“Weeks later, another True the Vote representative told a meeting of conservative women about a bus seen at a San Diego polling place in 2010 offloading people “who did not appear to be from this country.” Officials in both San Diego and Wisconsin said they had no evidence that the buses were real. New York Times
“Allegedly, volunteer poll workers in the Buckeye state reported seeing “van loads of Ohio residents born in Somalia” being ferried in to vote early. Once at the polls, in lieu of Republican translators and UN poll watchers, the Democrats themselves were providing Somali/Arabic translation. Seems the Obama campaign is getting out the vote by teaching Somali immigrants the ins and outs of the voting process.” American Thinker
This past weekend I suddenly became conscious of a quotidian, unremarkable occurrence in City Heights. I was walking to the number 7 bus stop on University Avenue when a large van with the words Alliance for African Assistance turned down the street. Earlier that morning a mini-van pulled up next door with a small group that socializes regularly with my ethnic Chinese neighbors.
But this weekend I wondered if vans, mini-vans and even buses will be used to get citizens in City Heights to the polls on election day. I hope so. Those same conveyances get groups of people to the doctors, social and cultural centers, churches, mosques and temples and take them shopping. A significant number of their passengers are the transit dependent elderly.
If you do not live in a racially and ethnically diverse and poor neighborhood, both the presence of these services and the passengers themselves might appear “foreign.” In City Heights we more often than not live next door to people who don’t necessarily speak English as a first language or who have cultural traditions far different than our own. Grudgingly or happily or somewhere in-between, we are required to make some kind of peace with this reality. The term “foreign” quickly loses its meaning here.
But our reality in City Heights is not the same as the lived experience in Del Mar Heights or Santee. Communities with different demographics and median incomes often live in proximity to each other but that doesn’t necessarily result in mutual awareness or interaction. Tensions do arise as well as damaging stereotypes. These tensions can take on a disturbing quality when delivered up by right wing groups like True the Vote, with its local affiliate the Election Integrity Project here in San Diego County.
True the Vote, the Tea Party group which has established itself as a national presence to combat alleged voter fraud at the polls, dips extensively into the paranoid lore that foreign looking people are driven to the polls in buses where they commit in person voter fraud. These fraudulent voters are described as being assisted by “translators” who tell them whom to vote for–Democrats, of course.
There is no shred of evidence that this is indeed occurring or has occurred. The facts clearly don’t matter, but the perception provides a revelatory glimpse into the fears and ignorance that fuel the True the Vote effort and which enables them to gain traction. The greatest fear is the demographic tsunami that is occurring throughout the country. We are approaching a not too distant future in which whites will no longer be the majority of the population.
In City Heights, we are already living that not too distant future- Poway and Rancho Bernardo maybe not so much. The question we all face is whether we will perpetuate the current power structure that reflects the political and economic power of what will become a white minority.
Public policies will certainly shape the outcome. What kinds of public infrastructure investments will be made, and where? How will we address non-living and stagnant wages and the rising cost of housing and availability of health care? How does the privatization of public functions impact equal access and equal opportunities for upward mobility?
But beyond the public policies, there is an even more basic issue- our right as citizens to vote and the effect that right can have on the way we govern. According to the California Voter Foundation (CVF) there are 6.4 million Californians who are eligible but unregistered to vote. What kind of effort are we going to make to achieve an informed robust electorate? And are we willing to call out the current voter suppression efforts by groups like True the Vote as undemocratic, unacceptable and illegal?
The California Voter Foundation describes nonvoters as “disproportionately young, single, less educated and more likely to be of an ethnic minority than infrequent and frequent voters.” The description of nonvoters parallels a number of the demographic qualities of City Heights.
The CVF’s nonvoter observation was borne out in the June primary elections in San Diego. According to Keegan Kyle at the Voice of San Diego “…few voters from the district’s [editor note: new council district 9] most Latino neighborhoods showed up to pick their council representative for the next four years. Voters from white-majority areas actually played a much larger role in the election’s outcome. They represented about 60 per cent of the vote.”
There is an irony here. True the Vote poll watchers are convinced that fraudulent votes cast by ethnic and racial minorities have undermined the integrity of the electoral process while the facts reveal that under participation by minority groups is undermining the electoral process. Who are you going to believe?
The California Voter Foundation goes on to recommend that “many Californians may benefit from more information about the time saving advantages of early voting and voting by absentee ballot.” True the Vote on the other hand has supported the efforts to reduce early voting in other states and the vote by mail process in California is particularly suspect to the San Diego Election Integrity Project.
Which brings us back again to election day, November 6. Those of us who will actually vote at the polls on Tuesday should take notice of the poll watchers who may be there and be aware of what they are doing and how they are comporting themselves. Yes, we need to keep an eye on the poll watchers. SDFP will be posting a guide to what you should know on election day, and information about poll watchers will be included.
The True the Vote website actually provides some useful information to consider if you do in fact see busloads of people who don’t look like you pull up at the polling place! It appears that True the Vote supporters understand that they are under intense scrutiny and may face legal challenges. And besides, the xenophobia and racist genies are already out of the bottle. Here is the latest kinder, gentler, accurate True the Vote response:
Someone in Ohio Doesn’t Understand the Voting Rights Act
Drudge blasts the headline in Ohio that people who speak Somali are voting. The shock! Even worse, they aren’t speaking English!!! The horror. And to make it even more dangerous, they are being helped!!!!
Guess what, all of these activities are perfectly legal. One need not speak English to vote. That’s the law and the reactive excuse that you can’t become a citizen unless you speak English has absolutely no legal bearing on the matter. Moreover, under Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act, every one of these Somalis can be assisted by an interpreter, and it can be the same one, and it can be a representative of the Democrat party. The person can even tell them for whom to vote if it was the continuation of a possible prior discussion (in Somali most likely) about for whom to vote.
This is a diversion that carries the danger of people overreacting. People who do not speak English are allowed to vote. They are allowed to have people in the booth with them helping them. That helper can be a democrat, at long as it is not an employer or union leader. True the Vote
U.S. Representative John Lewis (D-GA) describes the vote as “the most powerful non-violent tool we have to achieve a more perfect union.” I urge the citizens of City Heights to vote, to be an active voice in how we achieve that more perfect union. That includes of all those who rely on that bus or mini-van to get them to the polls.
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