By Nadin Abbott
October 24, 2012 (San Diego)-- It is ironic. This morning ECM attended a press conference dealing with voting suppression, while nearby volunteers from both the Democratic and Republican Parties were getting ready to register newly minted citizens after their naturalization ceremonies.
The conference was called by State Senator Leeland Yee (D-8). He was joined by State Representative Marti Block (D-78- Assembly), as well as Simon Mayeski of the non partisan Common Cause and Phillip W. Liburd, Executive Board Member of the NAACP San Diego Branch.
According to Yee the State Senate held a hearing yesterday on “strategic efforts to suppress the vote during the November election.” The comprehensive presentation was done by Common Cause of California. According to Yee, in his view, “Voter suppression is the same as voter fraud.”
Mayeski said that there is a history of intimidation in San Diego, chiefly East of I-15, South of I-18 and at the colleges. Common Cause is ready to respond to these efforts. Moreover, they are part of a coalition of civil rights organizations, among then the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the NCAAP.
Mayeski said that Common Cause has a program already in place drawn from extensive efforts back in the June Primary to prevent intimidation of voters. He said that they “expect more intimidation.”
The way that they have observed this is through The Voter Integrity Project challenging the process though small technicalities, including demanding to see an ID, which in California it is not required. This “creates a hostile environment.”
Mayeski was clear to say that people have a right to observe the process, but they do not have a right to create this hostile environment. Common Cause has about one hundred lawyers and about fifty volunteers ready to help voters, and they urge voters who feel they have been intimidated to call 1-866-OUR VOTE. This will immediately redirect the caller to a local office where action can be taken. They will be ready to respond from before the Polls open until after they close.
It is important that people self report if they run into trouble. Common Cause will also have poll observers where they may see trouble. Chiefly, people could be challenged over the name on the voting roll in a “manner that may intimidate the voter.” There is also a problem with those seeking to imidate voters by wearing uniform type clothing that may scare voters from actually exercising their rights.
Mayeski emphasized that he expects the targets of these efforts to be students and newly minted citizens, as well as others. He said that they also expect students to join with the core of volunteers the group is are raising.
Assemblyman Block said that he supports Senator Yee’s efforts since it is the “most sacred right to vote, and we need to ensure voters rights.” He revealed that voter suppression has been seen in the 39th District. He applauded efforts by Senator Correa, Senator Yee and the Committee to bring light to this.
Yee was the sponsor of a bill that allowed people to register to vote electronically. This has led to over a million more registered voters, and he is afraid of efforts to suppress those votes.
Libbard said that the efforts of the NCAAP here in San Diego have concentrated on educating voters, especially those who had been convicted of crimes. As long as they are no longer on probation, they are free to vote. He also added, like the rest of the speakers, that voting “is our sacred right.” He emphasized that they will work with Common Cause to ensure that citizens who want to vote can and should vote.
Libbard also told ECM that we are lucky that we do not have the same challenges that we have seen in Ohio, North Carolina and Pennsylvania and praised California’s Attorney General for enforcing the rights of voters.