Early voting has begun in Harris County, Texas, and there are reports that voters in minority districts are being harassed and intimidated by wingnuts posing as poll watchers.
“We have a long way to go in this election, and we’re committed to having it done lawfully and successfully,” said Terry O’Rourke, first assistant Harris County attorney.
The complaints, he said, came from Kashmere Gardens, Moody Park, Sunnyside and other predominantly minority neighborhoods. The complaints included poll watchers “hovering over” voters, “getting into election workers’ faces” and blocking or disrupting lines of voters waiting to cast their ballots.
The “poll watchers,” who belong to a tea party-affiliated group called True the Vote, says its people are trained poll watchers who are following all guidelines. Some county officials speculate that the unusually high number of people who showed up to watch the polls caused some voters to feel intimidated and to file complaints. So at the moment we can’t say for sure that the True the Vote people were doing anything wrong.
However, the County Clerk’s office received 14 complaints from 11 precincts on Monday, which is way above the normal number of complaints received. The Texas Democratic Party, which has joined with other groups in a lawsuit against True the Vote’s parent organization, King Street Patriots, has promised to release a video within the next few days showing intimidating behavior by the poll watchers.
Weirdly, an attorney for King Street Patriots denies that the True the Vote poll watchers were registered poll watchers:
Hiram Sasser, an attorney for the King Street Patriots, denied the group was intimidating voters. “The King Street Patriots don’t have any registered poll watchers,” he said. “Registered poll watchers work for either a party or a candidate.”
True the Vote, Sasser said, is a project of the King Street Patriots, but it’s not in a position to assign poll watchers. The party or the candidate with whom poll watchers are affiliated would be responsible for their actions, he said.
It’s as if the attorney is laying the groundwork for an argument that poll watcher guidelines to apply to his people because they aren’t registered poll watchers.
Also, before the voting started True the Vote “had promised to verify voters’ credentials at polling places,” which sounds to me as if they were planning to actively challenge individual voters’ right to vote. And the Liberty Institute, which is providing legal representation to the True the Vote group, says the Texas Democratic Party filed suit “to try to bind and gag citizens from speaking out during an election.” But poll watching is not “speaking out.” My understanding is that poll watchers are not supposed to talk to voters, but just watch, and take any concerns to whoever is in charge of the polling place.
So, True the Vote’s own lawyers seem to be undermining the argument that they were just watching.
In other obnoxious news — Virginia Thomas, wife of SCOTUS Justice Clarence Thomas, actually called Anita Hill and asked for an apology. Um, it’s been 19 years has since Thomas’s confirmation hearings. And Virginia Thomas calls Anita Hill now? That’s quite bizarre. It’s also obnoxious.
Thomas has already become way more active in partisan political activities than would be ethical for the wife of a Supreme Court justice. One wonders what she is up to, or even if her head is screwed on straight. Calling Anita Hill and asking for an apology is not something a completely rational, emotionally stable person would do after 19 years.