This story should, if you care at all about the rule of law, make your blood boil:
I, Galloglas, went to vote today and encountered difficuly. And, it is important to point out that this was not the first time I’ve run onto problems this year.
When I voted in Missouri’s Presidential primary in February, 2008, I took the proper identification to my precinct and attempted to cast my ballot. The identification requirements are spelled out graphically on our Secretary of State’s Web Site which can be found at http://www.sos.mo.gov/… /.
And, as I am of the belief that the “Voter Fraud” question is exclusively a creature of the GOP’s making (a grudging tip of my hat to the GOP’s odious “Thor” Hearne for fathering, with Karl Rove, this abominable scheme), and that the entire “Voter Fraud” issue is nothing more than a smokescreen to encourage the various state’s to pass Photo Voter ID Laws, I always choose to use whatever acceptable identification is furthest from that which the GOP would mandate if Missouri did have Photo Voter ID laws.
That said, I point out that Missouri’s Legislature did pass SB 1014 in 2006, mandating Photo Voter ID. But SB 1014 was ruled unconstitutional in October, 2006. Similarly, in May 2008, the legislature made another attempt to enact the legislation, but it died in committee. Consequently, Missouri has no Photo Voter ID law and the SoS voter ID requirements (above) are the prevailing law of our state.
In February, 2008, when I went to my precinct to cast my Presidential primary ballot, I walked in and was asked for my driver’s license. I said, “Sorry. Here is my election authority ID instead. I wish to use that as my ID.”
The judge said, “Look. Show me your Driver’s license, or you don’t vote!”. To which I replied, “Look. If you want my driver’s license to let me vote, we got a problem?” And the election judge replied, “Oh, no! I gotta see you picture ID or I won’t know who you are.”
To shorten this February episode, let it be known that A) since I had not seen this particular election judge before, and B) he seemed challenged either by lack of intellect or lack of proper training, I simply told him “call the Election Board office and ask them. You simply can’t require that.” This gentleman refused to do so, telling me that “if you do not like it, you can just leave!”
I replied, “OK, partner, I’ll show my driver’s license to you… but only under protest… and I will file a complaint with the Election Board. “You go right ahead!” he replied.
And I did. But, as one might expect, no report was ever prepared by the Election Board and when I inquired about its status in May, 2008, the bipartisan heads of the offices claimed no knowledge of it. When shown the status trail, proving the existence of the complaint, I was finally told “Well, it must have gotten lost.We have had some problems with temps and their paper work this year.”
So, with the August primaries coming up, I wanted to insure no repeat of February’s problems, and I made a call to my local election board (Eastern Jackson County, Missouri, Election Board), speaking to the GOP appointee, one Charlene Davis.
I recounted the events of February to her on the phone and asked, “Do you agree that the ID requirements for casting a vote in Missouri, as recounted on the SoS’s web site, are the official and proper IDs? That these are the acceptable forms of ID? And that they must be accepted by the precinct personnel?”
She then replied that sometimes a person might not be asked for an ID if the judges readily recognized the voter. Pressed on the matter, she replied, “Yes. If they ask for ID, the SoS’s page governs what is acceptable.” I pressed further, “So, Charlene, if I come in with my precinct issued ID, or a utility bill, or my bank statement, there will no more requests for a Photo ID?”
Charlene Davis answered with the usual CYA statement about training poll workers, poll workers working long hours, mixups in communications,etc. So I asked this, “Well, since we’ve agreed as to what it should be, then I can just call you if there are any mixups and you wil set them straight?” “Yes, just call me.” she replied.
So this morning I walked into my precinct at about 9:45AM, along with my son. Both of us were carrying Precinct issued voter cards, bank statements and utility statements, all of which are acceptable forms of ID in Missouri. The precinct is in the basement of a church and there are two precincts there: 08A and 08C. As I walked in, there were a total of six persons. Three for each precinct.
The first person who spied us was a lady, who asked “Do you want to vote?” “Yep”, I replied. “I’ll need to see your ID”, she said, and I handed her the precinct-issued ID cards. She picked it up, glanced at it and said, “I’ll need to see your something with your signature on it.”
“Uh… I don’t think so. What I gave you is valid ID.”
“No,”, she replied, “I need to see something with your signature on it, otherwise I won’t know who you are.” And that gave me a bad feeling.
So I said, “Uh, Ma’am, that Precinct ID card tells you who I am. It came to my mailbox last week, so that the Election Authority knows I still live there. If you want to see my signature, you can look at it as soon as I seen the Poll Book.”
The judge was a bit flustered, all the other judges started looking at my son and I, and then she said., “Oh. This is the wrong line anyway. Step to that table for precinct 08A.” And my son and I picked up our papers and moved to the other line where there were three male judges.
