Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Polly, this wasn't voter intimidation (Genoa Township)

As a poll challenger in most elections for the past 10 years, I have a pretty good idea what was going on here. I know a little bit about elections. I shouldn't know more than the clerk, especially someone who used to be my municipal clerk as I used to live in Genoa Township for almost 25 years.

Long before this, I'm not impressed with the job done recently by Polly Skolarus. She was unopposed in the last election, but some normally GOP voters on my recommendation gave her what I call the "blank treatment" (voting for blank and skipping that race) for a reason. The write-ins for the primary were blundered, and a non-citizen was voting under her watch until that was cleaned up. From what I've heard, she was aware of the non-citizen voting previously as well and let it go. There are a few other things, but somebody needs a primary challenge here, which I've believed long before this. If I still lived in Genoa Township, I might have given it a go. If I was forced to pick between Todd Smith getting another term or Polly Skolarus getting another term, I'd go reluctantly with Smith, and I supported Smith's opponents in the primary, and one of the conservative independents in the general.  Polly was unopposed.

From the Argus.

Republican poll challengers attempted to intimidate voters in each of Genoa Township's 12 voting precincts this month, the township's GOP clerk said.
Township Clerk Polly Skolarus said the Republican challengers did not challenge voters' registration, but transmitted their data electronically to state party officials during the Nov. 6 election.

When you are a municipal clerk, you can't be ignorant. You need to know the laws and make sure the poll workers know them and the standard operating procedures. Prepare for everything, including the bad stuff like a broken tabulator. Poll challengers are used for making sure the polls are run properly. They are also sometimes used in GOTV efforts.

Genoa Township is a republican stronghold. We WANT a high turnout in Genoa Township. We DON'T want to supposedly "suppress" the vote there. The challengers wanted to GOTV. This was part of the infamous Project Orca. While Project Orca sounds like a giant clustermuck and failure from a software angle, the concept that was attempted here was not. If there were more challengers in Genoa Township than in Ann Arbor, East Lansing, or Lansing, that's the reason. Usually there's occasionally a challenger or two in the precincts around here, and it's more often a democrat. The Republican challengers are in 70%+ dem precincts.

I've seen what Polly's complaining about on a smaller scale. I challenged in a Southwest Lansing precinct back in 2010. Lansing is a democrat stronghold. The democrat challengers there were over the shoulder getting information about who voted, and getting that list back to the dems to find out who has not voted, so they can get those people to the polls and vote. There was a competitive state rep race that year between Barb Byrum and Jeff Osterle. It's a mostly rural district with part of South Lansing as well. Byrum needed a good turnout in South Lansing to survive that year. She did. This isn't some top secret operation that I'm describing. It's something democrats have done in urban areas for years.

Election challengers are appointed by political parties and organizations and can formally challenge a voter's registration and precinct practices. Poll watchers do not need those credentials, but can only observe the process.

They can also be behind the poll workers. Poll watchers can not. That's why the GOTV folks behind the poll book are challengers. Poll workers don't care for it, but they understand that it is part of the process and are professional. I'm usually an active challenger, although I haven't been given a list so I play it by ear and eye. Just being there and knowing what I'm doing is 1/2 of the battle. I haven't seen shenanigans, but you never know what may be the next Philly.

Township resident Barbara Shreve filed a formal complaint with the state. She called her voting experience on Nov. 6 "the worst I've ever experienced" in her complaint.
Shreve said a poll challenger wrote down her name when she questioned the challenger's role at the voter application table. She said she considered that an act of intimidation.
"As a citizen of this community, state and country, I am appalled to have any sort of political activist within the precinct. She was within a few feet of the people making their personal decision of who to elect and what proposals to support," Shreve wrote in her letter.

The challenger is not supposed to talk or gesture to voters and should be trained in that to avoid actual intimidation. I think what the person did was to write that down and report that as a potential issue. 95% of voters don't know about poll challengers or what they do. They aren't used to it in Livingston County especially.

With the exception of one or two challengers in the 2010 election, the township hadn't had a poll challenger in at least Skolarus' 26-year career with the township, she said.
A GOP challenger also monitored the township's absentee-voter counting board, Skolarus added.
 The AV watch was likely an active challenger, and someone should be always watching the AV's. The rest of it sounds like an attempt at the Project Orca operation to get out the vote so non-voters are contacted. 

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