When is a first strike not a first strike?
When it's Anticipatory Retaliation.

November 02, 2004

Poll Watching: Voter Intimidation?


Well, I've voted. It's now up to history. But the circumstances of my experience led me to pontificate a bit on the accusations of voter intimidation that have been eminating from the mainstream Democratic activists. (I posted a comment about this on my home blog, but decided to turn the comment into a longer post because the topic seems to have acquired gravitas that I would not have expected a week ago.)

I don't know where the idea came from that poll watching was invented by Republicans to intimidate Democrats, but the accusation manifests a lot more heat than light. I worked for a number of years as a Democratic Party campaign organizer, and it was always pretty standard practice to do a stint as a poll watcher on election day. As soon as you finished a few tedious hours at the polling place, you went to the "after" party and waited with your fellow activists for the returns to come in. The idea was simply to challenge voters whose bonafides looked suspicious (wrong address, name change, etc.) and the government poll worker would then check the name, or ask for further identification. Normally a check was done on the spot, but nowadays the person who is challenged just fills out a provisional ballot and, if necessary, the check is done later. A very good idea.

Poll watching has been practiced by both Democrats and Republicans for about as long as there have been elections in the US. When I was poll watching for Democratic candidates in Oregon I always had a Republican counterpart. Poll watching is, by definition, a partisan activity, and you are taking an advocacy position that guards against voter fraud by the other party. I might add that fraud potentially cuts both ways. It can just as easily dilute a liberal as a conservative vote. In light of this, one of the possible interpretations of the Democrats' sudden emphasis on poll watching as an intimidation strategy by the other party might be that they intend to perpetrate voter fraud, and simply don't want anyone around to blow the whistle. Another, more benign, interpretation is that they simply intend to use the accusation as a GOTU (get out the vote) strategy, primarily to motivate minorities. But either way the notion that poll watching is something new or that it is practiced exclusively by Republicans is nonsense, as anyone would know who has ever actually worked on a campaign. It may be the case that poll watching is now more frequent, but that's clearly because there's a valid concern about fraud. There have been stories today that vehicles intended to transport Republican poll watchers have been vandalized and sabotaged.

Regarding the concept of voter intimidation itself, I'd like to recount my own experience of voting this morning. I live near a large military base, and the voting place for residents of my neighborhood is on the base. Because my car battery had gone kaput, I had to bicycle 15 miles round trip to get to my polling place, and had to pass through a concrete barricaded checkpoint manned by marines armed with M-16s, who verified my identification and my voter card to make certain that I had reason to be on the base. If I were inclined to be intimidated, that would have done the trick. But these are the times.

The notion that someone would be intimidated by a mere "poll watcher" of one or the other party strikes me as just a tad whiney, especially considering that ten million Afghan voters recently braved death threats and possible kidnap and brutal execution in order to cast their vote in a brand new third world democracy. In fact, some election workers have been kidnapped.

Using Team America's brilliant typology of the War on Terror, one has to wonder whether we've become a nation of pussies. Nothing personal, but I'm just slightly outraged at the suggestions and thought processes of Democrat activists and spinmeisters who bloviate unknowingly on this issue. If people are too timid to vote because a poll watcher is in the room... they probably don't have sufficient judgment or integrity to make an informed decision.

(Cross-posted by Demosophist to Demosophia and The Jawa Report)

Launched by Demosophist at November 2, 2004 07:41 PM

Retaliatiory Launches

free hit counter