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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Rhode Island right attacks the right to vote

It turns out Anthony Gemma isn’t the only one using allegations of voter fraud to prop up his political agenda. The local Tea Party is doing so too, using both his tactics and his allegations, under the auspices of True the Vote.

“True the Vote’s plan is to scrutinize the validity of voter registration rolls and voters who appear at the polls,” according to an article in today’s New York Times. “Among those in their cross hairs: noncitizens who are registered to vote, those without proper identification, others who may be registered twice, and dead people.”

This all sounds well and good but read further into the story and you’ll find True the Vote is doing much more than just looking for voter fraud. Here’s what the Times reports about True the Votes efforts in the Wisconsin recall vote:

True the Vote began working in Wisconsin in 2011, the same year it received a $35,000 grant from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, which is based in Wisconsin and is a major backer of conservative causes, including Americans for Prosperity. The foundation’s president and chief executive, Michael Grebe, was Mr. Walker’s campaign chairman for his 2010 campaign and for the recall election, which he won.
The accountability board concluded that about 900,000 signatures were valid and, in a memorandum reviewing True the Vote’s work, criticized its methods. For example: Mary Lee Smith signed her name Mary L. Smith and was deemed ineligible by the group.
Signatures deemed “out of state” included 13 from Milwaukee and three from Madison. The group’s software would not recognize abbreviations, so Wisconsin addresses like Stevens Point were flagged if “Pt.” was used on the petition. Signatures were struck for lack of a ZIP code.
It’s pretty clear True the Vote has political motivations outside of cleaning up voter rolls. According to the Times, “it grew out of a Tea Party group, King Street Patriots, that [was] founded in Texas. An examination shows that it has worked closely with a variety of well-financed organizations, many unabashed in their desire to defeat President Obama.”
So why should Rhode Islanders care?
Because the local incarnation of the Tea Party is using True the Vote methodology to scrutinize elections here too.
This from the Ocean State Tea Party in Action’s August newsletter:

Marina Peterson of East Bay Patriots, is heading up a project to clean up voter rolls. The work must be done within the next couple of weeks. The work can be done on your own time, in your own home with the use of a computer.  Help identify potential voter problems – people registered at commercial properties or vacant lots, numerous people registered at one address, etc.
If you want to be part of a movement that helps protect the vote of the individual and stops the fraudulent casting of votes, then please sign up at  The cost to register is $25.  Ocean State Tea Party in Action will reimburse you for this cost.

In fact, True the Vote is even trafficking in Gemma’s unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud lobbed at David Cicilline. In this post it links to a story from the American Spectator, but it’s really just a reprint from the local Tea Party group’s media ally the Ocean State Current, an arm of the conservative Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity.

Bob Plain is the editor/publisher of Rhode Island's Future. Previously, he's worked as a reporter for several different news organizations both in Rhode Island and across the country.