared to 1,000 before the allegations.

  • In Ohio, Franklin, Cuyahoga, and other counties sent absentee ballot applications to all active registered voters and have planned to pay the return postage for any absentee ballots. This has paved the way for a lawsuit from four Republican voters from southern Ohio, who are challenging the absentee ballot process and claiming that a lack of procedural uniformity violates the rights of voters. The lawsuit sought an order stipulating that counties can't pre-pay postage or mail absentee ballot applications to every voter unless all 88 counties in the state are required to do it. Though a judge ruled that the issue is not a burden on voting, Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Seth Bringman called the lawsuit "the first in what we expect to be a long line of Republican lawsuits intended to cause confusion, deny access and suppress votes." Franklin and the other counties being targeted are primarily in urban areas with large numbers of Democrats.

  • As Election Day approaches, Progressive States Network will continue to provide updates on voter suppression tactics across the country.