WASHINGTON, Nov 2 (Reuters) -
Friendly-sounding phone calls telling African-Americans they
donít have to go to the polls this year, warnings that anyone
with an unpaid traffic ticket canít vote and phony notices that
Election Day is Nov. 3 are among the "dirty tricks" reported on
the eve of the ballot.
Election skulduggery is nothing new, voting
rights workers said on Monday, but the 2004 contest has been
remarkable for the number of bogus flyers, phone calls and other
ploys aimed at suppressing the black vote.
"In Tallahassee, Florida, people were calling
from a phone bank, calling what they called long term stalwart
African-American voters and telling them that because they had
been such faithful voters, that the county had decided that they
need not go to the polls anymore, that they could vote by
telephone," Barbara Arnwine of the Lawyers Committee for Civil
Rights told reporters.
Arnwine and others on a telephone news
conference noted that while black voters were the main target of
the tricks, Hispanics and white elderly voters were also
A joint report by the liberal People for the
American Way and the NAACP civil rights organization listed at
least two cases where flyers were designed to make some minority
voters believe they should vote on Wednesday, one day after the
actual election day.
The tricks are focused on such battleground
states as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida, Arnwine
said, but have cropped up elsewhere. A hotline set up to take
complaints and questions about alleged voter suppression has
received more than 5,500 calls daily, she said.
VOTE ON NOVEMBER 3?
The report provided copies of various flyers
aimed suppressing the vote, including one from Allegheny County,
"Due to the immense voter turnout that is
expected on Tuesday, November 2, the state of Pennsylvania has
requested an extended voting period," read the official-looking
flyer, advising Republicans to vote on Tuesday, Democrats a day
later ó after polls were closed.
A similar flyer distributed in Jefferson County,
Alabama simply gave out the wrong date for voting: "Attention:
Jefferson County!!!!! See You At The Poles [sic] November 4,
In Wisconsin, flyers from the non-existent
Milwaukee Black Voters League offered some "warnings for
election time," including the false claim that anyone who voted
in a primary election could not vote again the general election.
"If anybody in your family has ever been found
guilty of anything, you canít vote in the presidential
election," the flyer read. "If you violate any of these laws,
you can get 10 years in prison and your children will get taken
away from you."
In Columbia, South Carolina, a letter on fake
NAACP stationery claimed that anyone with an outstanding parking
ticket or unpaid child support would be arrested, and said
voters must bring two forms of photo identification, a recent
credit check and a handwriting sample in order to cast their
If there is no clear winner after polls close on
Tuesday, NAACP Chairman Julian Bond said it would show "that the
country which counts itself the greatest democracy in the world
is incapable of holding an election in which most people believe
votes are fairly cast and fairly counted, and that the country
is incapable of restraining the racist impulses of people who
are so desperate to prevail that they will break the law again
and again and again."