graphic: farlane via Flickr

Voter intimidation and suppression is not a new problem. In 2008, Republicans in Michigan planned to challenge voters whose homes may have been in foreclosure, in spite of the fact that home ownership is not a legal criteria for voting. The Democratic National Committe and Obama for America sued the Republicans (pdf) for this attempt at illegal voter caging.

Emptywheel reports this morning that another attempt to suppress voter turnout based on home ownership as a criteria for voting has popped up in Kansas, by way of robocalls.

What’s this mean to you?

You can vote. Period. The status of your home mortgage or home ownership is not a legal criteria for validating your ability to vote. The only legal criteria for voting status are that you

(1) be at least 18 years of age at the time of the election;
(2) be a U.S. citizen;
(3) be a resident of the jurisdiction where you are registering, and
(4) be registered according to your state’s requirements.

But what if you experience a difficult time voting anyhow, in spite of meeting these criteria?

Contact Election Protection at 866OurVote.org — you can also reach them by Twitter. Election Protection is a non-partisan coalition which works to ensure that voters have equal opportunity to participate in our democracy; members of the coalition includ the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund, ACLU, the American Bar Association, the Brennan Center for Justice and many more legal, community and media organizations.  . . .

Here’s how they describe what intmidation and suppression may look like, and how you can contact them to address it:

Voters experiencing problems at the polls on Election Day can report it to Election Protection via text message or the web by using your Twitter account. This year’s social media components will be used to amplify the Election Protection field and hotline efforts. The primary goal of this component is to drive stakeholders (voters and partner organizations) to the 866OurVote.org website, the Election Protection Coalition resources (EP) and most importantly the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline. Election Protection leadership will monitor all reports and coordinate response efforts with our field teams on the ground in order to ensure success of this year’s program.

Examples of potential issues at the polls:

-Long lines
-Voter intimidation
-Suspicious behavior
-Voting machine malfunctions
-Registration errors

1. Tweets should include a description of the problem and a hashtag+zip code (ex. #22205). If you know your voting precinct number, it would also be helpful to add that.

2. Include in your tweet a simple hashtag of “EP” + state abbreviation-so if you are a voter in Virginia, include in your tweet “#EPVA”

3. These tweet-reports will be monitored at our National Command Center. Our teams on the ground will confirm the reports and work to resolve any issue. We may need to follow up with you for more information.

4. Remember to add #EP2010 to all tweets associated with Election Protection. We’ll use this hashtag (#) to monitor overall engagement.

Example Tweet: @866ourvote Long line est. wait of 2hrs. Some leaving after seeing the line #22205 precinct4 #EPVA #EP2010

We will be re-tweeting some of the reports from our 866ourvote Twitter account. Begin your tweet with “@866ourvote” to send it right to us.

Follow us on Twitter to receive updates on this Twitter voting resource as well as to receive day-to-day voting rights news updates.

There are also going to be many forms of electioneering today, much of it legal, but up to a limit. Some of it may be regulated at state and local level; you’ll need to do some research to see what’s legal and what’s not. In my locale, for example, no electioneering materials like candidate signage, buttons, t-shirts and other promotional materials may be visible within 100 feet of the polling place — and they do measure this. If you are promoting a candidate or a ballot initiative, be respectful of others’ right to vote and observe the appropriate limit of electioneering for your state and locale. (You can read a survey prepared in 2006 of state laws here (pdf), but you’ll still need to check to see if these laws have changed in your state and municipality.)

Some other forms of electioneering are more subtle and very wrong, are really propaganda. We’ve heard that at least one large automotive parts manufacturer in the midwest rolled out its annual health benefits renewal process yesterday, including a 39% increase in premiums. When workers questioned why the dramatic increase, the response was that the increase was due to “Obama-care.”

Poppycock — this is patently wrong. Firms in this industry are generally self-insured and the rates are related to both the experience rate of the plan, the manufacturer’s structure of the plan as well as the insurer’s margin, having nothing at all to do with the Health Care Reform bill. However the workers at the manufacturer’s sites are located in congressional districts which have already been under significant financial distress; you can imagine what this kind of nonsense may do to shape opinion in the polling place.

Be on your toes, be conscious of the kinds of propaganda being used against you as you exercise your right to vote today. And don’t hesitate to ask for help if you feel intimidated or discouraged from voting while voting; you can reach Election Protection by phone at 1-866-Our-Vote (1-866-687-8683) — program this number into your cell phone before you leave for the polls.

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