Texas Democrats: KSP/True the Vote trained poll watchers in Travis County

Posted on: November 1st, 2010 by Patrick Brendel 2 Comments

Controversial Harris County tea party spinoff KSP/True the Vote conducted poll watcher training in Travis County, while other tea party groups across the state are also training poll watchers for Election Day, according to the Texas Democratic Party.

The Texas Independent previously reported on the national ambitions of King Street Patriots and KSP/True the Vote, which surfaced during an Oct. 5 conference call with KSP leader Catherine Engelbrecht and more than 100 activists in 25 states.

Following reports of voter intimidation by GOP poll watchers during early voting in Houston, mostly in heavily minority areas, several entities, including Democrats and tea party group KSP, have called on the U.S. Department of Justice to deploy poll monitors in Houston during Election Day. The DOJ does plan to have observers in Houston on Tuesday, according to the TDP statement.

Recently, Travis County Democrats also called for DOJ observers in Austin, alleging that Travis County GOP officials instructed Republican poll watchers to focus on heavily minority precincts in East Austin.

Travis GOP chair Rosemary Edwards did not deny telling poll watchers to focus on those areas, saying that was because “we’ve had specific complaints in those polling places,” according to the Austin Chronicle.

Travis GOP officials and KSP leaders categorically deny allegations of coordinated voter intimidation.

Democrats, however, say otherwise. A Texas Democratic Party statement links to an entry on conservative site Ramparts 360, calling on volunteers to “Help True the Vote by Being a Poll Watcher” that provides information on two training sessions Oct. 26 and 27 at the Travis County GOP’s headquarters. “You will be trained to represent the Republican Party at the polls,” according to the site.

According to TDP: “Additionally, Tea Party groups across Texas have followed the lead of the controversial group and have held additional poll watcher trainings in Harris, Dallas, Travis, Tarrant, Fort Bend, Williamson, McLennan, Montgomery, El Paso and Bexar counties in preparation for Election Day.”

TDP and Harris County Democrats sued Harris County voter registrar Leo Vasquez for allegedly violating terms of an earlier settlement agreement when he provided KSP with voter registration records, which KSP used to challenge thousands of applications linked to voter registration group Houston Votes. The leader of Houston Votes, Fred Lewis, sued KSP and its leader Catherine Engelbrecht for defamation, alleging she linked his organization to the New Black Panther Party.

TDP also added KSP to a lawsuit originally filed against the Green Party of Texas. In both cases, Democrats want the organizations to provide information on donors’ identities. Additionally, Texans for Public Justice has filed a state ethics complaint against KSP and KSP/True the Vote, saying the 501(c)4 and 501(c)3 nonprofits are engaging in electioneering and accordingly should have a registered political committee and be reporting donors.

Under pressure from TDP, KSP made certain financial records public on its website, indicating the organization has raised $87,000 since March but without specifying donors’ identities.

“Just like the funneling of the illegal corporate money used to get the Green Party on the ballot, all signs point to Rick Perry’s political operatives being behind this voter intimidation scheme,” said TDP Chair Boyd Richie. “As the leader of the statewide Republican ticket, he could denounce this group and their tactics, call on them to stop and it would all stop instantly. Instead he panders to them, does campaign events in their headquarters and gives them his silent nod of approval.”

Meanwhile, the Houston tea party group announced that it will hold a “KSP State of the Street” event Nov. 8 where “Plans for the Future” will be announced. According to the website, questions to be answered include: “Will they crater under the pressure of the Left? Will they lock their doors and shutter their windows? Do they have a plan for the future?”

Here is the full text of the TDP statement (emphases theirs):

REPUBLICAN VOTE SUPPRESSION SCHEME PIONEERED IN HOUSTON GOING STATEWIDE ON ELECTION DAY

(Houston, TX) – Extremist Republican groups across Texas are following the lead of the local King Street Patriots Republican Tea Party group and are planning to send poll watchers to minority-heavy polling sites on Election Day. This sudden interest in poll watching by Tea Party Republicans across Texas follows an early voting period in Harris County where an unprecedented number of instances of voter intimidation were reported, overwhelmingly in minority areas.

“Just like the funneling of the illegal corporate money used to get the Green Party on the ballot, all signs point to Rick Perry’s political operatives being behind this voter intimidation scheme,” said Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie. “As the leader of the statewide Republican ticket, he could denounce this group and their tactics, call on them to stop and it would all stop instantly. Instead he panders to them, does campaign events in their headquarters and gives them his silent nod of approval.”

The reports of voter intimidation in Harris County during early voting were so numerous and flagrant that they quickly caught the attention of local, state and national media as well as the U.S. Department of Justice, which announced that they will have observers on the ground in Houston on Election Day.

The Tea Party Republican group which recruited and trained the poll watchers has announced plans to send over a thousand poll watchers to voting sites on Election Day. Additionally, Tea Party groups across Texas have followed the lead of the controversial group and have held additional poll watcher trainings in Harris, Dallas, Travis, Tarrant, Fort Bend, Williamson, McLennan, Montgomery, El Paso and Bexar counties in preparation for Election Day. The training in Travis County was led by the King Street group’s True the Vote project.

In Tarrant County, a local Tea Party website asking for poll watchers states, “Some locations are not in very safe areas, so this is not for the timid”. In Travis County, at a Republican poll watcher training session, the Chair of the local Republican Party stated that they wanted to place poll watchers principally in the “Southeast” and “East” Austin precincts, specifically where large numbers of minority voters would go to the polls.

“There’s no question that these actions constitute an all-out assault on minority voting rights, but it’s not just minorities who should be concerned. When any one group of people is infringing on the voting rights of another group, that’s an attack on the most sacred pillars of our democracy,” added Richie.

While Republican leaders continue to deny that any intimidation is occurring, several voters in Harris County have spoken directly to the media about their experiences with voter intimidation. [3]

Among those who have gone public is Tim Moss. In an incident report [4] recently received by the Texas Democratic Party, Moss specifically names Shirley Andrews, who was featured at a recent King Street Patriot press conference, as one of the Republicans who has intimidated voters at Acres Homes, a minority-heavy early voting poll site in Harris County.

The incident report states that Moss went to vote at the Acres Homes Community Center at approximately 2:30 pm on Wednesday and “witnessed behavior by a ‘poll watcher’ that was obviously illegal and very disconcerting.  She was walking between the voters down the aisle, obstructing the aisle, and looking into voting booths as people were casting their ballots.”

The “she” Moss refers to is Shirley Andries, a Republican poll watcher appointed by Republican state house candidate Jack O’Connor. [5]

The Harris County Democratic Party will be holding a poll watcher training at 6pm today at the HCDP headquarters.

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[1] Emmett for Judge campaign manager delivers message of support to King Street Patriots. See pg 2.

[2] Dwayne Bohac’s Illegal Enterprise for which he is currently under investigation by the Department of Justice Public Integrity Unit

[3] Voter Intimidation Victim and Witness Come Forward, And Nov. 2 Looms Closer

Houston Press / Chasen Marshall / October 27, 2010

Voter Intimidation in Houston? The View from Acres Homes

Texas Observer / Abby Rapoport / October 29, 2010

[4] Moss incident report naming King Street Patriot Shirley Andries attached.

[5] Spelling of Andries/Andrews differs because Moss did not ask for spelling during his encounter at poll site but he did confirm in conversations that the woman he identified in his report as “Shirley Andrews” is the same “Shirley Andries” who spoke at the King Street Patriot press conference.

Attachment (.pdf)

TDP: Moss Incident Report

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(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/Fleeting Shadow)

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