***Please see my update on Arpaio's breaking ties with BAN, here***
The paranoia has been reaching a fever-pitch both in and over an e-mail recently sent out by the local nativist organization Ban Amnesty Now, which claims that "illegals" are looking to steal the upcoming midterm elections. The e-mail BAN fired off en masse the other day bore the imprimatur of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, an "honorary national co-chair" of the group.
However, Sean McCaffrey, the top dog at BAN and the former executive director of the Arizona Republican Party, tells me that Arpaio's name at the bottom of the e-mail was a mistake, that it should have gone out signed by him instead.
McCaffrey confessed that he'd never actually gotten Arpaio's approval to use his name on the missive. Maricopa County Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Brian Lee also told me that this was the case. (Though Arpaio bears responsibility for lending his name to BAN's cause, otherwise.)
Regardless, McCaffrey's wingnut rant, which solicits donations and seeks recruits for a "grassroots army" of "voter prevention volunteers" to keep illegal immigrants from the polls, has angered many leaders of the Hispanic and progressive communities. So much so that they've fired off a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asking the Department of Justice to investigate Arpaio over the matter and assign federal observers to monitor elections in Arizona.
The letter from the coalition One Arizona reads, in part,
"...we request, pursuant to Section 8 of the Voting Rights Act, that the Department of Justice immediately dispatch federal observers to monitor voting procedures throughout Maricopa County and other Arizona counties in which Sheriff Arpaio's vigilante `army' is active.
"We further request that the Department initiate an investigation into Sheriff Arpaio's actions as a violation of section 1973i(b) of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits intimidation, threats or coercion of voters."
You can read the entire letter, here.
Despite the rhetoric in the BAN e-mail, McCaffrey says BAN is not organizing a prejudiced posse to keep Latinos from the polls. He told me that so far, he's had around 200 people nationwide sign up for his "grassroots army," but that all he's doing with the names is forwarding them to the counties or states involved.
If you click on the link asking for volunteers, it takes you to a message that states the following:
"As a BANAMNESTYNOW.COM Voter Fraud Prevention Volunteer, your name will be submitted to the election officer of your state with a notice that you would like to volunteer at a polling place in your area to ensure that only registered, legal American voters cast ballots in your state. As a surrogate poll watcher, we will investigate any and all reports you submit to B.A.N. of voter fraud and of Illegal voting activity."
This is still misleading as the conduct in and around polling places is highly regulated. According to state law, campaigning is not allowed within 75 feet of a polling place's entrance. Political observers are assigned by the Democratic and Republican parties. They can challenge voters under certain circumstances. But they cannot intimidate them.
Alessandra Soler-Meetz, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, explained that voters cannot be challenged on the basis of their appearance or ethnicity. And if an observer challenges someone because of immigration status, the challenger must have proof that the voter is in the country illegally.
"If the poll worker accepts the challenge," Soler-Meetz said, "they still have to allow you to vote by provisional ballot." (Note: See A.R.S. 16-592.)
So BAN cannot raise an independent "army" of observers and potentially harass anyone who looks Latino without violating both state and federal law.
McCaffrey insisted that he did not want to intimidate voters at the polls, just that he wanted to keep illegal aliens from voting.
"Like bars for underage kids, so should polling places be for illegal aliens," he intoned.
I could spend an entire blog post on the insane shibboleth that there's some plot to have illegal aliens steal the election. It's a conspiracy theory that's being promoted by outlets other than BAN. And there is absolutely zero evidence for it.
McCaffrey sent me a number of links to back up his moon-howl, none of which actually do so. (You can check the list for yourself below.) He seemed especially proud of a blog item that references an article by the Yuma Sun detailing efforts to get people to cast early ballots.
The Yuma Sun article says nothing about voter registration fraud. But the blogger had the following to say,
"I talked with GOP source tonight and was told the following, `A source from the Yuma County Recorder's Office has found that 65% of the registrations have been found to be invalid!' Wrong address. Not citizens. The registrations were all dumped off at once. Now before the requests for early ballots expires, the groups are requesting early ballots."
Secretary of State Ken Bennett, a Republican mind you, issued a press release yesterday noting that this rumor is complete bull. The release goes point by point debunking this malarkey.
In it, Bennett states, "I'm happy to report that these latest allegations of rampant registration fraud are without merit."
You can read the release for yourself, here.
McCaffrey also made a big deal about a Fox News story reporting that there are some illegal aliens in Washington state involved in a get out the vote effort. Um, so what? There are no allegations of voter fraud or voter registration fraud in the piece.
I spoke to Yvonne Reed, spokeswoman for the Maricopa County elections department, she explained that voting by illegal aliens is pretty rare.
"We just don't have a plethora of non-citizens voting in elections," she said.
I went over much of this ground in a previous blog item about the 9th Circuit's recent ruling on Prop 200. Before Prop 200 was approved by the voters in 2004, reporters searched high and low for evidence of illegal immigrants voting. They found only a handful of instances, few and far between.
Most of the wackjobs propagating this conspiracy hogwash have nefarious ideological motives. When it comes to McCaffrey, I think the guy's just trying to make a buck, albeit in a really gross way. He told me that he's the only full-time employee for BAN, which is a 501(c)4 non-profit (that means the organization is tax exempt, but your donations are not). Though BAN does have a paid intern.
