The Million Wingnut March

There’s been a steadily building discussion, albeit shrouded in some mystery, about the potential impact on Election Day (and to some extent, before it) of right-wing “volunteer poll watchers” who are promising to descend on minority neighborhoods to make sure the Pink Elephant threat of “voter fraud” does not transpire.

Much of the talk centers on True the Vote, a Houston-based, Tea-Party aligned group that is claiming it will deploying a million such volunteers. These patriots, it seems, have all been trained to spot the nefarious (if imaginary) efforts of ACORN, the New Black Panther Party, and other representatives of the 47% to stuff the ballot box with the votes of illegal immigrants, welfare bums, and others who do not understand that “constitutional conservatism” is the only legitimate governing ideology for America.

True the Vote clearly does not represent an idle threat. Well before election day, reports are surfacing that it (or its state affiliates, like the Ohio Voter Integrity Project) is challenging the registration status of voters in battleground states based on changed addresses, residences listed on tax rolls as commercial property, and student addresses.

But it’s the specter of Election Day (or perhaps in-person Early Voting locations) that should trouble everyone, regardless of partisan affiliation. It’s hard to imagine a more dangerous scenario than that of hundreds of thousands of self-righteous suburban wingnuts showing up in poor and minority neighborhoods to hassle would-be voters, with Fox News cameras on hand to record any random examples of Solid Citizens experiencing resistance from annoyed locals.

And if we head towards Election Day with Obama still enjoying a clear lead in the polls, you have to figure True the Vote’s shock troops will be loaded for bear, viewing themselves as the last desperate defenders of “their” country against the barbaric hordes of looters and baby-killers who are already plotting to herd them into concentration camps during Obama’s second term, after they close the churches and shut down radio talk shows. At a minimum, we can expect “poll-watchers” to come up with enough “documented” example of “voter fraud” to support a general post-election effort to de-legitimize the results.

Demos and Common Cause have published a report analyzing the threat of chaos and outlining steps to combat it. And over at The Democratic Strategist, James Vega, J.P. Green and I have distilled four distinct strategies for dealing with voter intimidation and conservative media exploitation of precinct chaos.

In general, the best antidote against this madness, other than alert cadres of progressive poll-watchers and a police force willing to enforce the right to vote, is simple awareness. Perhaps True the Vote is issuing empty threats. But there’s no excuse for this becoming a November Surprise.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.