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Tea Party Group And Republican Campaign Coordinating To Supply Illinois With ‘Nonpartisan’ Poll Watchers

By Aviva Shen  

"Tea Party Group And Republican Campaign Coordinating To Supply Illinois With ‘Nonpartisan’ Poll Watchers"

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John Curry, Republican committeeman and True the Vote coordinator

On Tuesday, Tea Party group True the Vote will dispatch poll watchers throughout the country to challenge voters’ rights as they cast their ballots. True the Vote often insists it is a nonpartisan organization simply concerned with election integrity. It has even applied for non-profit status, which would exempt them from taxes. But a new email to True the Vote volunteers in Illinois shows that the organization is recruiting poll watchers specifically for one candidate — Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL).

The email was sent by John Curry, the 32nd Ward Republican committeeman in Chicago who apparently moonlights as a True the Vote coordinator. He encourages volunteers to contact another coordinator named Sharon Keller:

…I have identified an important area for you to poll watch in this election. It is in the general area of Northwest suburban Chicago, including Schaumburg and Elk Grove Village. The area is of concern because of the close campaign between Joe Walsh and Tammy Duckworth for Congress, in which millions of dollars are being spent and many out of area workers are coming in to influence the election. Will you work as a poll watcher in this area? If you agree to do so, please contact Sharon Keller, who is coordinating pollwatching in this area. Her email is estateattorney@earthlink.net and her cell phone is 310-871-3611. Please tell her you were referred by John Curry. She will be running a special poll watcher training on Sunday, so it would be great if you can attend.

This Sharon Keller appears to be the same person who is in charge of partisan poll watchers for the Joe Walsh campaign, according to a Tea Party website:

To volunteer to poll watch for Joe, contact Sharon Keller, who is heading up Joe’s poll watching efforts. Email Sharon at: estateattorney@earthlink.net or call her at (310) 871-3611. She seems to prefer phone calls but will respond to email also. You will be asked to sign up for one of two shifts on Election Day: 6 am – 10:00 am and 3:00 pm – 7:30 pm. (Yes, you can sign up for both shifts.) Right now, they especially need poll watchers for the morning shift.

Illinois categorizes poll watchers as either partisan or nonpartisan. Presumably, True the Vote poll watchers will be posing as nonpartisan so as to not endanger their pending non-profit status. Yet this email to volunteers suggests they are recruiting partisan poll watchers for the Walsh campaign — in blatant defiance of their claim of nonpartisanship.

This isn’t the first time the group has provided illegal aid to a campaign. A judge ruled in March that poll watchers deployed by True the Vote in Texas’ 2010 election amounted to an illegal campaign contribution to the Republican Party. After Tuesday, it will be hard to see how True the Vote can keep up the nonpartisan facade.

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