The first judge was named Leroy (he would tell em his last name) and he asked for our IDs and was handed the precinct-issued cards. He left them sitting on the table and said, “You need to show me IDs with your signatures on it!”, in rough, angry tone.
I replied, “No sir, I do not.” and handed him a computer copy of the SoS’s web page, printed from this location. http://www.sos.mo.gov/… / The judge did not even look at it, instead standing straight up from his chair, raising his voice loudly, and said, “If you don’t want to vote, there is the door, and you can leave now!”
My reply was, “Sir, we do want to vote. My son and I have both brought the proper ID, and the Sos”s sheet verifies that. Now, if you are refusing to let us vote, please tell us why.” And the reply was, “I need to see your signature!”
(Now bear in mind, the next step in the voting is to actually sign the Poll Book, at which time judges can look at my signature all they want. But what was being demanded was some ID which was already signed. Then it dawned on me that many people would only have signatures on some government-issued IDs, such as Driver’s Licenses.
Compliance with such demands would result in voters having to show Photo Voter IDs without even the need of the GOP-controlled Missouri Legislature having to pass another Photo Voter ID Act. In effect, causing Missouri voters to comply with conditions which had been declared unconstitutional in 2006!)
With the sudden realization of what was probably happening,I had to make a decision. Glancing around the room, I realized that I had seen all of these election judges at past elections. What was the likelihood of them all being untrained, or them all having forgotten what the rules were in the prior election. I calculated the odds were long.
I turned back to Leroy and replied, “Leroy, my son and I want to vote. We brought what was required of us. I am holding the SoS’s web page n my left hand. If you will not look at it, or read it, please call Charlene Davis at the Eastern Jackson County Election Board, or call the SoS’s office to find out what you are supposed to do. Because we want to vote.”
We were then told, “You can either give me what I told you to, or you can just get out that door and find someplace else to vote!” (as he stood towering above my son and I). I looked him in the eye and said, “Leroy, Nope! We will not leave until you give us our rights. We’ve a right to vote!”
Leroy leaned over the table and shouted, “Not unless you follow our rules here!” To which I replied, “Your rules do not trump the laws of this state! Please read them!This ID card (the precinct-issued card) is all I need. And slapped the card down on the table in front of him. “this is all that is required.”
In the next moment an election judge moved toward me from my left and called to me, causing me to turn ninety degrees to my left to face him. I am fairly certain that it was the same judge who had insisted on my photo ID in February. Regardless, as I turned, the man continued walking up to me until he gave me a “Chest Bump” (like players or managers do to umpires in baseball games), and said “You either do what you’re told to vote, or you get out of here NOW!”
I was beginning to feel like Alice, when she fell through the Looking Glass, but managed to ask, “And you going to evict me? Call the police?”
ASt that point, Leroy pick up the converstaion and said, “You leave right now!”. I replied, “If you won’t call your Election Board, I will.” and pulled my cell phone from my pocket. I turned to my son and asked himn to take his cell phone and call “Election Protection” at the Missouri SoS’s Office.
As we both dialed, Leroy shouted for us to leave the building immediately, and I replied, “Sorry. Can’t do that. What you are asking is neither legal or fair. Let’s settle this thing.” And as my son and I were talking to our respective parties, Leroy also made a call… to the Eastern Jackson County Election Board.
As my son spoke to the SoS’s office, I was asking for the GOP BoE head, Charlene Davis. Oddly enough, she was not available.
But Leroy did manage to get through to the Election Board, as Independence, Missouri, Police Officers entered the precinct doors. One of the last things that Leroy was heard to say to the Election Board was “Then we don’t get the signatures??”
But the police will clear things up, right? Not so much:
My son and I were grabbed by the arms and escorted outside. The two policemen who escorted us were soon joined by four others with two other squad cars. Surrounded, we were peppered by questions. Basically they were of the type, “Why are you bothering these people?”
The answer, as clear as we could make it was, “We aren’t bothering them! We are simply trying to vote, and these people are breaking Missouri State Statutes, preventing us from voting.”
The police responded, “Look, you are breaking their rules. If you don’t get out of here, we are going to arrest you!”
The question I had in response was, “Their rules? What rules? Those are employees of the Election Board, they are under the mandate of the Election Board, and then the SoS. Aren’t you more concerned about the breaking of state laws?” As it turns out, apparently they were not.
My son and I were given several chances to leave by the police. To go back home and just forget about voting. I will give the officers that much. They really did not want to arrest us. On the other hand, between the officers and the six election judges, none were willing to even ask what should be done. Even as my son had succeeded in getting hold of someone at the Election Board, who had authority (Brad lastnameunknown), the police officers refused to speak to the Election Board when “Brad” made that request.
