The latest outbreak is tactical rather than strategic. Dan Froomkin reports:
The Virginia State Board of Elections is warning residents that "some Virginia voters, particularly older Virginians, are receiving phone calls from unidentified individuals informing voters that they can vote over the phone. This information is false."Eric Marshall of the lawyers' committee says that stuff like this happens frequently, but usually closer to election day. He speculates that the change in timing this year may be related to the increase of early voting in many states.
In Florida, the 866-OUR-VOTE election protection hotline run by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law has received a report of a similar calls in Florida.
The lawyers' committee is also investigating reports from callers into African-American and Spanish-language radio stations in Florida that they had received warnings over the phone that election officials would be checking car insurance and registration status at the polls.
Somebody is obviously financing this and other efforts. It's not being done for free by a couple of "concerned citizens" from their kitchen. But tracking down the moneybags who support voter suppression isn't easy. Meanwhile, the damage gets done.
This speaks to the necessity for states to spend time and money to get correct information out to all voters. That means starting early and hammering on the issue right up to election day.
The media have a big responsibility in this as well. Nothing is stopping them from running a flotilla of public service announcements, in their broadcasts and in print, explaining in straightforward language people's right to vote and the very few legal limits on that right. Having a prominent public official or movie star discuss scams designed to prevent people from voting would be a good idea, too.
Vote suppressors work their trickery across a broad front. Whatever works they'll try. Confusion is their friend. Government officials and the guardians of the Fourth Estate ought to make special efforts to cut through that confusion.
Volleyboy1 has a discussion up about this here