The Washington Post

Civil rights group to monitor Election Day ‘hot spots’

A leading civil rights organization has identified more than 30 cities and counties in nine states as possible "Election Day Hot Spots" for attempted suppression of voters through intimidation, deception or challenges to their eligibility.

The Advancement Project says it will have staff to observe voting in these jurisdictions — which include Virginia's Fairfax and Prince William counties — and have attorneys ready to intervene on behalf of voters.

The issues vary in the communities across Florida, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin and Virginia, according to the organization's staff, but most have significant minority populations and histories of voting rights violations. Some are also thought to be areas where the tea party or voter fraud watchdog groups such as "True the Vote" will be active, according to Katherine Culliton-Gonzalez, the Advancement Project's senior attorney and director of voter protection.

These are among the places, she said, "where voters of color would be most vulnerable."

The Houston-based voter fraud group has pledged to field 1 million volunteers for Election Day, although voting-rights activists have expressed skepticism about that number. Even if True the Vote turns out a fraction of the 1 million, however, it will be a significant presence.

"Our monitors will be monitoring their monitors," said Judith Browne Dianis, the Advancement Project's co-director. 

In an e-mailed statement Wednesday, True the Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht did not respond to questions about the size of her membership, except to say that "our numbers continue to grow exponentially."

She also said: "True the Vote does not have 'Hot Spots.' Will large numbers of TTV-trained volunteers be serving in polls? We believe so. Was there a higher demand for TTV training in certain areas? Yes. Whether this is cause for the Advancement Project's concern is of no consequence to us. For some time now they have spun a story in which True the Vote is the foil in an imagined melodrama."

Central Florida is a focus because of an influx of Puerto Rican immigrants into Osceola, Orlando/Orange, Pinellas, Seminole and Volusia counties. Miami and Broward counties have been plagued by long lines this year due to lengthy ballots. Tampa is one location that True the Vote has publicly reported training large numbers of volunteers to serve as election workers and poll watchers who will try to spot ineligible voters, Advancement Project officials said. 

In Virginia, Prince William and the cities of Richmond, Norfolk and Newport News will be watched because of concerns about the availability of federally mandated ballot translation for Hispanic residents and compliance with rules allowing them to have assistance when they vote. Fairfax County is on the group's radar because of concerns about interference with Korean American voters. The Asian American Legal Defense Fund has called on the Justice Department to monitor polls in Fairfax, where it says that in 2006 elderly Korean Americans were tricked into voting for a particular candidate by a campaign worker.

Another place where the Advancement Project will be watching closely for True the Vote activity is Cincinnati. The group also will be active in Allentown, Pa.; Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; Durham, N.C.; Harrisburg, Pa.; Houston; Kansas City, Las Vegas; Milwaukee; Philadelphia; St. Louis; San Antonio; Raleigh, N.C.; Reno, Nevada  and Racine, Wis.

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.



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