Members of an Ohio tea party group are taking it upon themselves to individually police alleged voter fraud, launching challenges to a targeted list of voters that includes hundreds of college students, trailer park residents, homeless people and African Americans in counties President Obama won in 2008. In all, the group has sought to remove from the voter rolls at least 2,100 registrations in 13 Ohio counties, nine of which Obama won in 2008, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The alleged perpetrators of this voter fraud include Lori Monroe, a 40-year-old recovering from cancer, whose apartment for the past seven years was allegedly listed as a commercial property; and eight members of an African American family, whose four-bedroom home where the family has lived since the 1980s was allegedly listed as a vacant lot. The group has also focused on challenging college students for failure to specify a dorm room number, a claim that every election board has thus far found invalid.
The group behind this crusade has dubbed itself the Ohio Voter Integrity Project, an offshoot of Texas-based True the Vote, which champions voter purges and voter ID laws and has been building a “poll watcher” network, an effort documented by Colorlines’ Brentin Mock:
[True the Vote National Elections Coordinator Bill] Ouren and Americans for Prosperity gathered these recruits in Boca Raton in July to instruct them on how they could become “empowered” vessels for True the Vote’s poll watcher program. True the Vote is most widely known for its advocacy of restrictive photo voter ID laws. But while that might garner headlines, the group’s real focus is on policing the act of voting itself. As Ouren declared during the group’s national summit in April, and repeated again in Boca Raton, his recruits’ job is chiefly to make voters feel like they’re “driving and seeing the police following you.” He aims to recruit one million poll watchers around the country. […]
True the Vote encourages recruits to “build relationships with election administrators” because “they control the access to the vote,” as Ouren told a gathering in Houston. In 2010, the group was able to get a list of voter registration data from Republican Harris County registrar Leo Vasquez, who reportedly refused the same to the Democratic Party, for which the party sued. When the King Street Patriots submitted to him their list of fraudulent actions they claimed to see at the polls, Vasquez accepted them without verification and held a press conference with Engelbrecht asserting Harris County polls were “under a systemic and organized attack.”
Of course, these phony charges of voter fraud – a wildly exaggerated phenomenon — do more than harass legally registered voters; they provide an artificial justification for the real and considerable threats to disfranchisement that come from new restrictive voter suppression laws, such as the move to limit early voting in Ohio, now embroiled in litigation.