"Bullies at the Voting Booth"
Voting is the most widespread form of active political participation among Americans, yet voter turnout is significantly lower n the United States than in many democratic nations. Many analysts have varying opinions as to why this is, and in an article written just before the presidential elections in 2004 discusses several tactics that supporters of the republican party used in order to allegedly discriminate against certain voters in swing states that could be decided either democrat or republican come election day.
Throughout most of the Southwest many Republican-backed groups pushed legislation that would require proof of citizenship before individuals could vote, which would target mostly Hispanic voters. Many members of these action groups showed up during the September 7th primaries to "check the polls to see if illegal aliens were voting."
Poll watchers are defined as people appointed to observe an election on the behalf of a candidate, political party, or political committees. In several states the presence of poll watchers to be used this election is massive, which can be very intimidating according to John Greenbaum, director of the Voting Rights Project in Michigan as they "can confront voters with questions like, "What's your name? or "What are you doing here" or imply that the voters shouldn't be voting."
This seems to be in violation of the Voting Rights Act, as you must prove citizenship to register to vote - but it was only in states like Michigan where this was contested by the U.S. government. During the 1999 election, a group in Hamtramck, Michigan approached people appearing to be Arab and asked people to prove they were citizens of the United States. The lawsuit was filed on the grounds that this group was prohibiting people from entering and voting through public humiliation and unlawful questioning, and as a result the U.S. Justice Department sent officials to monitor elections in Hamtramck between 2000 and 2003.
Florida was an area of extreme controversy after the 2000 election, where in July of 2004 the Miami Herald revealed that the state had issued faulty felon ineligibility lists which was comprised of 48,000 names of people ineligible to vote which included 2,100 that were actually voters, may of them being black democrats. Alma Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for the Voter Protection Coalition in Florida, argued that it was unlawful to ask voters for their citizenship at the polling place because the method in which the action groups did so was based on the skin color or the Hispanic accents that individuals had. Although none of the people interviewed wished to comment on the affiliation between these groups and the republican party as reasoning for targeting minority voters...