Voter Intimidation and Suppression

A generation ago, the FBI helped put an end to vote suppression tactics like rigged literacy tests, attacks by police dogs, and Ku Klux Klan terrorism. Today, they face new obstacles such as confusing leaflets and phone calls.

MSNBC has the horrible tale:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into the possibility of voter intimidation in the U.S. Senate race between Sen. George Allen, a Republican, and Democratic challenger James Webb, officials told NBC News. State officials alerted the Justice Department on Tuesday to several complaints of suspicious phone calls to voters who attempted to misdirect or confuse them about election day, Jean Jensen, Secretary of the Virginia State Board of Elections, told NBC’s David Shuster.

Jensen told NBC that she had been contacted by FBI agents. The FBI in Richmond refused to comment.

State Democratic Party counsel Jay Myerson said in a written statement issued by the Webb campaign that he believed Republicans are behind an orchestrated effort to suppress votes for the Democratic challenger.

Republican officials, including the executive director of the Virginia Republican Party, have told NBC that the GOP and Allen campaign are focused on mobilizing voters and have not discouraged anyone from voting.

In the Washington, D.C., area, NBC affiliate News4 reported on its Web site that it had received e-mail from a viewer in Virginia who said he received a phone call from so-called volunteers threatening voters with arrest if they cast ballots. News4 reported: “The viewer’s e-mail stated after he had voted, he received a call from an unknown caller who said they knew the voter was registered out of state and would be arrested if they voted today. The viewer’s e-mail stated he’s been registered to vote in Virginia for the last three years and has the Virginia Voter Registration card to prove it.” The Webb campaign also said other voters are getting calls telling them their polling location has changed.
There are also allegations that fliers that say, “Skip This Election,” are blanketing African-American communities, News4 reported.

So, we have the Democratic campaign forwarding charges to a Democratic election official, who turned the matter over to the FBI for investigation.

If this is in fact happening as described, the ineptitude is simply amazing. Indeed, the whole concept of post-voting vote suppression is a head scratcher.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. FredW says:

    “post-voting vote suppression”

    Come on Mr Joyner, I know you are smarter than that. Just because a person has already voted (unbeknownst to caller) doesn’t make it any less offensive.

  2. Fersboo says:

    Since I can’t get onto Blogger to post, I’d like to direct your attention to WMAL’s Chris Core. I’ve heard about 1/2 dozen stories about Democrat activists identifying and then harassing Republicans as the attempt to enter the polls in Maryland.

    I know you would love to see the GOP fall James, but in the past you have shown both sides of the story.

  3. madmatt says:

    yes because competence is always present in right wing projects…just like every war they have been involved in, they run it badly.

  4. Anderson says:

    Tapped has an anecdote on the robocalls:

    Our own Alec Oveis, who sadly left the Prospect few months ago, calls in from Connecticut, where he’s volunteering on behalf of Chris Murphy (one of Tom’s “Dropkick Murphys” positioned to defeat GOP incumbents this year). He reports that voter fury over robocalls is amazing and palpable at the polling site he’s near. Several people have gone out of their way to tell him and other Murphy people that they’re voting for Republican incumbent Nancy Johnson strictly out of anger at the harassing phone calls they’ve been receiving from the Murphy campaign. Alec and other’s explanations that those calls are actually paid for by Republicans have generally been falling on deaf ears (they are, after all, holding Murphy signs while offering these explanations).

    The SCLM could’ve started reporting on these days ago & gotten the word out, but that would’ve been too much like actual journalism.

  5. James Joyner says:


    I voted for the two Republicans on the ballot today. I just try not to let my preferences cloud my judgment of reality.

    Things are trending Republican in some late polls, including a possibility that Steele will pick up Maryland. Still, I’m doubtful the GOP will do more than keep a one seat or VP tiebreaker hold in the Senate and view keeping the House as miraculous beyond fantasy.

  6. James Joyner says:

    Anderson: AP was reporting this over a week ago and there have been numerous MSM stories on this. They’ve been greeted with yawns, though, because robocalling is not new nor is this application of it. I don’t like it, mind you, but it’s not big “news” either.

  7. Craig says:

    Here’s what purports to be a a recording of one of the calls. If this is indeed a real recording of a real call it sure sounds like a crime to me.

  8. Anderson says:

    I missed the AP story, obviously. But the fact that people are being misled by the calls, is a pretty good clue that the media haven’t reported widely on this application of it.

    It usually takes a few days for stories to trickle down from the lead papers to the local news, word of mouth, etc.

  9. Ed says:

    The story is in the violation of FCC rules requiring the caller’s disclosure at the beginning of a pre-recorded call and then the subsequent repeated recalls for people who attempt to hangup.

    It’s an obvious attempt to harass and misrepresent. I think some more members of the RNC will be joining Jim Tobin in jail. Unfortunately, innocent voters will be harassed in the meantime.