Travis Dems and GOP Accuse Each Other of Dirty Tricks

The Travis County Democratic and Republican parties are hurling charges at each other of, either willfully or accidentally, suppressing voter turnout with misinformation and harrassment.

The first volley was actually in private. The GOP held a training session for election judges, but only for judges who are Republicans, pointedly telling any Dems who wanted to participate that they weren’t invited and would be trespassing. (The county elections office says the practice is completely legal.) Nonetheless, Democratic activists infiltrated the meeting and smuggled out a document titled “Ballot Integrity Task Force Guide,” which was intended to instruct judges in looking out for “voting irregularities,” especially “issues of voter identification and inappropriate voter assistance.”

In it, the document notes that one of the most important irregularities to guard against is “Poll watchers making excessive challenges to delay voting process. (intent here is to frustrate voters so they leave without voting.)” On a later page, the document alleges “We have information that both the Democrat and Libertarian Party intend to ‘flood’ certain precincts with Poll Watchers.” In a recording of the meeting made by activist Mike Conwell, the TCRP’s David Reeve can be heard saying, “I have it on very good authority that, [former Austin state Rep. and one-time candidate for state party chair] Glen Maxey … he’s going to try to flood some of the precincts with poll watchers and provisional voters. And then, number one, poll watchers are to make excessive challenges to delay the voting process. What he wants to do is, to delay things. And they’re going to go to predominantly Republican precincts to do this. These poll watchers will get in the way, try to slow things down in an attempt to, they want to, people to be frustrated. Especially in the morning, and at lunch, when people are taking the time off from work to vote.”

A “provisional vote” is one that is considered questionable by election officials, often on grounds of whether the voter is legally registered to vote, and is not counted until after election officials determine its validity.

TCDP Chair Chris Elliott seized upon the document to claim in a press release that it contains “inaccurate and misleading information [that] could lead to problems on Election Day if the judges … follow its directives. … [I]t could result in folks not being allowed to vote on Election Day even though they are qualified in every respect to cast their vote.”

Specifically, the Democrats point to:

• A section that says a voter who shows up at the wrong precinct “must” cast a provisional ballot, when the voter actually should be directed to the proper precinct, but can cast a provisional ballot at the wrong precinct if he/she chooses.

• A section saying that if a voter does not or refuses to produce personal identification, the voter “is permitted to vote but the vote is not counted.” Elliot notes that whether such a provisional ballot is counted is actually determined by the county election board, and worries that an election judge will discourage people from casting ballots if they flatly state that a ballot “will not be counted.”

• The document classifies voters without photo ID as a “voting irregularity,” when actually it is completely legal for voters to present identification that doesn’t have a photo.

• A flow chart on the document “suggests” (Elliot’s word) that a voter presenting an out-of-date registration card must produce some other form of valid ID, but the county actually allows use of an expired card as long as the voter’s name appears on the voter rolls.

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Election 2006, Chris Elliott, David Reeve, Mike Conwell

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