I've written a fair bit about, and I still believe in, the Obama campaign's leap forward in the ground game, and how this will eventually help them in the final analysis. The Seminal posted a long, link-heavy piece
about this today, and Time did a feature
For the next month, the Obama campaign's ground focus is on finishing up the stunning gains in voter registration that it and the Democratic Party have made. Since January alone more than 3.5 million new voters have been registered in 17 of the 23 states tracked closely by the Obama campaign where information is available. Three states — Florida, Michigan and North Carolina — have seen increases of more than 400,000 new voters, and 10 more states have recorded new registrations of more than 100,000. Though these numbers include registrants to all parties, in 14 of the states at least half of the new voters are under 35, a key demographic for Obama.
"We're on pace to hit goal," says Jason Green, a 27-year-old Gaithersburg, Md., native who is Obama's national voter registration director. "I would love to exceed goal." Green, not surprisingly, isn't in the mood to get specific about what that goal is, though he does say that it is "in the millions," and that the bulk of the voters will be in the 18 battleground states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado and New Mexico (though drives have been mounted in all 50 states). Green is also happy to share the news that they registered more than 100,000 people over Labor Day weekend, capitalizing on the wave of excitement coming out of the convention in Denver.
Harold Ickes, whose company essentially put together the voter list that Obama is currently using, is quoted in the article saying that "(The McCain campaign) should not pooh-pooh the ground game that Obama is mounting; it's a formidable one. I don't think in my experience in Democratic politics there's ever been anything like it." Of course it takes a lot of money and even more staff and volunteers to make sure this very new vote actually gets to the polls, but Obama has both.
All of that is great. But of course there are two ground games. I'm not talking about the Republican GOTV efforts; I frankly think they've misjudged how many new voters the Obama campaign has the potential to activate. I'm talking about the Republican ground game to suppress the vote, which is starting to take shape.
First there's the campaign to delegitimize absentee balloting
, headed by our old friend Hans Von Spakovsky. This is from an article he wrote for something called "Spero News," asserting a stolen election in Alabama in the 1990s:
...The most important lesson of Greene County is that absentee ballots are extremely vulnerable to voter fraud. The case shows how absentee ballot fraud really works, and it is a reality very different from the claims of partisans and advocacy groups. More broadly, the case shows how voter fraud threatens the right to free and fair elections and how those most often harmed are poor and minorities. This directly rebuts the usual partisan conspiracy theories about voter fraud.
According to the self-appointed liberal guardians of the poor, practically every effort to legislate against or prosecute voter fraud is intended to keep minorities and the poor from voting at all. Concern over voter fraud, say some partisans, is simply Republicans' cover to intimidate voters and raise obstacles to minority voting. Indeed, groups like the NAACP argue that racism and intimidation are the motivation for voter fraud prosecutions, and some prominent Democrats dismiss voter fraud as virtually nonexistent. As a result, prosecutors are intimidated from fighting vote fraud for fear of the political consequences, and elections continue to be stolen.
He's tipping his hand here, that absentee ballots will be challenged by Republican officials wherever the vote is close.
Then there are the ongoing disputes
over ballots and voter registration forms, which are occurring throughout the country right now. We learn in the article that Republicans are trying to keep Bob Barr off the ballot in Pennsylvania, trying to stop organizations like the League of Women Voters from registering voters in Florida, as well as trouble with de-certified and re-certified voting machines in Colorado. And then there's this:
Virginia: Virginia is neck and neck this year, to the surprise of Democrats and Republicans alike. At this point, Democrats appear to have an advantage, thanks to an aggressive voter registration effort by the Obama campaign, which has been especially successful in registering young voters. Republicans have responded to the surge in voter registration by raising the tried-and-true boogeyman of voter fraud. In addition, some local registrars in Virginia have been incorrectly—though perhaps innocently—telling college students who legally register to vote in their college towns that by doing so they "could no longer be claimed as dependents on their parents' tax return … and could lose scholarships or coverage under their parents' car and health insurance." Which candidate wins Virginia could well depend on which campaign is able to turn out its voters.
Finally, there's this major issue
that I flagged a couple months ago, but now we're seeing Republicans seek to use it as a strategy - taking the foreclosure crisis and connecting it to suppression operations:
The chairman of the Republican Party in Macomb County Michigan, a key swing county in a key swing state, is planning to use a list of foreclosed homes to block people from voting in the upcoming election as part of the state GOP’s effort to challenge some voters on Election Day.
“We will have a list of foreclosed homes and will make sure people aren’t voting from those addresses,” party chairman James Carabelli told Michigan Messenger in a telephone interview earlier this week. He said the local party wanted to make sure that proper electoral procedures were followed [...]
The Michigan Republicans’ planned use of foreclosure lists is apparently an attempt to challenge ineligible voters as not being “true residents.”
One expert questioned the legality of the tactic.
“You can’t challenge people without a factual basis for doing so,” said J. Gerald Hebert, a former voting rights litigator for the U.S. Justice Department who now runs the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington D.C.-based public-interest law firm. “I don’t think a foreclosure notice is sufficient basis for a challenge, because people often remain in their homes after foreclosure begins and sometimes are able to negotiate and refinance.”
As for the practice of challenging the right to vote of foreclosed property owners, Hebert called it, “mean-spirited.”
Well that'll stop them. After all, they don't want to be seen as "mean-spirited." By the way, Michigan isn't the only state talking about this; GOP officials in Ohio have the same idea. And remember, swing states like Nevada and Florida have among the highest concentration of foreclosures in the country.
I know that lots of people focus on e-voting machines and hacking, but the ground war is where votes are really stolen, through intimidation, suppression, bogus challenges and ruthlessness. And with Obama's strategy relying heavily on new voters (and now, with little room for error), the battle over the vote becomes even more pronounced. Sunshine is obviously important; in fact, it has brought about small victories, like the VA relenting
and allowing voter registration at stateside veteran's facilities. But we need more than sunshine. We need an army of lawyers who are aggressive and unrelenting.
You can educate yourself about your voting rights at The Brennan Center
or The Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law
, as well as your local registrar. Know your rights, and know the rights of your friends and relatives, to boot.
Labels: 2008, Barack Obama, foreclosures, GOTV, ground game, John McCain, Republicans, voter fraud, voter registration, voter suppression, voter turnout