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Read about how Fox News Interfered with Local Voter Registration
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Tucson voter registration target of harassment..

August 31, students in the Women's Studies honorary society at the University of Arizona--in conjunction with the Feminist Majority Foundation--were engaging in a bit of civic participation on the UA lawn: registering voters. They called it "Suffrage 2004." In registering voters, they were engaging in an activity in common with the Young Republicans, the Young Democrats, and student government here in recent weeks.

But this time it was different. The local Fox News affiliate pulled up and, cameras rolling, accused feminist students of engaging in felony voter fraud. The reporters claimed that Arizona law prohibits students from out of state from registering here.

Our students were formidable. They, of course, had consulted with the local registrar of voters on the law before they picked up voter registration forms, and insisted that state law requires only that someone live in Arizona for 29 days before the election. They called the Secretary of State's office, our local state rep, Raul Grijalva, the Feminist Majority Foundation, and others. The Secretary of State's office, shamefully, refused to back them up.

They're a little scared they really will be charged with a felony. I find this hard to imagine [but then I find this whole thing hard to imagine], as the law really is on their side--the voter registration law says clearly that you only have to reside here for 29 days before the election. There's even a Supreme Court decision that says students have the right to vote where they live (although, and this may be apocryphal, one of our students reported that when she raised that with the Secretary of State's office, she was told--but that's the Supreme Court. That doesn't apply here. This is Arizona.) Anyway, they have lots of lawyers working for them now.

But last night, a piece ran on the local Fox affiliatethat was quite intimidating--it sounded like students would be arrested if they voted. Kelly Krauss, UA WS student, held the line in the piece that this wasn't true, but was contradicted by the secretary of state's office. (I'm trying to get someone to upload the videotape, and can make copies on request. Interestingly, Fox News/Channel 11 doesn't have the story archived on their web site.)

So this is scary as hell. The NAACP/People for the American Way Report that came out last month argues that intimidating people out of their voting rights is a Republican Party strategy. So I'm trying to understand what happened, and my mind reels. A memo? From people in the Republican Party to Fox News stations in swing states like Arizona? Telling them to halt voter registration drives by the Feminist Majority Foundation? I can't even imagine.

Yet we know from a recent NAACP/People for the American Way report that student voter intimidation has happened on other campuses--most notably, Prarie View A & M, a predominantly African-American campus that has been at the center of voting rights controversies before. This year, a district attorney there, in Waller County, Texas, threatened in a letter to the local newspaper to arrest any student who tried to vote who did not have a "legal voting address."

Some other events from that report:

Philadelphia, PA, 2003: Voters in African-American neighborhoods were systematically challenged by men carrying clipboards, driving a fleet of some 300 sedans with magnetic signs designed to look like law enforcement insignia. [NAACP/PFAW 2004].

Michigan, 2004: One of Bush's Michigan advisors, State Rep. John Pappageorge (R-Troy) was quoted as saying "If we do not suppress the Detroit vote, we're going to have a tough time in this election." [Detroit Free Press, 7/16/04]

Louisiana, 2003: Flyers were posted in public housing projects which read "Vote!!! Bad Weather? No problem!!! If the weather is uncomfortable on Election Day (Saturday December 7th) Remember you can wait and cast your ballot on Tuesday December 10th." [Times-Picayune (New Orleans), 12/12/02]

For the whole report, go to:
http://www.naacp.org/news/releases/jimcrow.pdf

So pass it on. Student voting rights are being challenged, as are African-American, Latino, and working-class voters'. If you advise student groups that might do voter registration, prepare them. If you don't, tell the story anyway. This can't go on being how voters get treated in this country.

Laura Briggs
Associate Professor
Women's Studies
University of Arizona


 
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