By Aviva Shen/Think Progress As courts continue to block voter suppression efforts around the county, conservative groups are redoubling efforts to intimidate voters at the polls come Election Day.
New Mexico has started its own voter purge of 177,000 people, including a voting rights activist married to a state representative. However, as the law won’t go into effect until November 2014, the local Republican Party has apparently started training “poll challengers” for this election. A hidden camera caught Pat Morlen, the vice chair of the Sandoval County Republican Party, instructing volunteer “poll challengers” to demand photo ID and force legal voters to use provisional ballots. The video, filmed by the nonprofit ProgressNow New Mexico, shows vice-chair Morlen making several claims that directly contradict New Mexico law:
MORLEN: You can request to see a form of ID. At the request of two or more precinct board members of different political parties, a voter shall still present the required physical form of identification.
VOLUNTEER: What happens if we get people in there who are part of what the media is calling the purge?
MORLEN: They’ll vote provisional. That’s all that’s gonna happen.
In spite of these false instructions, New Mexicans who were flagged as “inactive” voters are still permitted to vote with regular ballots in November. The misinformation didn’t stop there. ProgressNow compiled an extensive list of the lies presented as election law, including claims that Spanish speakers are not permitted interpreters and that the police are involved in election monitoring:
CLAIM: “The police are supposed to be the ones who ensure that the election is legit.” FACT: Elections officials preside over elections, not the police. FACT: Police can be enlisted to ensure the orderly conduct of an election but officers who interfere with an election are guilty of a petty misdemeanor.
CLAIM: The trainer claims a person who changed their address but stayed within their same voting precinct should receive a provisional ballot. FACT: Anyone in this situation is given a regular ballot at the polls. (See 1 NMAC 10.3)
CLAIM: The trainer claims that interpreters are not provided to non-English speakers and then is unsure if polling places will provide Spanish-language ballots. FACT: Assistance for people in language minorities is provided, as are Spanish-language ballots.
Morlen also disparaged disabled New Mexicans, opining, “if the person can’t even say their name, at least their name, I don’t see why they should be voting.”
Obama has a narrow lead over Romney in the New Mexico polls, projecting a very close race. This particular training was filmed just two days after a study was released estimating 10 million Latinos could be disenfranchised by various voter suppression efforts. While Morlen’s statements are easily debunked, New Mexico voters are likely to be harassed and intimidated by these volunteer “voter challengers” armed with false information. But New Mexican voters aren’t the only targets; the national Tea Party group True the Vote has mobilized a large army of volunteers to go to the polls all over the country to harass voters. True the Vote tested out their voter intimidation skills during Gov. Scott Walker’s (R-WI) recall election in June, when poll watchers blocked students and African Americans from voting.