By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org
A coalition of left-wing groups has sent threatening letters to election-watch groups and local officials around the country, accusing them of suppressing voting rights and violating laws.
The coordinated campaign was triggered by a seven-page letter sent by U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. Using official stationery of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the Democrat demanded that True the Vote president Catherine Engelbrecht produce “a list of all individual voter registration challenges by state, county and precinct … including correspondence and determinations by election officials.”
Cummings, who also used committee Chairman Darrell Issa‘s free franking privileges to send the letter, went onto make additional sweeping demands for copies of all training materials, computer programs, research software and names of all organizations and volunteer groups that have access to such material.
Engelbrecht responded that Cummings’ “second-hand” criticism was “inaccurate, misleading and unfair.”
“Responsible citizens exercising powers under Section 8 (of the National Voter Registration Act) have every right, and we would argue, a civil obligation, to assist the electoral process” by bringing information of vote irregularities to the attention of election officials.
Last week, TTV turned over 99 more cases of suspected voter fraud to authorities in New York, Ohio, Florida and Rhode Island.
Logan Churchwell, a spokesman for True the Vote, said Cummings overstepped his authority.
“The mainstream media call it a congressional probe. He has no power to launch investigation outside his own office and no power to subpoena. His witness calling is limited to booking ability of CNN,” Churchwell said.
Neither Cummings nor Issa were available for comment late Wednesday afternoon.
Following on Cummings’ Oct. 5 letter, a phalanx of left-wing groups began contacting TTV volunteers in Florida, Ohio and Colorado, as well as local election officials in other states.
In an Oct. 11 letter to the White County, Ill., Clerk Paula Dozier, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Illinois Common Cause and seven other groups alleged that the county was “in violation” of the National Voter Registration Act and threatened “legal action.”
Dozier’s office, through the Illinois state attorney, replied that her office was in compliance with the law.
“We’re doing exactly what state and federal law says, and they don’t like that,” Dozier said of the complaining groups. She said her office prides itself in policing its voting list to ensure that deceased individuals and non-residents are removed from the rolls.
In Maryland, Montgomery County Election Director Margaret Jurgensen received a letter from the ACLU demanding that she turn over “all records in your custody pertaining to Election Integrity Maryland‘s efforts to identify deceased and ineligible voters.”
The ACLU’s inquiry about EIM, a local election-watch group, asked that all records be provided free of charge.
“We request this information in order to carry out our charitable mission and, specifically, to educate voters about their rights, protect voters against intimidation and disenfranchisement and solve problems at the polls through our nonpartisan Election Protection program,” the letter stated.
An official in Jurgensen’s office said the ACLU’s letter had been forwarded to election board attorney Kevin Karpinski, with no action taken. Karpinski was not available to comment.
On a more personal level, the Florida AFL-CIO reached out to two True the Vote volunteers in the Sunshine State to “remind (them) of state and federal civil rights laws.”
“It is apparent from the so-called ‘felons lists’ your organization submitted to Florida supervisors of elections that True the Vote takes an overly expansive view of the situation in which it is appropriate to challenge a person’s right to vote,” according to the letter signed by Alma Gonzalez, the union’s director of voter protection.
One of the volunteers, Kimberly Kelley, said she has been received a daily series of hang-up phone calls in the past week.
“I got four on Tuesday from unlisted numbers, but I won’t back off. I just submitted four more challenges to the local supervisor of elections,” she said.
The Tampa Vote Fair president, who says her group’s membership is equally divided among Republicans, Democrats and independents, said she is most disturbed by the closing line of the AFL-CIO letter, which stated:
“Poll watchers, poll monitors and attorneys will be on site to educate individuals of their legal rights to vote and collect information if improper challenges are filed or if individuals feel threatened or intimidated. Information regarding such conducted will be submitted to authorities immediately.”
Said Kelley: “I don’t appreciate it. I understand the stakes of the election. It’s to be fair and legal — and that’s exactly my point.”
Churchwell said more political hardball is being played in Ohio, where eight Democratic legislators sent Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted a letter complaining about the activities of election-watch groups there.
“The eight lawmakers paint citizen challenges in Franklin and Hamilton counties claiming voters “[w]ere frightened by the prospect of being denied the opportunity to vote,” Churchwell said.
“In reality, any fear or inconvenience experienced by a voter was due to the county election board.”
Churchwell explained that instead of simply mailing a letter of inquiry to the challenged voters, the Democratic-controlled boards opted for a public hearing, which inflamed residents.
Further, Churchwell said the lawmakers’ claim that TTV “illegally coaches poll watchers to challenge voters at the polls, demonstrates a desperate need to misinform their constituency for political gain.”
“Poll watchers cannot challenge, or even communicate with voters, according to state law. Our training reflects those facts,” he said.
A spokesman for Husted told Watchdog.org late Wednesday, “There are safeguards in place and under Ohio law rules that guard against voter intimidation. We will hold accountable anyone who is guilty of it.”
Contact Ward at [email protected] or (571) 319-9824.