A message from Harris County Democratic Chairman Gerry Birnberg on the blatant voter harrassment and intimidation going on at voting locations in minority neighborhoods. (Here’s another bit of news, Teabaggers apparently also feel they can harrass Democratic campaign workers, too, as one of our hard-working volunteers was harrassed today at the Kingwood location.)
URGENT – THE TEA PARTY IS TRYING TO KEEP YOU FROM VOTING IN THIS ELECTION. DON’T LET THEM!
As early voting began in Harris County, we experienced the most overt and extensive effort to intimidate African American and Latino voters and keep them from voting we have seen here since the days of Jim Crow and before passage of the Voting Rights Act.
Folks reportedly paid by the Tea Party have swarmed minority early voting locations throughout Harris County, appointed as “poll watchers” by the local Republican Party and Republican candidates. Once inside, they try to disrupt voting and intimidate voters. They try to block access to polling places and hover over voters trying to vote, even positioning themselves to watch the minority voters while they are casting ballots. They try to talk to voters and election workers and are confrontational and hostile. THEIR GOAL IS SIMPLY TO DISCOURAGE AND INTIMIDATE MINORITY VOTERS AND KEEP THEM FROM VOTING!
Most of the conduct reported is clearly illegal. These people are not only enemies of democracy who don’t want people to vote, they are lawbreakers!
Here’s what the Texas Election Code provides:
“A watcher may not be present at the voting station when a voter is preparing the voter’s ballot or is being assisted by a person of the voter’s choice.” Texas Election Code section 33.057(b)
“While on duty, a watcher may not converse with a voter or communicate in any manner with a voter regarding the election.” Texas Election Code section 33.058(a)(2).
The only conversation which can occur between an election officer and a poll watcher is “to call attention to an irregularity or violation of law.” Texas Election Code section 33.058(a)(1).
They are breaking these laws for one reason only – to try to intimidate minority voters into not voting.
WE CANNOT LET THEM GET AWAY WITH THIS. WE FOUGHT TOO HARD FOR THE RIGHT TO VOTE TO LET A BUNCH OF BIGOTS AND THUGS TAKE IT AWAY FROM US NOW.
The best way to fight this effort to take away people’s voting is to VOTE! Show them it won’t work! Show them nobody is going to disrupt or intimidate or harass us into not voting!
And take names. If you witness any of this illegal activity at the polls, try to get the name of the “poll watcher” who engaged in it and if they’re too afraid to give it to you, record a physical description. Then fill out an Election Incident Report Form on our website or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can always call us at 713-802-0085, but our telephone lines are so busy right now, we’d really much prefer an email if you can do so.
It’s time to stand up to people who don’t want you to vote.
Chair, Harris County Democratic Party