Steve Stevlic, coordinator of the Chicago Tea Party, told Mother Jones that "hundreds" of Illinois tea partiers have volunteered to work the polls in the Chicago area on Election Day.
Kirk's came under fire for his voter integrity program, which he said was aimed at at least two predominately African-American parts of Chicago, as TPMMuckraker reported. The Republican Party chair's posting announcing the voter integrity effort has since been edited to remove references to Republican National Lawyers Association events and his previous statement that "ballot integrity will be a key ingredient to our success." A tweet by the chairman, Pat Brady, connecting the anti-voter fraud effort to the Kirk campaign was also removed.
Voting rights experts are worried that independent groups wouldn't be held accountable in the same way political parties have been.
"Given the climate, given the organizing we're seeing around the country, and the players involved, we are worried that this may just be the tip of the iceberg, and we're going to be seeing things like this elsewhere where their haven't been documents obtained," Wendy Weiser, Deputy Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center, told TPMMuckraker last week.
"To the extent that there's going to be any voter intimidation or any of the illegal conduct that we're worried is going to come out of 'ballot security' operations, we have every reason to believe that the Department of Justice will enforce the law, and that's not something that they can do in advance obviously," said Weiser. "The election will be the test."
Efforts like the one in Illinois spring up every election, but the fact that they are being run by outside groups makes it a bit different, said other expert.
"These are efforts that spring up every election year, and sometimes they seem to have some relationship to a party and sometimes they don't," Tova Andrea Wang, Senior Democracy Fellow at Demos, told TPMMuckraker. "But I agree that particularly when there are independent groups, they may take it upon themselves to enforce rules that don't actually exist or that they have no business enforcing."
"They're not going after ACORN, I kind of keep waiting for them to figure out what the new ACORN is, but I think the new wrinkle this year is the Tea Parties," Wang said. There are a lot of good folks in the Tea Party and then there are some folks who have bought in, apparently, to the concept that voter fraud is a huge problem, and they're formulating voter fraud watch groups that could engage in intimidating tactics at the polls if they're not advised that's not acceptable."
Mother Jones reported:
The Illinois Republicans/tea party joint venture largely escaped the attention of local Democratic officials and operatives. Perhaps that's because the Illinois GOP and its partners haven't made too much noise about the effort. (A description of the project on a website created by Meroni's tea party portal, the Patriot's Heart Network, to recruit volunteers is no longer accessible.) Instead, they seem to be relying on grassroots supporters to spread the word. Like this local blogger, writing on Conservatives4Palin.com: "In Chicagoland, Democrats never have any problem filling those [poll worker] slots, because the unions, ACORN, and all sorts of other shady organizations send their members to fill the positions: where they...look the other way as Democrat operatives game elections through voter fraud, intimidation, ballot tampering, and all sorts of other hijinks. The only reason they do is because Republicans forfeit these areas to them." (Meroni, the Illinois GOP, and the Illinois Republican Renaissance did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)