As for the involvement of honorary co-chairs Joe Arpaio and neo-Nazi-hugging state Senator Russell Pearce, McCaffrey insisted they receive no cash from the sales of BAN swag or the donations BAN receives.
What do they get out of it? Access to BAN's mailing list, claims McCaffrey. Reminds me of the "leads" in Glengarry Glen Ross.
If there are rednecks out there dumb enough to give McCaffrey their money, I can't fault him for taking it. But I do fault him for his irresponsible rhetoric, and adding to the fear and hysteria over immigration. For that, he should be ashamed.
BAN's e-mail solicitation:
6 Days to STOP Illegals from
Stealing the Election!
I m writing today because there is just one week to go in this year s historic elections, and I need your help to make sure that America s elections are just that for Americans!
FACT: Thousands of illegal aliens have already organized and taken to the streets, campaigning in some of the closest Senate and House races in the nation to turn out votes and voters for pro-amnesty, open borders candidates!
STOP ILLEGALS FROM STEALING THE ELECTION!
FACT: The illegal registration of alien voters has become pervasive, says Kris Kobach, the attorney who helped Arizona write SB1070. The problem exists across the nation, bolstered by open-borders criminals determined to undermine our elections, including the unions, La Raza even the White House.
STOP ILLEGALS FROM STEALING THE ELECTION!
FACT: The conspiracy between U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon goes far beyond the two joining forces in their lawsuit against Arizona s SB1070, anti-illegal immigration legislation. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer put it right when she explained the Obama-Calderon conspiracy the media recently:
The Mexican government does not want our borders secure They have made it very, very clear Calderon believes that he is helping out the [Obama] administration and they are looking at it in a political mode to bring in newly registered illegal immigrants to register to vote.
STOP ILLEGALS FROM STEALING THE ELECTION!
FACT: The same pro-amnesty criminals working in states like Washington to turn out pro-amnesty voters have been working to register illegal voters all over the nation! In one Arizona congressional district, more than 65% of the 3,000+ new voters registrations submitted by Mi Familia Vota and One Arizona were found to be invalid many of them to non-citizens.
Nothing is more important in protecting the United States today than protecting the sanctity of our votes. Sadly, we are not just fighting criminals from other nations. We are fighting our own president and very determined individuals in America who want to disenfranchise U.S.
Citizens of their votes.
At BANAMNESTYNOW.COM we aren t going to let them. Our grassroots army of VOTER FRAUD PREVENTION VOLUNTEERS will stand vigilant across the nation. We will be the first and strongest line of defense to ensure that only legal citizens vote on November 2nd, but to do this, we need your help today!
* * *
November 2, 2010 is one week from today and we have a tremendous job ahead of us that we can t accomplish without you!
Together we have already stopped Obama s Dream Act nightmare!
Together we ve already stopped La Raza and the White House from punishing Arizona by trying to move baseball s 2011 All-Star Game from Phoenix. Together we ve added hundreds of thousands of new voices to the MAJORITY of Americans who support secure borders and oppose amnesty for illegal aliens.
and together we ll stand strong and protect American elections wherever we can!
But together starts with you, today. So please join me today and help me STOP ILLEGALS FROM STEALING THIS ELECTION!
Thomas Jefferson reminds us The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. America needs us now, more than ever, to do our part, to stand up for our nation, to defend her against those who would sacrifice her for mere political partisanship.
Thank you in advance for your contribution ... And thank you to all who have registered to volunteer on Election Day!
For America, your friend,
SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO
Hon. Co-Chairman, BANAMNESTYNOW.COM
The ACLU's guide on what to do if you're challenged at the polls by some nativist idgit:
What To Do If You Are Challenged On Voting Day
· Make sure the person challenging you has the proper credentials. The only people who can challenge you are poll watchers or other voters. Poll watchers must be registered to vote in the county in which the challenge takes place.
· You cannot be challenged based merely on your appearance, last name, race, or national origin.
· If you are challenged because of immigration status or because the challenger thinks you are present in the U.S. illegally, the challenger must show proof that you are not a U.S. citizen. Suspicions based on national origin or skin color cannot be used to prevent you from casting a ballot.
· You are still eligible to vote even if you are registered both in Arizona and in another state. The challenger must prove that you actually voted in the other state before you can be ineligible.
· If you are challenged because your address has changed within the same county, you can still vote. Simply inform the poll workers or precinct clerk of your current address.
· If you are challenged based on your perceived status as an ex-felon, it may be helpful to bring along your papers showing that your rights have been restored, but it is not necessary. The challenger must show (1) that you were convicted of a felony, and (2) that your rights have not been restored.
· Even if the poll workers accept the challenge, they must still allow you to vote by a provisional ballot.
· Challenges must not be allowed to disrupt the normal flow of voting. If a challenger becomes disruptive, ask the official poll workers to remove the challenger.
Don't be intimidated or discouraged from voting!
American Civil Liberties Union
(ACLU) of Arizona
P.O. Box 17148
Phoenix, AZ 85011-0148
T: 602-650-1854 F: 602-650-1376