Study Warns of Voter Suppression, Intimidation

By Monisha Bansal | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

( - A public policy group that advocates for "disenfranchised" voters is warning that minorities may face intimidation and suppression at the polls on Tuesday, a claim a Republican Party spokesman called "preposterous."

A study released Friday by the National Voting Rights Institute and Demos pointed to several incidents during the 2004 election and warned that voters nationwide may face similar problems on Nov. 7.

"We think it's a serious problem," said Brenda Wright, managing attorney at the National Voting Rights Institute, who co-authored the report.

"Campaigns to suppress voter turnout take a variety of forms, are often mounted in communities of color," and many suppression efforts go unnoticed or unchallenged until it's too late, Wright said.

"When you have 14,000 Latino residents in Orange County getting a letter warning them that it may be a crime for them to go to the polls -- and that's just one instance -- obviously, you have the potential for disenfranchising a lot of citizens with these tactics," she told Cybercast News Service.

Wright also mentioned misinformation campaigns in Milwaukee, where African-American voters were told if they voted more than once in a year they could face jail time; and a fake advisory in Franklin County, Ohio, telling Democrats to vote the day after Election Day "due to high voter registration."

"When elections are close, this is when you tend to see the tactics come out," Wright said. "There have been deceptive practices by both parties."

"When it's the case of minority neighborhoods are targeted, it tends to be more likely Republican partisans engaged in those practices," she charged, adding that this was "probably because of the perception that minorities are more likely to vote Democratic."

"We've seen these problems arise from the actions of private individuals, form partisan operatives, and sometimes from the actions of election officials themselves," Wright said.

But Ed Petru, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, called the report "preposterous."

"Democrats and the left-wing groups with whom they coordinate wrote the guide on voter fraud," Petru told Cybercast News Service.

He accused Democrats of "shenanigans" with provisional ballots in 2004 and "rampant voter fraud."

"Voter fraud is coordinated, systemic and pervasive among Democrats and their allies," Petru said. "They've been doing this for so long now. It has reached clinical interests - a science and a profession for Democrats.

"They can't understand why their outrageous agenda keeps being rejected by voters, so they are continually invoking conspiracy theories to explain it," Petru said. "It's routine - voter fraud among Democrats in elections."

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