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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Civil Rights Groups Allege Voter Intimidation By Sheriff Arpaio


Originally published as Voter Intimidation Alleged By Arizona Sheriff Arpaio on Technorati

By:  Tim Paynter, Activist, Attorney

Civil rights groups are concerned about voter intimidation in Arizona, according to an article written by Amy McMullen in a special to the Tucson Daily News.  According to McMullen, the very person responsible for security of the polls and the ballots is the man behind a racist voter suppression effort, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.


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McMullen claims Arpaio sent out an email asking for “voter fraud prevention volunteers” to guard the polls against voting by undocumented workers. The email came from the website Ban Amnesty Now.  It asked for volunteers to sit voter registration sites nation-wide to prevent “illegals from voting".

The Arpaio email stated in part: 

"Our grassroots army of VOTER FRAUD PREVENTION VOLUNTEERS will stand vigilant across the nation. We will be the first and strongest line of defense to ensure that only legal citizens vote on November 2nd, but to do this, we need your help today!"

The email was signed “SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO Hon. Co-Chairman, BANAMNESTYNOW.COM"

As part of the motivation for seeking the voter fraud prevention volunteers, Arpaio claims:

"In one Arizona congressional district, more than 65% of the 3,000+ new voters registrations submitted by Mi Familia Vota and One Arizona were found to be invalid – many of them to non-citizens."

The allegation is false and misleading, according to McMullen.  The district Arpaio is referring to is in Yuma, Arizona.  As it turns out, some people registered to vote some time ago, in some cases, year ago, and then registered to vote again.  This is a common practice when a voter is not sure if his registration is still active or when he changes addresses. 

The dual registration does not allow a person to vote twice, nor is it a registration by an "illegal alien".  An undocumented person would not have been allowed to vote in the first place.  The second registration simply updates the first registration.  The portrayal of these duplicate, hence invalid registrations, as an attempt at voter fraud, is a false statement of the facts.  It appears to be an effort to manipulate voters against certain candidates, namely those who are pro-immigration reform.

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Promise Arizona, a membership organization formed after passage of SB 1070, has worked very hard to insure voters they registered were qualified.  They worked under the highest of standards and with a strict code of ethics.  They did not want a permanent resident to come under attack for registering to vote when the person should not have. Permanent residents are not allowed to vote.

The Arpaio email continues:

"Keep in mind that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department is responsible for the security of polling locations and will respond to any incidents involving voters, poll workers and poll observers at polling locations on Election Day. The Maricopa County Sheriff's Department is also responsible for the secure transportation of the ballots, and in past elections, the storage of ballots at facilities under the control of the Sheriff's Department."


    Ban Amnesty page header, some consider racist on it's face.  At the least, it advocates against immigration reform, a key issue for current candidates


McMullen finds this disconcerting.  The person responsible for safe keeping of the ballots is involved in activists emails?

Ryan G. Reilly of the web publication One Old Vet spoke to Lydia Guzman, director of the nonprofit immigrant advocacy group Respeto, who indicated "Arpaio’s e-mail was inappropriate because his office would handle many election-related activities.

“When this Sheriff sends out e-mails like the one he sent out, it poses a problem,” Guzman said. “He should not be the person to enforce or oversee the protection of the election because he’s the one who is going to be disenfranchising the electorate.”

Arpaio is famous for holding undocumented workers in desert tents in 140 degree heat.  He sends convoys into Latino barrios with hundreds of officers stopping everyone possible and asking for documents.  His support of right-wing candidates including Russell Pearce and Colorado's Tom Tancredo is well known.  The mere announcement of an email of this nature is likely to dissuade some voters from coming to the polls.

Until everyone has a voice we cannot have a democracy.  This kind of intimidation, whether with Arpaio approval or without, has a chilling effect on democracy.  Comprehensive Immigration Reform and the Dream Act Will provide solution for those who struggle under an unjust system in Arizona and across the nation.

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