Washington Watch Voter Suppression Update: Beware Of Efforts To Suppress Your Vote (VIDEO)

It’s time now for our final voter update of this election cycle. As we have reported, most of the strict voter ID laws have been put on hold by the courts through the great efforts of civil rights groups like the NAACP and others. But those victories don’t mean that efforts to suppress the vote are all gone. In fact, there are a whole slew of tactics the enemies of democracy will use on Election Day and these despicable practices are almost exclusively aimed at minority neighborhoods.

NAACP Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy Hilary Shelton sat down with Roland Martin on the set of Washington Watch to discuss the GOP’s efforts to suppress your vote and more.

MR. MARTIN:  Welcome back.

It’s time now for our final voter update of this election cycle.  As we have reported, most of the strict voter ID laws have been put on hold by the courts through the great efforts of civil rights groups like the NAACP and others.  But those victories don’t mean that efforts to suppress the vote are all gone.  In fact, there are who- — a whole slew of tactics the enemies of democracy will use on Election Day – and, Republicans, I’m really talking about you.  And these despicable practices are almost exclusively aimed at minority neighborhoods.

Here is what to look out for and what to pass on to your family and friends.

•  The “you can vote by phone” scam, where someone posing as an election

official says you can vote by phone.  You can’t.  That’s a flat-out lie, so get to

the polls and vote in person.

•  Phony Letters that look official, that say they have information that doubts your

eligibility to vote.  Again, nonsense.  You need to go vote.

•  The wrong day ploy.  One Republican-run county board of elections in Ohio

sent out an official mailer saying Election Day was November 8th.  [The] same

thing happened in Arizona.  Folks, Election Day is this Tuesday, November


•  “Stay at home” robocalls.  In 2010, 100,000 Black voters in Maryland were told

to relax and stay home on Election Day because the Democrats had already

won.  Do not be fooled.  It ain’t over ’til it’s over.

•  Fake police warnings.  Watch out for calls and letters saying you can’t vote if

you have unpaid parking tickets or child support, or that police will be at the

polling places.  Police might be there, but they are not enforcing unpaid tickets

or child support payments.  Their job is to keep calmness at the voting polls.

•  The boss telling you how to vote.  Your boss can legally tell you how he or she

wants you to vote, but it’s illegal for the boss to punish you in any way if you

don’t follow their instructions.

•   And, finally, the intimidating poll watcher.  We talked about this last week, but

you may find folks at the polls trying to insist on ID or documentation you don’t

need.  Follow instructions only from official poll workers – not poll observers.

You don’t have to show them a thing.  You don’t owe them anything.  You can

ignore them.

The last thing.  My parents are poll workers there in Texas.  My mom is a precinct judge.  You also can ask for support and help, if you don’t fully understand everything.  One guy did not do a review of his ballot, and my mom had to cancel out his ballot because he didn’t press “SEND” after “REVIEW.”  Ask for help.  They’re there to help you.

Now, one of the organizations that has had our back on voting rights for over 100 years is the NAACP, and here today is NAACP Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy Hilary Shelton.

Welcome back to the show.

MR. HILARY SHELTON:  It’s good to be with you, Roland.

MR. MARTIN:  We talk about all of these different efforts, and they’re there.  We saw what took place in Iowa with the Romney campaign – the whole notion of telling folks – training them to ask for IDs.  I mean what other kind[s] of things have you been hearing and you guys are looking out for come Tuesday?

MR. SHELTON:  Well, we’ve been deeply concerned about early voting as it’s moved forward as well.  Longer lines are still problematic.  There’ve been problems with some of the ballots and other issues along those lines.  There’s also still some confusion about what you actually have to have when you get to the polls on Election Day – or even early voting.  And quite frankly, we’ve experienced many people still being asked for photo ID, but not understanding that even if you don’t have the photo ID, you can cast the votes right now.

We have a number of states, as you know, that we were successful in blocking the actual formal, legal necessity for photo IDs when they came to the polls; but because that isn’t being done this time around, some people have missed that point, and there’s still some confusion – both on the side of the voters as well as the election workers.

Our push is to make sure that – that we don’t have a problem along those lines, but also we’re hearing stories now about voter intimidation by those states like Pennsylvania and Kentucky that allow third-party challenges of those voters that come to the polls as well.  That is, third-party organizations can ask – or, challenge someone if they think they’re not registered to vote or eligible to vote for some reason or the other.  We have to make sure that that doesn’t create a problem for us as we move towards this election cycle as well.

MR. MARTIN:  I got a[n] email from I believe it is Wade Henderson’s group, the Leadership Conference.  I believe that’s what it is.


