Responding to complaints that poll watchers were intimidating voters in predominantly minority polling locations, County Attorney Vince Ryan summoned the county chairmen of both major parties to his office Tuesday and reminded them of their responsibility to make sure the observers were obeying the law.
Ryan also announced in the meeting that he has requested a monitor from the Justice Department to observe the voting process in Harris County through Nov. 2.
In a follow-up letter to the county chairmen, Ryan pointed out that poll watchers are entitled to be at a polling location, but cannot be present at the actual polling station when the voter is preparing his ballot and cannot converse with an election officer about the election, except to call attention to an irregularity or violation of the law.
Harris County Democratic Chairman Gerry Birnberg said his office had received reports Monday that poll watchers were “hovering” over voters, “getting in their face,” and talking to election workers.
“This is the fourth general election I’ve been involved with,” Birnberg said, “and we have never had this kind of problem in the past.”
TPM has more on this.
“We are currently gathering information regarding this matter,” Justice Department spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said in a statement confirming the Civil Rights Division’s involvement.
Chad Dunn, a lawyer who is representing the Texas Democratic Party, told TPMMuckraker a number of witnesses have been interviewed by Civil Rights Division lawyers already. “We’ve gotten a number of reports — quite a few out of the Houston area — that poll watchers, King Street Patriot training poll watchers, are following a voter after they’ve checked them out and stand right behind them,” Dunn said. There’s at least a dozen reports that they could confirm with witnesses, he said. “Interestingly, it’s all in the polling places in Hispanic and African-American areas,” he added.
Terry O’Rourke, the first assistant in the Harris County Attorney’s office, told TPMMuckraker that there have been allegations of poll watchers talking to voters, which they are not allowed to do, as well as hovering over voters as they are waiting to vote. He said the complaints came from Kashmere Gardens, Moody Park, Sunnyside and other predominantly minority neighborhoods of the county.
Here’s more from TPM, in which they document some of the racist, threatening, and harassing emails that Houston Votes has gotten from these lovely people. I’m very glad to see this being taken seriously, and I hope this action will curtail the illegal behavior. KTRK and Mediaite have more, as do Martha, Stace, and John.
As for the Day Two numbers, here’s the same calculation I did yesterday, updated to include the October 19 vote totals.
2010 Day Two Strong R = 46.4% Medium R = 9.5% Medium D = 18.1% Strong D = 23.3% Total R = 55.9% Total D = 41.4% 2010 Overall Strong R = 46.7% Medium R = 9.2% Medium D = 18.1% Strong D = 23.4% Total R = 55.9% Total D = 41.5% 2006 Overall Strong R = 43.7% Medium R = 11.2% Medium D = 19.2% Strong D = 23.2% Total R = 54.9% Total D = 42.4%
Not a whole lot of change from yesterday, and still not a whole lot of difference from 2006. Again, this is a crude measure, there are more and different voters in each district, yadda yadda yadda. Make of it what you will. Statewide Day One early vote numbers for the top 15 counties are here