Michigan Republicans — August 8, 2012 at 9:03 am

UPDATED: Republican voter suppression efforts in Michigan worked as planned, voters frisked in Detroit


When you can’t win on the issues, you have to cheat

Earlier this year, Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson decided to add a citizenship checkbox to the voter registration slip you have to fill out to vote. This entirely unnecessary step was seen by many as just one more attempt to freak out voters and dissuade them from voting. Governor Rick Snyder vetoed the legislation that required it but the checkbox was still on the slips, creating mass confusion.

Just what the Republicans wanted.

And it had the desired effect. During yesterday’s primary, voters around the state, LEGAL voters, were prevented from voting because they refused to check the offensive, unnecessary and illegal box.

From Michigan Radio:

Reports of voters being turned away because they declined to check a box asking them to verify U.S. citizenship have been coming in from several areas of the state.

Michigan Radio first became aware of the situation when talking to Michigan Campaign Finance Network’s Rich Robinson who said he was refused a ballot because he would not check the box. He refused because it is not legally required…

Other political groups received calls from voters complaining they had been refused the right to vote after declining to check the citizenship box.

MLive has more:

A ballot application check box asking Michigan voters to confirm their U.S. citizenship caused confusion at polling locations around the state this morning and prompted Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to send a clarifying directive to local election workers.

“Clerks were not clear on whether they could deny a ballot to a voter who refused to answer the question,” said attorney Jocelyn Benson, who spent her day fielding complaints for a national election-day hotline run by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. “We’ve received calls from all over Michigan today, and we know that several voters were turned away.”

Johnson, who first ordered the citizenship check box to appear on the February presidential primary application, sent out a memo to local clerks around noon explaining that voters are not required to answer the question before receiving a ballot.

“If somebody misses it, a poll worker might ask them to fill it out,” said spokesman Fred Woodhams. “…But in a number of cases, people apparently refused to, and we clarified that they should still be issued a ballot.”

She issued the memo at noon but, by then, it was too late for many voters. The confusion continued on through the day and into the evening. On the First Shift with Tony Trupiano radio show this morning, political consultant Joe DiSano reported that even last evening he was being asked to check the form. When he refused, the election worker offered to fill it in for him. He declined, telling them that they didn’t have the right to do that. While he was in the booth voting, he was pulled out and read a statement Johnson required poll workers to read to those not checking the box:

Under the Michigan Constitution and election law, you must be a citizen of the United States in order to vote.

Again, scare tactics designed to freak people out enough to get some of them to just walk away.

In Detroit, voters were being frisked at one polling location by a man dressed in fatigues. I’m not kidding.

Detroit resident Diane Hughes planned to vote at Henry Ford High School at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday. But the polls weren’t open.

When the polls finally did open, what Hughes witnesses shocked her.

“There was an incident where people were being searched,” she said.

As voters waited in line to enter the polls they were subjected to a pat-down.

“Women, they were having their purses open … with the men, Wayne, he was right in front of me, he was being patted down like he was a criminal. And that is what angered me,” Hughes said.

She said the man searching voters at the high school was part of school security, though his uniform seemed military.

CBS Detroit has more, including a report that short staffing prevented a polling location from opening on time:

Some Detroit voters were very frustrated while trying to cast their ballots Tuesday morning on the city’s west side.

WWJ’s Vickie Thomas said voting started about an hour and a half late at Henry Ford High School, on Evergreen Road just south of 8 Mile, after elections workers could not get inside the building. The person who was supposed to open the school reportedly didn’t wake up in time to open the doors when polls opened at 7 a.m. {…}

Not only did the polls open late, some voters were patted down as they entered the west side high school.

Detroit NAACP Executive Director Darnell Wright went to the school after getting a call on their voter hotline.

“There was indeed an individual who was frisking individuals and winding down for weapons, as well as an individual dressed in military fatigues, both of which we believe is a form of voter intimidation,” said Wright.

Primary turnout is historically abysmal in this country and Republicans have done everything they can in Michigan and elsewhere to make it even worse. Ruth Johnson’s efforts clearly disenfranchised some voters and she did a piss-poor job educating the election officials she is responsible for about the rules they were to go by.

It’s critical that we remain vigilant going into the November general election. You can be sure that Republicans, knowing that their candidates are weak and the issues they support are unpopular, will do whatever they can to suppress the votes, particularly in strongly-Democratic areas.

It’s shameful. It’s anti-democratic. And it’s un-American. THAT is today’s Republican Party.

UPDATE: @RandyPitler sent me a couple of tweets that make me realize I should be a bit clearer with this post:

While I agree with Randy that this security guard was “just doing his job”, it is the responsibility of Ruth Johnson to secure our elections and to make sure any legal voter gets to vote and isn’t intimidated from doing so. She failed in this instance by not ensuring that proper training was done in this urban area. Ruth Johnson IS engaging in voter suppression and improper training contributes to that. I do not believe, however, that this man was somehow instructed to intimidate voters, only that he was not instructed NOT to. And he should have been. I firmly believe that something like this would never had happened if we had elected Jocelyn Benson as our Secretary of State in 2010.