Eyewitnesses Report Intimidation By Texas Poll Watchers

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October 21, 2010 7:34 a.m.

When Maureen Haver went to the polls in Moody Park — a historically Hispanic neighborhood in Houston — she saw three poll watchers. She told TPMMuckraker that she recognized one of the poll watchers as a member of the Tea Party group called the King Street Patriots. There were two others that were talking about the Tea Party, she added.

Haver is the Houston Director of Texans Together which has a project called Houston Votes, which has been targeted by an anti-voter fraud effort called True the Vote with connections to the Tea Party group the King Street Patriots. Haver says that, at her voting place, she saw a Hispanic woman come in who only spoke Spanish enter, and a poll worker was showing her how to use the voting machine.

“The two poll watchers hovered behind, and then after the poll worker left to let the woman vote, both of the poll watchers stood behind this woman the entire time while she was voting,” Haver explained.That’s the type of tactics that poll watchers are accused of in Harris County, where other news reports had said poll watchers were accused of “hovering over” voters, “getting into election workers’ faces” and blocking or disrupting lines of voters who were waiting to cast their ballots.

What isn’t clear is whether poll watchers were being intentionally intimidating. But, if they actually used the tactics they are being accused of, they appear to have run afoul of laws designed to prevent voter intimidation. In addition, reports indicate that they may be focused on minority-dominated parts of Houston.

In a news report by KTRK-TV’s Miya Shay, Houston resident Willie Jones says he had two forms of identification when he headed to the polls, but was told he couldn’t vote. Video from the day shows an older man hovering over an election worker taking notes. One poll watcher told Shay he was recruited by True the Vote and never even talked to the Republican Party, for whom he was supposed to be poll watching. The County Attorney said it had received several complaints about aggressive poll watchers.

For its part, True the Vote has strongly denied advocating any type of intimidation tactic. “True the Vote has never, and will never, condone or promote voter intimidation at a polling place,” it said in a statement.

The Justice Department has said it looking into allegations in Harris County, but has also been clear that it is not looking specifically into the Tea Party at this point. “There is no investigation into any specific political organization, including the Tea Party, at this time regarding this matter,” DOJ spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said in a written statement to Fox News.

Party officials in the county — Texas’ largest — have agreed to turn over lists of poll watchers.

[Ed. note:This post was edited after publication.]

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