The PJ Tatler

Dangerous intimidating billboards and Tea Party poll watching

There has been much ado about my earlier Tatler posting about whether the DOJ finds a billboard or a billyclub more intimidating.  I received a nice lovely email from [email protected] from Virginia using language the extras in a Leni Refiensthal movie liked to shout as a 770K Mercedes drove by. 

Two important points.  The Boston Globe had this story that quotes sources characterizing the billboard itself as voter intimidation. 

 “You don’t need your ID to vote in the state of Massachusetts,’’ said Alejandra St. Guillen, executive director of ¿Oíste?, a group that trains Latinos in Massachusetts to run for office. “To place [the billboard] directly in Latino areas with the intention of intimidating Latino voters I find as a gross miscarriage of justice.’’

Remember, the billboard merely shows a lady voluntarily offering her photo identification and encouraging others to do the same.  This billboard campaign is devastating to voter identification opponents from a public relations perspective.  If people voluntarily offer something they don’t need to, it marginalizes opposition to photo identification requirements.  How the billboard itself morphs into voter intimidation is beyond the logical capabilities of most Americans.  But I’m sure out there, way out there, is an answer.  The important part is that sources in the Boston Globe article characterized the billboard, and nothing else, as voter intimidation.  Nice try.

But there is a cautionary tale for Tea Party affiliated poll observers in Southbridge, Massachusetts.  This story refers to haggling over Spanish language assistance and assistance to the disabled.  My speech at the national True the Vote Summit in Houston Texas emphasized two critical points.  First, people who don’t read and write English are entitled to vote and, more importantly, entitled to receive Spanish language assistance at the polls under the Voting Rights Act.  Don’t like that?  It’s the law and will be the law in the foreseeable future.  People who respect the rule of law must respect the right to Spanish language assistance at the polls.  Second, Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act also guarantees the right for the disabled to have an assistor in the booth.

In Harris County, Texas, critics of poll watchers attacked their presence and claimed they interfered with these rights or otherwise sought to intimidate voters.  The same claims are appearing in this Telegram story.  Expect this to be a tactic deployed to spook law abiding poll observers.  Poll watchers had best be sensitive to the easy smear that they are interfering with these federal rights else they will lend credence to the claims of intimidation.