An investigation into voter fraud by the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office has caught the attention of the California State Attorney General’s Office for possible voter intimidation. According to the ABC affiliate KDRV, about a week before the primary, deputies went door-to-door with loaded rifles to the homes of Asian Americans of Hmong descent threatening them with arrest for voter fraud. The county sheriff claimed that 200 voter applications looked questionable, so deputies and state investigators went to the listed addresses on the applications. Specifically, due to poverty, many Hmong families live in the same dwelling as other families to be able to make ends meet. That makes it look like there may be a conflict in voter registration addresses.
Hmong communities have historically been the most marginalized and impoverished Asian American community in the nation. The Hmong were key allies with the CIA against the North Vietnamese and Vietcong during the Vietnam war. After the fall of Saigon, many of them were evacuated to the states, mainly central California.
Because of the door-to-door threat of arrest, many stayed home and did not vote. Immigrants who were intimidated fear deportation back to a country that wants them dead.
What is Voter Intimidation?
In what could only be described as the most divisive election in American history, voter intimidation of low-income and minority voters has been on the rise. Voter intimidation can generally be described as trying to coerce or scare someone to abstain from voting, or to vote a certain way. For example, in Virginia, it has been reported that armed militia men standing outside voting booths harassing Democratic voters may be voter intimidation. Other more institutional forms of voter intimidation include police threats of arresting people who have unpaid parking tickets, or misleading robocalls in African-American communities telling them they did not need to vote.
Yes, Voter Intimidation is a Felony
Voter intimidation in any state is a felony. Numerous federal laws prohibit voter intimidation by government officials and by private actors and in most states, those laws are reinforced by state laws prohibiting voter intimidation. Federal law prohibits government actors from discriminating against voters based on race, ethnicity, or religion. However, there is no bright line to distinguish between legitimate poll watching activities and outright voter intimidation at the polls.
Other Relevant Laws for the Election
While every person should be able to exercise his or her civic duty to vote, Californians cannot take a ballot selfie on November 8. While Governor Jerry Brown signed a new law last month making it legal, it will not be legal in time for this election. Continue reading