The fight against voter suppression and harassment became personal this past Tuesday, when my niece, a 19 year old college student in North Carolina, was challenged at her polling site by a “very nasty” electioneer – NOT an official poll worker but an “observer” – who demanded to know if she was old enough to vote, and then handed my niece a slate of opposition candidates. Knowing her rights, my niece held to the Aries fire that she shares with her grandmother and rebuffed the “poll monitor,” proudly casting her first vote in a presidential election.
When I learned about the poll site challenge, I exploded. Not only am I furious that one of my family members has been disrespected, I’m disgusted by the sheer nerve of these suppression efforts. My grandmother once shared the story of being unable to vote in spite of “knowing the Constitution better than the man that gave me the test.” Tactics like poll taxes and Constitution/literacy tests were outlawed with the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, but evidently old habits find new practitioners.
For six years now, the Kapor Foundation has been involved with supporting elections protection efforts. This journey started in 2006 when the Kapor Center hosted an 866-OUR-VOTE call center, sponsored by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and a coalition of 80+ organizations. Wanting to take positive action after the Florida 2000 election debacle and the highly questionable practices in the Ohio 2004 election (as documented in Ian Inaba’s American Blackout), the Foundation created an elections protection program area, ardently supporting the nonpartisan work of e.p. leaders such as the Lawyers Committee, the Advancement Project, Color of Change, the NAACP, and the Brennan Center for Justice, among others. We also hosted a West Coast call center during the 2008 and 2010 elections. With the Kapor Center’s move to Oakland, we lack the appropriate space to host one of the sites this year, but we have continued to chronicle the fight by our community partners against voter suppression. We all want fair elections, free of fraud AND intimidation.
So seriously folks, don’t tolerate no mess. Know where to go (polling site), what to do (whether or not ID laws exist), and whom to call if needed: 866-OUR-VOTE. (Or better yet, also VIDEO the questionable behavior and upload it to your social media with the tag #VideotheVote2012!)