MHP   |  October 27, 2012

Mailers, voter registration cards spout incorrect election date

In the latest edition of "This Week In Voter Suppression," Melissa Harris-Perry shares how voter registration cards in Arizona, and mailers sent out in Ohio, both alerted voters of the wrong election date.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> now, it is time to update you on the latest from "this week in voter suppression ." previously when we've talked numbers, we're talking figures with a lot of zeros, the hundreds of thousands or by some estimates the millions who could be disenfranchised by voter laws, many of which, thankfully, have been blocked or weakened in the court. this week we want to talk about much smaller numbers. as we've seen from the polls, it's going to be a close one this year, maybe even election 2000 close. you remember that year? a minuscule three-digit margin, just 537 votes in only one state, florida, tipped the election to george w. bush . maybe it was just one vote on the supreme court . you get my point. it's why this year small numbers can have a big impact on the election. as first lady michelle obama reminded an audience in wisconsin late last week.

>> it could all come down to just a few battleground states , like right here in wisconsin, states that could be decided by just a few thousand votes. when you take that number and you spread those votes out across this entire state, you know, across hundreds of cities and thousands of wards, it becomes smaller, right? so when you break it down, it turns out that just a handful of votes in every ward could make all the difference in this election.

>> so here when we hear about disenfranchisement of any voters, we pay attention. when we first heard last week that arizona had distributed voter registration cards with a spanish translation saying election day was november 8th instead of november 6th , we were initially willing to give them the benefit of the doubt . after all, there were fewer than 50 cards printed. we could buy the county's explanation it was an honest mistake even if maricopa county , home of sheriff joe arpaio . this week it was 2,000 book marks with the wrong election day printed in spanish. the excuse was they used a template from last year and forgot to update it to november 6th . more benefit of the doubt . when that same excuse was used to explain a simmer record across the county in a battleground state that could decide the election, we're a little less tolerant. mailers were sent out to more than 2,300 voters in three pre tingts in ohio's ottawa county that got not one, but two critical pieces of information wrong. one was the same error in arizona , telling voters election day was november 8th instead of november 6. additionally voters were also directed to the wrong polling place at a local high school . at the table, ben cohen , co-founder of ben & jerry 's, auburn seminary's valerie kore and lesley sanchez and mir nah perez senior counsel for the democracy program at the brennan center for justice . mir nah, i'm not a conspiracy theorist , but when not one, not two, but both in arizona and ohio we have spanish language printed with the wrong date and always a date that's after the election, never before so people can figure it out. are we in conspiracy land? is this a concerted effort, sort of last ditch to suppress these votes?

>> what i think we need to remember is that when there are a lot of election law changes, we are frequently worried about their being confusion. one of the examples i like to point to is notwithstanding the recent pennsylvania decision about how the identification requirement was going to apply, there were at least two counties including in philadelphia that had wrong information on polling, on their website. what that tells me is voters need to make sure that they educate themselves. fortunately they've got help with that. there is a national nonpartisan hotline. it's 866-r-vote that voters can call. and there's a line in spanish. so notwithstanding the kind of misinformation that's going to happen out there, there are a number of trained legal workers all across the country oovps that will be there to help voters should something like this arise.

>> lesley, i have to say i'm disturbed by the spanish-speaking aspect of this. in part, because there was a time, not so long ago when republicans were very much trying to get the latino vote and we doing, in fact, a very good job of it, particularly under george w. bush . i'm all for it, i'm all for you convince african-americans or young people or women to vote for you. i am not all for you suppress the vote by purposely sending out misinformation.

>> nobody is going to be for that.

>> somebody is for it.

>> i'm not going to defend foolish people or ignorance. what i do admire is the media scrutiny on this is at a very high level and it should be. i think that's one thing we always like to beat up on the media. that's one thing that is very, very positive. there is no doubt that there's good organizations in these hotlines and some other efforts making very dramatic efforts not only to educate voters. both campaigns have aggressively gone after the latino vote. governor romney has reached into new territory and did it much earlier in a primary season than anybody else. there are high positives there.

>> but the fact is that it's republican ladies and gentlemen laters and republican governors and states led by republicans where we're seeing concentrated voter suppression efforts.

>> i want to address that. there was a bipartisan effort that talked about we need add unified form of identification, they needed to have some sort of paper ballot or trail where we can see where people's vote counted. there's an intense amount --

>> but to say in the 1970s there was a bipartisan effort to think about how to make voting more standard across all 50 states is very different than the kind of --

>> i'm talking about 2005 . this is post florida --

>> i see.

>> i think in agreement it's criminal to try to suppress --

>> yet that is really quite different, myrna in terms of the state-by-state individual efforts. i want to press on the point you just made. even to the extent the courts have turned much of this back, the confusion itself can be suppressive.

>> certainly. that's why it's really important that there be a lot of very good and very concentrated voter education efforts. it also would do us well to be thinking about election preparedness, and that is something that a number of organizations including the brennan center are working on. this is a very important time. it's the one time when we can all come together as americans and we all have an equal say. it's important that we get it right. we are the leading democracy and we need to make sure our elections are run accordingly.

>> valerie and ben, i'll bring you in when we come back. there's another conspiracy out there this week. we're on it here in nerd land. we'll talk about the voting