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Thursday, October 30, 2014 | Last updated: 8:15am

At the polls today, beware of voter suppression



Most of us are probably ready to get the election over with today and let the votes count themselves.

We won’t bother watching the TV, listening to the radio or otherwise expose ourselves to the massive wave of election coverage that is sure to dominate every form of media available.

This is certainly true in Arizona. At stake are a virtually tied presidential race, a tight U.S. senatorial campaign and dozens of state and local contests, so news coverage and updates are likely to permeate every TV, radio and computer.

However, relieved voters today should be aware that certain individuals may be trying to tamper with their right to walk into the polls today.

Some individuals, known as “poll watchers,” are standing outside polling places trying to turn certain people away. Poll watchers are permitted outside polling places (for questionnaires, surveys, etc.), but attempting to prevent anyone from voting is illegal. This is what a certain group seeks to do regardless.

The group allegedly aiming to discourage members of certain voting demographics is called Verify the Vote, Arizona Elections Task Force.

Even if the group is not directly responsible for trying to suppress certain voters from entering the polls, they certainly discourage readers and volunteers with charged terms like “the ongoing corruption of our elections” and claiming that “unmonitored elections invite fraud.”

Verify the Vote claims to be a nonpartisan institution championing the cause of “legitimate voters” and “aggressively pursuing cases of fraud” in voting.

As nonpartisan as this may sound, a closer look reveals a string that follows Tea Party philosophy in voter identification laws that have taken hold of conservative states.

Additionally, an online poll shows that 96 percent of poll respondents believe that voter identification laws are needed. In the state and national spotlight, this issue is much more contested.

On Verify the Vote’s website, with venues for “election watchers,” Brad Zinn answers questions by potential volunteers. Zinn interviewed Congressional District 3 Republican candidate Gabriela Saucedo Mercer when she made her infamous comments regarding Middle Eastern immigrants to the United States. The interview was for Western Free Press, an Arizona-based conservative online news site.

Additionally, Verify the Vote AZ is parented by True the Vote, a national “voter fraud detector” headed by Catherine Engelbrecht. In September, The New York Times reported that Engelbrecht gives speeches telling conservative voters that buses are ferrying fraudulent voters to different polling sites.

“… No one can prove that it [the fraudulent voter bus] exists,” the Times article said.
In Arizona, apparently only certain voters are targeted to be turned away from the polls.

One of the groups being targeted are college-aged voters. Members of the organization are telling students they do not qualify under the “intend to reside” provision of the state’s voting law.

But out-of-state students who register with the Pima County Recorder’s Office to vote are perfectly entitled to.

And voters of (you guessed it) Hispanic origin are being told they don’t qualify to vote, either.

How widespread and prevalent this voting infringement is is unclear. But you have the right to question anyone outside a polling place who is infringing on your right to enter the building.

Even if someone does not belong to Verify the Vote, question anyone who tries to turn you away. If you are voting today and encounter this, report it to the Pima County Elections Department and to the Secretary of State’s office.

It is your right to enter the polling place and cast your vote.

— Andres Dominguez is a senior studying political science and journalism. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @AndresReporting .


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