True the Vote: Diversity?

If you follow voting rights, you’re likely watching Texas as a three-judge federal court in Washington, D.C. determines whether the state’s controversial voter ID bill disenfranchises minorities.

Texas also is the birthplace of True the Vote, a Houston-based, Tea Party-backed group that trains poll watchers and volunteers to investigate voter rolls across the country looking for questionable registrations.

Texas Democrats say True the Vote’s activities could intimidate minority votes, pointing to a contentious November 2010 election where the group’s poll watchers were accused of harassing voters in some of Houston’s minority neighborhoods. True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht denies her poll watchers harassed anyone, and says the group is nonpartisan and dedicated to “free and fair elections.”

Engelbrecht also says her volunteers and poll watchers are diverse, representing all ethnicities and political ideologies. The volunteer registration page on True the Vote’s website communicates a diverse group of people smiling for the camera.

True the Vote: Diversity?

But a closer look reveals the image is a stock photo, owned by and titled: “Diverse Group of People Holding Volunteer Sign”:

True the Vote: Diversity?

News21 asked True the Vote multiple times for specific information about its demographic makeup, and Engelbrecht offered this response:

“That photo was chosen because it represents the American people,” Engelbrecht said in an email, adding that a similar photo is also used by The Voter Participation Center, a group aimed at engaging unmarried women in the electoral process.

By AJ Vicens, News21

Lawsuit claims Florida voter removal violates federal law

A coalition of voting rights groups has sued Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, arguing that state efforts to remove voters from rolls violates the National Voter Registration Act.

The suit — filed June 19 by the Advancement Project, Fair Elections Legal Network, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and Project Vote — is one of several that have emerged since Florida Gov. Rick Scott launched an effort to remove non-citizens from voting rolls earlier this year.

Kathy Culliton-Gonzalez of the Advancement Project traces the voter purge, she said, to the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch.

Judicial Watch and True the Vote, which trains volunteers to watch polls, sued Indiana elections officials June 11, alleging that the state is not maintaining accurate voter rolls. Judicial Watch maintains a list of up to a dozen states, including Florida, that the organization plans to sue for the same reasons, president Tom Fitton said.

Florida is taking “reasonable steps” to do things right, Fitton said, and emphasized that any eligible voter who gets accidentally removed can vote provisionally. Any suggestion that Judicial Watch or True the Vote is participating in a nationwide effort to suppress minority or Democratic votes is ridiculous, Fitton said.

By AJ Vicens, News21

Poll watchers deployed for Arizona special election Tuesday

Poll watchers deployed for Arizona special election Tuesday

Grady Rhodes (background left), a first-time poll watcher with the Pima County Voter Integrity Project, observes the voter check-in table at the polling place inside the Chinese Cultural Center, Tuesday in Tucson, Ariz. Photo by Jeremy Knop/News21

Newly trained poll watchers were deployed to 34 Arizona precincts Tuesday to keep an eye out for potential voter fraud in the special election to fill the vacancy left by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D., Ariz. Giffords retired from Congress to focus on her recovery from a critical gunshot head wound that she suffered in a January 2011 assassination attempt.

Giffords’ former aide Ron Barber, who was shot in the leg and cheek in that same attack, won the special election and will serve the remaining months of her term.

Grady Rhodes was among more approximately 60 volunteers who were trained to monitor voting.

“A lot of people think there could be a lot of fraud going on and they’re not sure whether their vote counts or not.” said Rhodes, a first-time poll watcher. “I wanted to be a part of helping the people and making sure their vote does count and to ensure fraud isn’t going on.”

Rhodes identified himself as a Republican and a member of the tea party, having received his training through the Pima County Voter Integrity Project on Saturday. Jennifer Wright, a tea party member who recently ran for mayor of Phoenix, trained Rhodes, he said.

Of those who went through poll watcher training Saturday, 34 were available Tuesday for the special election, said Karen Schutte, Pima County Voter Integrity Project coordinator.

By Jeremy Knop, News21

Coffee Break Ballot, June 11: Current Trends in Voting Rights

Welcome back to the work week! As the controversy over Florida’s voter roll clean up/ voter purge grows, media attention also seems to be heating. You’ll find an update below from one our News21 reporters on how voting registration organizations reacted to the judicial hold on Florida’s 48-hour registration reporting requirement.

Other curious developments this morning include a new lawsuit brought against the state of Indiana by the policy action groups Judicial Watch and True the Vote, requesting that the state perform a purge to verify voter rolls.

More on that later, but first a look at what we’ve been reading over the weekend and this morning.

What We’ve Been Reading

Texas bracing for legal battle against feds over voter ID law,” (Gary Martin, 06/11, Houston Chronicle)

Interfering with voting rights,” (Editorial Board, 06/10, Washington Post)

Commentary: If anyone is committing voter fraud in Michigan, it is Republicans,” (Mark Brewer, 06/09, Detroit News)

Scott accuses Obama administration of ‘stalling’ on database to check voters,” (George Bennett, 06/11, Palm Beach Post)

Breaking: Judicial Watch and True the Vote Sue Indiana on Voter Roll Cleanup,” (Election Law Center, 06/11,

Twitter Trends

The weekend is usually a quiet time for social media interaction on voting rights. Over the weekend, progressive activists had a bit more to talk about, as the 2012 Netroots Nation conference in Providence, R.I., presented a panel on what it called a “War on Voting.” Panelists included Nation reporter Ari Berman, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., Rep. Keith Ellison, D.-Minn., and Keesha Gaskins, Brennan Center for Justice senior counsel.

Mentions of this panel bounced around Twitter Saturday, Sunday and this morning, as users react to and interact on issues raised in the panel.

We’ve also seen Twitter commentary on a panel discussion from NPR’s Diane Rehm Show this morning featuring the Brennan Center’s Wendy Weiser, the Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky and’s Doug Chapin.

For more on what we’re reading and reporting, follow @WhoCanVote on Twitter.