My son was told to turn off his phone and get out of the parking lot, or he would be taken to jail along with me. I told him to get in the car, drive home, and be prepared for my phone calls.
One officer then turned to me and said, “This is your last chance. Leave and never come back here.” I said, “You’re kidding, surely. Never? And where do I vote in November?”
“Are you going?” he asked again. I asked, “You mean leave without even having an answer as to why I am not allowed to cast my ballot?”
His answer was nonverbal; but he leaned in close, and I knew he was waiting for an answer. “Uhhh… with all due respect, officer… I feel that if I did so, I would be betraying my own conscience, and setting a bad precedent for all those citizens who share my right to vote.”
About two nano-seconds after finishing my sentence, an officer behind me grabbed my wrists, handcuffed me, pulled me by the arm and pushed me into the back seat of a caged police car.
After a ten minute ride to the Independence Police Station, I was put on the bench outside the lockup (after I indicated I would post a cash bond) and was released some two hours later. The maximum bond on a city civil offense is $500, mine turned out to be $300 (though it should be noted that one policeman recommended that, since there were six election judges, they should make six Disorderly Conduct charges, heave each election judge sign one complaint, and that would raise bond to a maximum of $3000).
Perhaps, fortunately for me, one of the officers finally realized that I was doing what I was doing, not to be a pain-in-the-ass or to garner publicity, but because I thought it was the right thing to do.
Oddly, when I was finally released, there were about a half dozen officers who walked out of the detectives room (where the report was being written) as I left the building. At first, it was a bit unnerving being watched as I left the station. Then I realized that the looks betrayed more of puzzlement, or incredulity, than of a “I’ll get you next time. Watch your step, buddy!”
My son was waiting for me when I was released. He told me that Charlene Davis and her Democratic counterpart at the Eastern Jack Election Board had returned his call and suggested that both he and I come up to the Election Board after my release, and we did so.
Our initial reception by Charlene Davis was one of general hostility. Slowly, as a few questions and answers were exchanged, Charlene and her counterpart realized that there was not some insane, ranting tirade emanating either from my son or myself and some civility ensued. Yet at the same time, when Mrs. Davis was shown what we had presented as Voter ID, she acknowledged that, indeed, what we were presented was valid and should have been accepted. She even pulled out a single laminated sheet of ID requirements (quite like that of the SoS) and asked, “Didn’t they have this on the tables out there?” And the answer was, “No, Ma’am. They did not!’
The final attempt by the Board to mollify my son and I was to offer us the chance to actually vote (it was about 3:30PM then). I asked, “At our precinct?”
“No,” I was told, “I’ll give you a ballot right here to cast.”
“Why can’t we vote at our precinct?” I asked. “You have acknowledged that we were correct, and should have been allowed to vote. Why can’t we.”
“Well,” she said, “if you go back out there, you may be arrested again.”
“Well those judges filed a complaint the first time. I’m can’t guarantee it won’t happen again.”
Thinking for a second, I suggested, “Why don’t you go out with us? Or send someone.”
Well, that was as far as she would go. The offer to cast a ballot at the Board Office. And I told her I would not be willing to vote a provisional ballot but she replied that it would not be provisional. I suggested she give me a moment to consult, by phone, with the SoS’s Office. I was told that I would have to leave the building to do so.
I did so, checked on the status of the complaint I had already filed with the SoS by phone, then decided (since I doubt any race would be decided by my vote)that I did not want to chance setting any precedent by voting at the Board after having misdeneanor charges filed against me by the Election Judges.
And, so finally, we reach the point of outlining what my “Electoral Transgressions” of today actually amount to. And, though the full police report will not be available until probably Friday, I do have the municipal ticket which was written out for me.
The ticket states that I, on 11PM of this date “did knowingly cause a disturbance/disorderly conduct to wit: acts in a violent or tumultuous manner toward another, placing such person(s)in fear of safety by (and this is the part I find fascinating) refusing to show proper I. D. when voting”.
So, if any DUers out there have ever served as an election judge or challenger at any precinct, and have found themselves frightened by a voter who attempted to use an official Election Board printed and mailed ID card, instead of coughing up a signature bearing form of ID (and in my case, it would have been, could only have been, my drivers license), I would like to hear from you.
….In the meantime, it should be worthwhile to wonder just exactly how six experienced election judges would each suddenly come to believe thjat they could, or must, insist upon a signature ID, which would almost surely be affixed to a picture ID (and gee, if that is the case, why would a state need a Photo Voter ID law??
And is this Independence, Missouri mixup a portent of what we will see being done to Democratic voters this November?????
I won’t hold up in court, but this is disgusting. And as the author notes, this is a direct result of Republican ‘concerns’ about ‘voter fraud.’
Apparently, freedom isn’t free: it costs $300.