On Monday night’s edition of “The Rachel Maddow Show,” host Rachel Maddow talked about the group True the Vote, and how that group is planning on posting white operatives in black voting precincts on election day to challenge those voters’ authenticity.
The fact that the Republican Party is using suppression of the black vote as part of its 2012 election strategy has become less and less of a secret over the last few months. A disgruntled Florida Republican admitted as much about his party’s aims, and Ohio election officials aren’t even trying to hide the fact that they want fewer African-Americans to vote.
In this climate, the existence of a group like True the Vote should hardly come as a surprise, and yet, the cynicism and naked racism of the group still manages to elicit feelings of surprise and disgust. It was formed in Houston, Texas, an outgrowth of the local Tea Party chapter. Dedicated to fighting the Republicans’ trumped-up “voter fraud” epidemic, the group sends white personnel to minority districts to approach voters at the polls and challenge their right to cast a ballot.
The group had its first test run in its home district of Houston in 2010. ”True the Vote appears to have targeted mostly black precincts, sending white challengers to stare down voting booths filled with black voters,” Maddow said. ”There were so many reports of an intimidating atmosphere in Houston that election that the Federal Justice Department sent observers in on election day.”
True the Vote’s shadowy backers have injected a massive infusion of cash into the organization’s coffers, which will enable them to station “a million” poll watchers at every district they deem questionable in the country. They have held seminars in Colorado, Florida and Ohio, all hotly contested swing states.
In Ohio, the practice has its origins in the 1800s, when precinct captains were charged with the duty of challenging any person who showed up to vote and appeared to have a “distinct and visible admixture of African blood.” The voter would then be subject to a barrage of questions about their heritage and background with the aim of intimidating them to the point that they would leave rather than face this type of harassment.
The same laws are being taken advantage of today by True the Vote to the very same end, silencing the voice of the black electorate. Ohio’s Secretary of State, John Husted was scheduled to speak at True the Vote’s Ohio summit on Saturday, but backed out when Maddow and producers contacted his office about the group. Maddow invited Husted to come on the show and explain his connection to the group, but as of last week, the Secretary’s office stopped answering and returning calls from the “Maddow Show.”