Minnesota Majority sues for right to intimidate at the polls
A group of Tea-partying conservative activists is suing for the right to wear campaign slogans and intimidating buttons to polling places on Nov. 2. And oh yeah -- they just might ask to see your ID.
So far, 7,390 people have signed up to watch the polls, pester voters and follow people exercising their voting rights around with notebooks and video cameras.
"That's just Minnesota, people who have registered to our Website," says Dan McGrath, executive director of Minnesota Majority. "We're considering whether we're going to target some specific polling places or not. At this point, we're telling everybody to go to their own polling place."
Calling themselves Election Integrity Watch, the group--comprised of Minnesota Majority, Minnesota Voters Alliance, Freedom Council and the Northstar Tea Party Patriots--seems to think that Minnesota elections are rampant with voter fraud, even though Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman says that illegal voting is extremely rare.
Here is the court complaint.
The group wants to wear "Please ID me" buttons at the polls. State law does not require that voters show ID, but the group hopes that the buttons will coax voters into doing so anyway.
But that's not all. The group is spreading rumors that illegal immigrants are conspiring to throw the election to Democrats, nursing home employees are forcing grannies to vote the party line, and bus-loads of people are being carted from poll to poll so they can vote early and vote often. It urges poll watchers to follow buses with video cameras.
So what's so wrong about this? Besides the fact that it totally besmirches the reputations of volunteer poll watchers, the problem is all in the source. Minnesota Majority is the group that launched the false rumor that Al Franken beat Norm Coleman in the 2008 Senate race thanks to the felon vote. The Voters Alliance has been campaigning for years to require photo IDs at polling places. The coalition is behind the scary "Voter Fraud: It's a Felony" posters that have been popping up everywhere.
DFL-ers say its all an effort to get senior citizens and minorities to stay away from the polls. The effort here is part of a national vigilante movement--in Milwaukee and Houston, conservatives are pushing out similar messages.
In its lawsuit, Election Integrity Watch also claimed the right to wear Tea Party slogans like "Don't tread on me," "We'll Remember in November," "Fiscal Responsibility, Limited Government, Free Markets," and "Liberty." But on Wednesday, County Attorney Mike Freeman said that they may not do so because such slogans would be considered campaign material. Minnesota state law prohibits campaign material at polling places.
"Clearly, these buttons are not about any specific political candidate, party or ballot question," said Jeff Davis, president of Minnesota Majority. "This ban is outside state law and a clear violation of our First Amendment rights under the United States Constitution."
McGrath added that the efforts are not designed to intimidate legitimate voters--only those who aren't authorized to vote. "We do have our detractors who say we're engaging in some kind of voter intimidation effort, which is nonsense."
But that's exactly what it is, Congressman Keith Ellison said in a press conference Minneapolis City Hall the other day. The whole object is to scare people away.
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