Though most voter ID laws and voter purges have been thrown out or delayed by judges, voter suppression efforts are still alive and well. With two weeks to Election Day, voters in critical swing states are being inundated with false information and intimidating messages meant to discourage them from voting. While shenanigans have been reported in every election, voting rights advocates say efforts to confuse and intimidate voters are taking an even more prominent role this year.
- Phone voting. Residents in Florida, Indiana and Virginia are receiving mysterious phone calls telling them they can vote by phone instead of going to the polls. Virginia’s board of elections has received at least 10 complaints, mostly from seniors, though the total number of people affected by these calls is unclear.
- Fake voter purge letters. Also in Florida, a mass mailing of fake letters questioning voters’ citizenship is being investigated. The letter, written on fake letterhead of a local county’s Supervisor of Elections, tells recipients in 23 counties to fill out a “voter eligibility form” with their Social Security information, Florida drivers licence number, and addresses. The letter claims the recipients must send the form to the Supervisor of Elections within 15 days or be purged from the rolls — mimicking actual purge letters ordered by Florida governor Rick Scott (R) challenging 200 Floridians’ citizenship.
- Intimidating billboards. Dozens of billboards warning that voter fraud is a felony popped up suddenly in predominantly African American and Latino neighborhoods of Cleveland, Ohio earlier this month. The message, which includes the prison sentence and fine for voter fraud, is likely targeting former felons who do have the right to vote in Ohio. The company, Clear Channel Outdoor, announced they would take down intimidating voter fraud billboards after the sponsor refused to come forward. The company is also donating 10 billboards declaring, “Voting is a Right. Not a Crime!”
- Misleading voter ID ads. Though a judge ruled that Pennsylvania voters without a photo ID could still cast a regular ballot, state-sponsored ads have continued to tell residents they must show an ID. These ads are aired on television and radio, at posters at the DMV, and were mailed to thousands of seniors via a state prescription drug program. A billboard targeting Spanish speakers also continued to promote the ID requirement for at least a week after the ruling.
- Employer pressure. Several CEOs are pressuring their employees to vote for Romney by suggesting they will be forced to fire workers if Obama wins the election. While employers used to be banned from directly expressing political opinions to employees, the Supreme Court changed that with its 2010 Citizens United ruling. Workers have reported being pressured to vote, donate, and attend Romney rallies by their bosses.