Fight Voter Suppression... With Voter Suppression?
by Dan Savage
on Wed, Sep 26, 2012 at 4:47 PM
This article in the current issue of the Atlantic made me furious:
The next day, King Street Patriots—many of them aging white suburbanites—poured into polling places in heavily black and Hispanic neighborhoods around Houston, looking for signs of voter fraud. Reports of problems at the polls soon began surfacing in the Harris County attorney’s office and on the local news. The focus of these reports was not fraud, however, but alleged voter intimidation. Among other things, poll observers were accused of hovering over voters, blocking lines of people who were trying to cast ballots, and, in the words of Assistant County Attorney Terry O’Rourke, “getting into election workers’ faces.”
The Patriots’ alleged activities touched off a furor. The county attorney’s office, which received some 50 complaints of voter intimidation, launched an investigation. The head of the local chapter of the New Black Panthers went on TV to warn that the group would “not tolerate any intimidation.” The Texas Democratic Party blasted the Patriots for what it called “1960s style” tactics and filed a lawsuit challenging the group’s tax-exempt status. Undaunted, the group’s founder, a suburban soccer mom and small-business owner named Catherine Engelbrecht, addressed a boisterous crowd at the group’s headquarters the next week. “The nation is ready for something like this,” she said. In the months that followed, she began laying out plans to recruit and train 1 million poll watchers around the country by Election Day 2012.
This shit makes me fucking furious.
Why the fuck aren't liberals and progressives organizing "patriot" groups of our own? If aging white suburbanites can pour into polling places in heavily black and Hispanic neighborhoods "looking for signs of voter fraud," then by God urban black and Hispanic and Asian and white and gay "patriots" can pour into polling places in heavily white suburbs to look around for signs of voter fraud. Since nearly every case of voter fraud that has been uncovered—and there are precious few examples (in-person voter fraud is "virtually non-existant" in the US)—has involved white Republican fraudsters, we would at least have cause. Protect the integrity of our elections! Storm into white suburban precincts and hover over voters, block lines of people who were trying to cast ballots, and get in election workers’ faces! Why the fuck not? Why haven't we already?
Someone needs to organize a big, diverse group of liberal and progressive poll watchers and announce that we're sending these good and conscientious patriots into the white, largely Republican suburbs around Houston to look around for signs of voter fraud. It's time to give these motherfuckers a taste of their own motherfucking medicine. Voters in suburban precincts would shit themselves if buses filled with qualified poll watchers—of all races—poured into their neighborhoods, and into their precincts, and engaged in the exact same kind of voter intimidation tactics that groups like King Street Patriots are engaging in black and Hispanic neighborhoods. Maybe they'll realize—once it starts happening to them—that this shit is wrong and that it has to stop.
It's a move right out of the Saul Alinsky playbook. We can't do it here in Washington state—we're a vote-by-mail state—but I'll help spread the word and raise money for any group that wants to do this in Texas. This would be a protest against voter suppression campaigns in the form of a voter suppression campaign. It would be a targeted, symbolic action that would draw attention to this injustice by flipping the script on its head.