If you’re a conservative poll watcher on Election Day, you’re probably a racist! That’s essentially the charge leveled in an August 25 Washington Post-published article by AJ Vicens and Natasha Kahn of the News21 Carnegie-Knight Initiative. Entitled, “True the Vote and other poll watchers motives questioned,” Kahn and Vicens opened their article by noting the paranoia of a Milwaukee voter creeped out at the fact that there were three white poll watchers at her mostly-black polling precinct on the recall election day a few months back:
As Jamila Gatlin waited in line at a northside Milwaukee elementary school to cast her ballot June 5 in the proposed recall of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, she noticed three people in the back of the room. They were watching, taking notes. Officially called ‘election observers,’ they were white. Gatlin, and almost everyone else in line, was black. That’s pretty harassing right there, if you ask me, Gatlin said in the hall outside the gym. Why do we have to be watched while we vote?
Two of the observers were from a Houston-based group called True the Vote, an offshoot of the Houston tea party known as the King Street Patriots. Their stated goal is to prevent voter fraud, which the group and founder Catherine Engelbrecht claims is undermining free and fair elections.
Did I miss the conspiracy here? What is so evil about poll watching? It’s perfectly legal and it’s designed to insure confidence in our electoral process. For example, poll watchers could play a crucial role in preventing and combating the sort of voter intimidation that occurred in Pennsylvania during the 2008 election at the behest of the Black Panther Party.
No, with the legality of poll watching unquestionable, Vicens and Kahn turned to liberal academics to make that case that “white poll watchers in minority areas can have a disenfranchising impact even if there’s no direct interaction.”
“In a community where voter participation is not very high and where folks are not as politically active, any barrier that prevents you from getting to the polls or that discourages you from getting to the polls is potentially a problem,” Vicens and Kahn quoted Nic Riley of New York University’s Brennan Center.
Given that the News21 program’s media partners are the Washington Post, NPR, MSNBC, and the Center for Public Integrity, you can see where they stand on this issue. As a result, it comes to no surprise that Vicens and Kahn close by insinuating that the Tea Party is out to get black people and other minorities, even though investigations by Harris County [Texas] and the Obama/Holder Department of Justice turned up no evidence of “voter intimidation” in the 2010 elections:
[Douglas] Ray, of the Harris County Attorney’s Office, has talked with the King Street Patriots about rules governing poll watchers, and has heard complaints about the poll watchers from the community. He said there’s no problem if Engelbrecht and her groups follow the law and respect people’s right to vote. But, Ray said, the way True the Vote goes about its mission creates tension. If you listen to all their rhetoric, it’s clear what their intent is, Ray said. Their intent is to try to act out on this belief . . . they have that the only reason Barack Obama got elected is because a bunch of ‘those’ people cheated on their ballot.
Hillary Clinton saw a “vast, right-wing conspiracy” at play in persecuting her faithless husband. News21 sees a vast, white-wing conspiracy to “disenfranchise” voters.
P.S. I am an Asian-American and almost always in places dominated by white folks. I have yet to be harassed and don’t mind poll watchers — of any skin tone — observing polling places for irregularities and/or criminal malfeasance.