November 2, 2012
Revealed: New True the Vote documents show organization misleading poll watchers
Virginia’s nonpartisan Election Protection Coalition calls on officials to ensure ill-trained poll watchers don’t block eligible voters
A copy of the True the Vote Virginia training manual is available at http://www.progressva.org/
Virginia’s nonpartisan Election Protection Coalition today released new training materials obtained from Texas-based True the Vote that reveal the organization has been misleading Virginia volunteers on state election law and voting procedures. In a letter to officials including Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the State Board of Elections, and Virginia’s US Attorneys, the coalition expressed concern that, “Virginia poll watchers that rely on the erroneous “training” in True the Vote’s boilerplate poll watcher manual pose a grave risk of fostering an environment of confusion, hostility and intimidation. Worse, these ill-trained poll watchers could intentionally or inadvertently make it harder for Virginians to vote, especially new voters, voters of color, voters who need language assistance, and voters with physical disabilities.”
The coalition found numerous serious inaccuracies and misleading statements in the True the Vote Poll Watcher manual, including erroneous statements on ID and signature requirements, misstatements of Virginia’s procedure for challenging voters, and incorrect information about the balloting procedure for voters who are in line when the polls close at 7pm. Multiple contradictory statements between “general” information and Virginia-specific rules only increases the probability that poll watchers relying on the manual on election day will foster an environment of confusion, hostility, and intimidation.
"The training materials released by True the Vote for Virginia volunteers are part of a widespread effort that could lead to longer lines at the polls, or worse, turn away eligible voters," said Courtney Mills, staff attorney for the Fair Elections Legal Network. "The State Board of Elections and all County Boards of Election should direct election officers to use their power to ensure the election runs smoothly and all eligible voters that want to cast a ballot can vote. Election officials and both political parties should take steps to ensure workers and volunteers do not prevent voters from their civic duty to vote."
“Every eligible voter should be assured that they can cast a ballot that counts,” commented Anna Scholl, Executive Director of ProgressVA Education Fund. “No poll watcher who has been trained with false or misleading information should stand in the way of voters exercising their constitutional rights.”
“Voters who have questions about voting or think their constitutional rights have been violated should call the nonpartisan election protection hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE,” said Dara Lindenbaum, associate counsel with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
The coalition reminds election officers that under Virginia code 24.2-604, they have the authority to remove persons, including poll watchers, who are disturbing, disrupting, or delaying the voting process. Poll watchers who are intimidating voters or impeding the voting process based on the erroneous information contained in the True the Vote manual can and should be removed from the polls.