Bullies at the Ballot Box

The right to vote is a fundamental freedom that protects the other essential freedoms that Americans hold dear. It is at the heart of what it means to be an American citizen. Elections in American should be free, fair, and accessible, and voters should not have to overcome burdensome barriers to cast their ballot.

On Monday, Demos and Common Cause released a new report, "Bullies at the Ballot Box: Protecting the Freedom to Vote Against Wrongful Challenges and Intimidation," which analyzes voter protection laws in 10 key states. We looked at how well these states protect voters from wrongful challenges before and on Election Day, about rules governing poll watchers, and state anti-intimidation laws and federal voting rights protections.

But this fall, there is a great danger that eligible Americans will find themselves facing bullies at the ballot box -- overzealous volunteers who take the law into their own hands to target particular voters.

Tea Party groups like True the Vote and others seek to recruit one million volunteers to challenge voters' eligibility to vote in targeted communities on and before Election Day. They're being told that the election is going to be stolen by "the food stamp army." They say they want to make the experience of voting "like driving and seeing the police following you."

Past examples of abusive practices have been directed towards targeted populations, such as communities of color, students, and those who've faced foreclosure. This attempt to manipulate the voter pool should concern anyone who wants a fair election with a legitimate result that reflects the choices of all eligible Americans.