By Ruth Conniff on November 06, 2012

Reports are rolling in of voter suppression tactics slowing voting in swing states around the country.

The nonpartisan Election Protection Coalition has a real-time report and voter help on its web site.

Early reports included:

Voting machines malfunctioning in Florida, creating hours-long lines.

Voters in Pennsylvania being sent away from the polls if they don't have voter I.D.--which is not required to vote in this election.

MoveOn.org is circulating a petition demanding that Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett extend voting hours so that people who were wrongly turned away can come back to vote.

In Ohio, Republican Secretary of State John Husted has stirred national controversy by introducing experimental voting software in this election, and by making last-minute rule changes that could disqualify thousands of voters who make small errors on provisional ballots.

In Wisconsin, a Romney campaign manual leaked to ThinkProgress last week urged election observers to hide their affiliation with the campaign, and falsely claimed that Wisconsin law forbids voting by ex-felons, as well as enumerating restrictive I.D. requirements that are not in effect in Wisconsin.

But in Wisconsin, at least, voter intimidation by True the Vote and other Republican-affiliated election observers has not materialized on Election Day.

Election observers don't seem to be disrupting voting in Wisconsin and turnout is very strong in Milwaukee, says Joe Zepecki, communications director for Organize for America in Wisconsin.

"We've been incredibly busy and the call volume has been incredibly high," says Ann Jacobs, Attorney, Domintz & Skemp, S.C. in Milwaukee, and a member of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. "People who need help are reaching out."

"We've seen tremendous turnout in the morning--especially in Milwaukee," she added.

"We've had the usual difficulties for people in terms of proof of residence. But nothing extraordinary. The observers have been dealt with well by the chief elections officials."

Overall, says Jacobs, "We're delighted that the obstructors’ tactics have not been allowed to thwart the election process."

Stacy Harbaugh of the ACLU in Wisconsin concurs:

"Most problems relate to what we usually see on high-turnout elections: long lines, polling places that need more staff, optical scan machines that break down and need repair," Harbaugh says.

"Most of the questions coming in are about what proof of residence is acceptable and there is a lot of confusion over photo ID. We are getting complaints about observers, but we are generally pleased that polling place chief elections inspectors are maintaining control. When observers are disruptive or obstructing the process, chiefs are addressing it, correcting behavior or in a few cases dismissing observers from polling places."

Republicans in Wisconsin succeeded in curtailing early voting--but in Milwaukee, the early vote count was still 5,000 votes higher than in 2008, when voters had twice as long to get to the polls early.

The photo I.D. requirement was blocked in court.

But new proof of residency requirements could tie up students and voters who make frequent moves (you must show that you've been in your current place of residence for 28 days, or vote at your former polling place.)

"I don't understand why the Romney campaign would bother engaging in illegal voter suppression when, thanks to the elimination of a corroborating witness as proof of residence, municipal clerks and poll workers will be turning away eligible voters for them," says Mike Quieto, a former elections official and former candidate for Dane County clerk in Wisconsin.

Legal residents of Wisconsin who do not have their name on a lease or utility bill, whose bank statements are sent to PO boxes or whose Driver's License still shows an old address will have more difficulty registering at the polls, Quieto explains. Those most likely to be affected are newly 18-year-old high school students, elderly voters who have moved in with their children, or low-income voters "doubled up" with a relative but not on the lease.

Still, for outright voter intimidation and suppression, things look good in Wisconsin today.

If you liked this article by Ruth Conniff, the political editor of The Progressive, check out her story "Tammy Baldwin Gets a Lift from Obama."

Follow Ruth Conniff @rconniff on Twitter

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Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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