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ĎDirty tricksí reported on eve of US election

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 vulnerable.

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.


The report provided copies of various flyers aimed suppressing the vote, including one from Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

"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, 2004."

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 votes.

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."


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