A reader wrote us asking about voter protection efforts in the First. We contacted the Walz campaign with the question.
In an emailed response, a Walz staffer supplied a toll-free number for those who are challenged at the polls to call:
Voter Assistance Hotline: 1-888-336-8683 or 1-888-DEM-VOTE
She also noted that "We will also have poll watchers at all locations with lots of young people
and Hispanic voters. . .We have attorneys on call in every county."
MNBlue provides additional contact information from a nonpartisan coalition:
I've found out more information about voting protection efforts in Minnesota. The non-partisan Minnesota Voting Rights Coalition is coordinating our state's part of this national effort. They are part of the National Campaign for Fair Elections (which may rank up there as one of the longest website names of all time). So if you see or hear something that doesn't look quite right, just call:
This is the national number that routes call (by area code) to the particular state's call center. In Minnesota's case, that call center will be staffed by a team of lawyers stationed at Take Action Minnesota's offices.
MNBlue notes that Take Action Minnesota is especially focused on MN-02 and MN-06, though it will have lawyers stationed in Rochester:
"Our particular concern is suppression of minority and recent immigrant votes."
For example, they will have a team of lawyers up in Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park on election day as these are two cities have higher concentrations of minority and immigrant populations. "We just want to make sure that anyone, regardless of their party affiliation gets their chance to vote. We also have lawyers available in Duluth, Rochester and the Red Lake Indian Reservation
Over at Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo, we've been reading about dirty tricks in the form of irritating robocalls being made by the National Republican Congressional Committee to voters in hotly contested congressional races.
To the average recipient, the calls appear to be coming from the Democratic candidate's campaign; each voter contacted gets the call over and over again.
The story has been reported by the AP in Politics calling: How do you like those nasty telephone calls from the campaigns?:
by Philip Elliott, Associated Press Writer
published November 1, 2006 6:14 am
WASHINGTON – Press one if you think they're dirty tricks. Press two if you think prerecorded telephone messages are devastatingly effective, especially during the final days of a close campaign.
In at least 53 competitive House races, the National Republican Campaign Committee has launched hundreds of thousands of automated telephone calls, known as "robo calls."
Such calls have sparked a handful of complaints to the FCC and underscore the usefulness of the inexpensive — and sometimes overwhelming — political tool.
"As much as people complain about getting automated calls and saying they don't work, every politician is doing them," said Jerry Dorchuck, whose Pennsylvania-based Political Marketing International will make about 200,000 such phone calls each hour for mostly Democratic candidates. "Targeted calls play a key in very close races."
They can single out single women, absentee voters, independents and party faithful with tailored messages, but they also can frustrate voters. Sometimes, the latter is their goal.
Bruce Jacobson, a software engineer from Ardmore, Pa., received three prerecorded messages in four hours. Each began, "Hello, I'm calling with information about Lois Murphy," the Democrat running against two-term incumbent Rep. Jim Gerlach in the Philadelphia-area district.
"Basically, they go on to slam Lois," said Jacobson, who has filed a complaint with the FCC because the source of the call isn't immediately known.
FCC rules say all prerecorded messages must "at the beginning of the message, state clearly the identity of the business, individual, or other entity that is responsible for initiating the call." During or after the message, they must give the telephone number of the caller.
"The way they're sent is deceptive. The number of calls is harassing. The way her stances are presented in these stories is deliberately misleading and deceptive," said Karlyn Messinger, another Murphy supporter from Penn Valley, Pa., who filed a complaint with the FCC.
NRCC spokesman Ed Patru denied any illegal intent.
"All of our political calls are in compliance with the law," Patru said.
Not so, said the Democrats.
"They are violating the regulations that were set up," said Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, who said the DCCC employed one robocall this cycle and paid $500 for it.
"I think the real point here is that the Republicans are using a desperate campaign tactic that is misleading, at worst violating the law and at best is a page out of Karl Rove's playbook," Psaki said. "They clearly are attempting to mislead voters."
Democrats argued that that's the strategy.
"Because they are getting so many, they are only listening to the first part of the message," said Amy Bonitatibus, a Murphy spokeswoman. "They're hoping to turn off our base. ... These are pretty much dirty tricks by the Republican Party."
The NRCC, the GOP campaign arm for House candidates, has spent $2.1 million on such automated calls nationwide. In Illinois, at least three versions of a phone message target Tammy Duckworth, the Democrat in a tight Chicago-area race, and her positions on taxes, Social Security and immigrants.
"Illinois families will be footing the bill for illegal immigrants who get government benefits," the voice says in one.
In Connecticut's hotly contested 4th Congressional District, incumbent Republican Rep. Christopher Shays and Democrat Diane Farrell both said they are victims of misleading and annoying robocall campaigns. Shays, a 10-term congressman, said he has survived more than 20 robocall campaigns, including one that tried to link his stance on stem-cell research to that of religious extremists.
"These calls are at best misleading, and often blatantly wrong," Shays wrote in a letter to several newspaper publishers this summer.
Farrell spokeswoman Jan Ellen Spiegel said Tuesday the campaign has been a victim of "constant pummeling," including robocalls that begin with a recorded voice saying, "I'd like to talk with you about Diane Farrell." It's the same tactic employed in Murphy's district and elsewhere.
In North Carolina's 11th Congressional District, Republicans are going after challenger Heath Shuler, whose campaign said the calls are coming as late as 2:30 a.m.
"Calling people up, making people think it's me when it's actually them — it's acts of desperation. ... I think it's part of the corruption in Washington," Shuler said. . . .
What we're seeing is an apparent coordinated effort from the NRCC -- the House GOP committee -- to place calls that appear to be from the local Democratic candidate and then automatically call the same number back as many as seven or eight times each time the caller hang-ups. If the caller listens to the whole message it goes on to bash the Democratic candidate. But if the caller hangs up prematurely, the computer calls right back. Hang-ups are the achilles heal of robo-calls. So this seems to be an attempt to cover for that weakness by making those who hang up think the Democratic candidate is basically harassing them with phone calls. The GOP wins either way.
What is there to do about it. As described, the calls appear to be in violation of federal regulations which mandate that these calls clearly identify their origin. The repetitive call back may also be a violation in different states. The New Hampshire AG apparently just intervened to force the NRCC to stop the calls in that state. But frankly, none of that matters. Because the folks placing the calls factor in the price of whatever fines might be meted out after the election when the damage is already done.
Truthfully, I don't think there's really much to do but publicize it and then get out and vote.
A lot of these races remain inside the MOE, the margin of error. And that means the MOT, the margin of theft. If Dems want to pick up seats on Tuesday they'll have to get a lot of these races out of the MOT. Because as long as they're inside, the Republicans can still grab them with a mix of voter suppression, dirty tricks and election fraud.
We wondered whether the Walz campaign had heard of this sort of tactic being used in the First.
A call to a Walz staffer revealed that the campaign had yet to hear complaints about this sort of robocalling in the First, but was on the alert because it was happening in so many other hot races across the country.
The staffer suggested that First district residents who believe that they are receiving calls of this nature should contact local daily newspapers, television stations and the Minnesota Attorney General's office so that voters can get the news that the tactic is a dirty trick--and illegal.