If you want to prevent certain people from voting, you’ve got a lot of options. Some are legal; some are not. Most of us are familiar with the proliferating tactic of requiring photo IDs that may be hard to get for certain parts of the population [mostly low-income and most often Democratic voters]. Alongside that strategy is the one we saw most recently, in the 2016 Arizona Democratic primary. That’s where the director of elections, in an supposedly cost-cutting move, reduced the number of polling places in Maricopa County, from 600 to 20.
But there are a lot more tactics to choose from. Here’s a brief roundup, gleaned from Wikipedia, of some other dirty-tricks, voter-suppression tactics in play in recent years.
In the 2002 New Hampshire Senate election phone jamming scandal, Republican officials attempted to reduce the number of Democratic voters by paying professional telemarketers in Idaho to make repeated hang-up calls to the telephone numbers used by the Democratic Party’s ride-to-the-polls phone lines on election day. By tying up the lines, voters seeking rides from the Democratic Party would have more difficulty reaching the party to ask for transportation to and from their polling places
In the 2004 presidential election,
Allegations surfaced in several states that a private group, Voters Outreach of America, which had been empowered by the individual states, had collected and submitted Republican voter registration forms while inappropriately discarding voter registration forms where the new voter had chosen to register with the Democratic Party. Such people would believe they had registered to vote, and would only discover on election day that they were not registered and could not cast a ballot.
Four employees of the John Kerry campaign were convicted of slashing the tires of 25 vans rented by the Wisconsin state Republican Party which were to be used for driving Republican voters and monitors to the polls. At the campaign workers’ sentencing, Judge Michael B. Brennan told the defendants, “Voter suppression has no place in our country. Your crime took away that right to vote for some citizens.”
In the Virginia Senate election
- Democratic voters received calls incorrectly informing them voting will lead to arrest.
- Widespread calls fraudulently claiming to be “[Democratic Senate candidate Jim] Webb Volunteers,” falsely telling voters their voting location had changed.
- Fliers paid for by the Republican Party, stating “SKIP THIS ELECTION” that allegedly attempted to suppress African-American turnout.
In Michigan, the Republican party used a “caging scheme,” in which the party planned to use home foreclosure lists to challenge voters still using their foreclosed home as a primary address at the polls. The Obama campaign sued, and a Federal Appeals court ordered the reinstatement of 5,500 voters wrongly purged from the voter rolls.
In Montana, the Republican Lieutenant Governor accused the Montana Republican Party of engaging in a similar voter caging scheme, to purge 6,000 voters from three counties that trend Democratic. The purges included war veterans and active duty soldiers.
In Wisconsin, the Republican Party attempted to have all 60,000 voters in the heavily Democratic city of Milwaukee who had registered since January 1, 2006, deleted from the voter rolls. The requests were rejected by the Milwaukee Election Commission.
In the Maryland gubernatorial election , the campaign of Republican candidate Bob Ehrlich hired a consultant who advised that “the first and most desired outcome is voter suppression”, in the form of having “African-American voters stay home.” To that end, the Republicans placed thousands of Election Day robocalls to Democratic voters, telling them that the Democratic candidate, Martin O’Malley, had won, although in fact the polls were still open for some two more hours. The Republicans’ call, worded to seem as if it came from Democrats, told the voters, “Relax. Everything’s fine. The only thing left is to watch it on TV tonight.” The calls reached 112,000 voters in majority-African American areas.
And these are just the most egregious examples that received press attention. No doubt, there are many more schemes at play. I personally witnessed an example while serving as an election judge in the 2012 presidential election. The judge sitting next to me kept insisting that voters [who had already been checked in at the ID station] had to show HER their photo ID [which is not required in my state]. Then, she called her party supervisor [Republican] to complain that “they’re letting people vote here without photo ID.” [Her supervisor, to his credit, explained that photo ID was not required.] But she continued to do her best to suppress as many voters as possible.
How many other small-bore attempts like that one are happening? Apparently, for some people intent on cheating people out of their right to vote, there are no tactics too petty or sneaky.