Even with the state’s Voter ID law on hold, Houston’s Tea Party-affiliated King Street Patriots have big plans for poll watching and election fraud monitoring, both in the upcoming primaries and the general election. As Ambreen Ali of Roll Call reported, King Street’s spin-off group, True the Vote, has been training people in thirty states and hopes to have a million volunteers by next November.
Ali recounts the controversy over King Street’s activity on Election Day 2010, including a still-active lawsuit filed by the Texas Democratic Party which argues King Street’s efforts were an in-kind donation to the Republican Party, and therefore a violation of state campaign finance laws. (For this election day, King Street and True the Vote have only trained Republican election monitors.) The lawsuit also asks that King Street disclose where it gets its funding, something the organization, a 501(c)(4) corporation, isn’t currently required to do.
King Street president, Catherine Englebrecht, told Ali the group has raised “the bulk” of its current $140,000 war chest “by passing around a cowboy hat at meetings.” She also said that True the Vote is nonpartisan and, writes Ali, “would train Democrats, even if it hasn’t yet.”
The big question, both with regards to King Street’s efforts and the state’s Voter ID bill, is whether election fraud is actually a problem. In an opinion column for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, both Nic Riley of the Brennan Center for Justice and Tamara Marshall, a NYU law student by way of Corpus Christi, said it’s a nonissue.
The truth is that voter fraud is extremely rare in Texas (and the rest of the country). If we’re not careful, this supposed cure for voter fraud could do more harm than the disease itself, causing disorder at the polls and, ultimately, undermining the integrity of our elections.
Riley and Marshall are particularly distressed by the King Street Patriots’ recent fundraising event—which cost $100 per person, according to TPMMuckraker—with Matthew Vadum, author of the book Subversion Inc.: How Obama’s ACORN Red Shirts are Still Terrorizing and Ripping Off American Taxpayers and a September article for American Thinker called “Registering the Poor to Vote is Un-American.”
If these groups are taking their cues from people like Matthew Vadum, it is doubtful that they are receiving unbiased and levelheaded guidance about the rights and protections voters enjoy.
Indeed, the Vadum fundraiser highlights the grave potential for poll watcher discrimination next fall. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 34 percent of Hispanics and 30 percent of African-Americans in Texas live below the poverty line compared to 11 percent of whites. So what happens when a poll watcher believes that poor Americans should not vote? Nothing good.