MR. MARTIN:  And it said, “The Civil and Human Rights Coalition deploys videographers to counter voter suppression at the polls.”

[Do] you know anything about that?  Tell us about that.  What are they doing?

MR. SHELTON:  Yes, indeed.  What we have in some cases on one side [is] we have those who want to intimidate, that are using videographers; but we’re also making sure there are poll workers – or, that’s our poll observers are there to also provide that same kind of assistance.  We want to make sure that people see what’s going on.  As a matter of fact, Roland, to the point that the OSCE – the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe – is actually sending official, international observers into 40 states across the country to make sure we don’t have the same kind of shenanigans that we experienced back in 2000.

MR. MARTIN:  Now, it’s hilarious in my home state of Texas.  The attorney general and the governor – they’ve been critical of these E- — these international observers.  Well[?], it’s a joke to me because the United States – we send election monitors to other states.  How arrogant of us to somehow think that we don’t need it in our own country!

MR. SHELTON:  Well – and – and, actually, we’re a member as well.  We help train these poll observers.  We help make sure they have what they need to be able to provide a nonpartisan observation of the election process.  We do it all the time, and other states do it all the time.  And quite frankly, this isn’t the first time that we’ve had the OSCE actually provide obser- — observation at our election sites across the country. After that debacle of the 2000 election, they were here in 2002, 2004 and 2006.  So, it’s not extraordinary to –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. SHELTON:  — have that here, and it’s only helpful.  When you have a group like that that’s nonpartisan, that doesn’t have a role in the fight one way or another, whatever report they do when it’s all over and done can only help us as we move to further protect and perfect our electoral process.

MR. MARTIN:  Also, polls close at 7 p.m.  I – and I don’t know if [in] other places it’s later than that, but –

MR. SHELTON:  It varies.

MR. MARTIN:  — but typically 7 p.m.  And correct me if I’m lo- — wro- — wrong.  Whe- — if you are in line by the time that clock strikes, you can still cast your vote.

MR. SHELTON:  That’s exactly right.  Every state recognizes and honors that process.  If people are in line, and that 7 o’clock – whatever that “witching hour” is in which they officially close the polls, they have to allow anyone that’s still in that line to come forward and cast that vote and allow it to be counted.

MR. MARTIN:  Now, that’s one thing.  The other thing is – that I – I wanted to bring up in terms of what’s going to happen [is] if somebody wants to be a poll watcher, how do they do it?  Do they just show up and say, “Hey, I’m a poll watcher”?

MR. SHELTON:  Well, there’re a number of organizations that are doing it.  The NAACP is working very closely with the National Education Association and others across the country on the ground.  The League of Women and Voters and others provide that nonpartisan voter observation process –

MR. MARTIN:  So – so, if somebody is watching right now, and they say, “Hey, I” – “I want to be a poll watcher” – you know, “I’ve already voted, but I want to be one of those folks to protect,” can they call the NAACP and say, “Hey, I’m available.  This is where I live”?

MR. SHELTON:  Absolutely.  As –

MR. MARTIN:  Okay.

MR. SHELTON:  — a matter of fact, you can contact your local branch.  Those phone numbers are listed everyplace.  You can go on our website at naacp.org, or you can call our 866.OURVOTE number and get information to actually let people know that you’d like to be trained.  We want our poll watchers trained, understanding how the process works.  Make sure they understand they cannot interfere with the process at –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. SHELTON:  — all, but they’re only there to assist when problems occur and actually provide that observation to make sure there’re no shenanigans.

MR. MARTIN:  Last thing.  Not much time left.  You also have attorneys who are on standby.  Any issues, any questions – again, if somebody goes to the polls, and they say, “I’m sorry.  You can’t vote,” they can call what number to –

MR. SHELTON:  86- —

MR. MARTIN:  — say, “Hey, I’m having problems right at my location”?

MR. SHELTON:  — absolutely.  866.OUR VOTE is the interna- — or, is the national number they can call and make sure they find out what’s going on.  If we have attorneys who want to volunteer their time, that same number’s available.  We have organizations like the National Bar Association and other groups on the ground and around the country that are providing that kind of assistance to us.  And we reach out to everyone to say, “Help us do this to make sure that this election goes through as smoothly as it should.”

And whoever the victor is, let that be the case.

MR. MARTIN:  Well, we wish we didn’t have to have all those things, but we’re glad we do.

Hilary Shepherd, we appreciate it.  Thanks a lot.

MR. SHELTON:  Well, it’s great to be with you.