Conservative poll observers are gearing up for Election Day, when they will watch for possible instances of voter fraud and challenge voters they find suspicious. As ThinkProgress reported, many of these volunteers have been fed false or misleading information about voting rights by the Romney campaign and independent Tea Party groups like True the Vote. True the Vote encourages its poll watchers to “build relationships with election administrators” because “they control the access to the vote.”
But one True the Vote affiliate, the Ohio Voter Integrity Project, is taking their election interference one step further. Ohio VIP has recruited and dispatched poll workers who will not be merely observing, but directly involved in the voting process in a crucial swing state. Hamilton County elections director Tim Burke told the Columbus Dispatch that VIP poll workers will represent the Republican Party:
We know that the Voter Integrity Project has recruited and through the (Hamilton) County Republican Party has placed some poll workers. I have discussed this with my Republican counterpart.Ohio VIP provides a 3 hour training for their poll workers, as required by the Board of Elections. The group is advertising these sessions, according to the Dispatch, “as going beyond what the secretary of state tells them.” Ohio VIP is one of the more zealous branches of the already extreme True the Vote national organization; Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) opened a criminal investigation into True the Vote due to the Ohio group’s attempts to purge thousands of students, trailer park residents, homeless people and African Americans from the voting rolls.
I accept the fact that he understands that the VIP pollworkers are working for the Board of Elections on Election Day and are subject to the board’s instructions, not the VIP instruction. Obviously both sides are going to have observers as well as poll workers. I, and others will spend the day responding to trouble calls.
While in-person voter fraud is exceedingly rare, overzealous poll workers could jeopardize legitimate votes by forcing them to use provisional ballots, which cannot be counted until November 17. Ohio’s provisional ballot mess is already threatening to disenfranchise thousands of legitimate voters — the bulk of whom live in urban, minority-heavy areas like Hamilton County, which contains Cincinnati. In 2004, Ohio tossed out thousands of provisional ballots, concentrated in Hamilton and the state’s four other urban counties. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) lost Ohio by a narrow margin in 2004, allowing George W. Bush to win a second term.