Motorcade with Confederate and Trump flags drove past polls in battleground state of Florida
Washington – A motorcade of at least a dozen pick-up trucks and other vehicles – all outfitted with large Confederate and American flags, and some including “Trump for President” flags – were taped driving past early-voting polls in Florida last week in an apparent attempt to intimidate voters.
The incident was caught on camera by John Zaccaro Jr., who was volunteering as a poll observer in Florida, according to his sister Donna Zacarro Ullman, who posted the video and several photos on Facebook on Monday. Ullman wrote that brother was witnessing “blatant voter intimidation and suppression efforts.” In the clip, the motorcade drivers can be heard honking and shouting at voters entering the polls.
The siblings are the children of the late Geraldine Ferraro, the nation’s first female vice-presidential candidate, who ran unsuccessfully with Walter Mondale in 1984.
Florida is a battleground state and is considered a must-win state for Republican Donald Trump, a Republican, if he is to beat Hillary Clinton, a Democrat. Early voting in Florida hit a new record, with 6.4 million people going to the polls ahead of Election Day – half of the state’s nearly 13 million registered voters and more than any other state that had early voting.
Throughout the campaign season, voter suppression has been a concern but those concerns seem to have intensified recently. Even President Barack Obama brought up the subject while campaigning for Clinton. At a rally in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Wednesday, the president mentioned a 100-year-old woman, Grace Bell Hardison of Belhaven, N.C., whose name had been removed from the voter rolls. After she contested the removal, her county elections board restored her status as a registered voter.
“But this 100-year-old woman wasn’t alone in being targeted,” Obama said. “The list of voters Republicans tried to purge [in North Carolina] was two-thirds black and Democratic. That didn’t happen by accident. It’s happening in counties across the state.”
Also on Wednesday, NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks said on CNN: “There is an active campaign to discourage African-American voters from voting.”
Voter suppression should be a concern for all voters, he said.
“We all as Americans have a stake in turning out the vote to ensure that our values are on the ballot.”
Addressing a packed audience at the chapel at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md. on Oct. 24, Brooks recounted instances of suspected voter suppression in several states, including Texas and Alabama.
He said some politicians have admitted they don’t want young people to vote.
He said fear of voter fraud is widely used as a justification for new voting requirements in some states, such as showing a government ID. But voter fraud is extremely rare, he pointed out.
He referenced a study by a Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt that found only 31 cases of impersonation fraud out of 1 billion votes cast in U.S. elections from 2000 to 2014.
“You are more likely to meet the Easter Bunny standing next to Santa Claus at the ballot box than to encounter voter fraud,” Brooks said.
Although Trump has repeatedly claimed that the election is rigged and has claimed that people are voting using dead people’s names, a 2014 Washington Post article noted that “there is overwhelming scholarly and legal consensus that voter fraud is vanishingly rare, and in fact non-existent at the levels imagined by voter ID proponents.”
Despite an increase in making it tougher to vote in some states, Brooks – “a fourth-generation preacher” – is optimistic that righteousness will prevail.
“The ballot box is a holy place that cannot be desecrated by voter suppression.”
Here are some examples of suspected voter suppression in different states:
- Maine: Fliers circulating at Bates College dorms over the weekend falsely told students that “to register and vote in Lewiston, you must pay to change your driver’s license to Lewiston, Maine, within 30 days” and “pay to re-register any vehicle you have in Lewiston.” They also pointed out that registering a vehicle requires passing an inspection and usually costs hundreds of dollars. The orange fliers, which were found in dorms as well as the dining hall, claimed to be a “Legal Advisory” for students. Bates students and administrators as well as Democratic party leaders in Maine denounced the fliers, whose origin is unknown, as clear voter suppression.
- Ohio: A federal judge ruled last month that an estimated tens of thousands of voters who had been wrongfully removed from Ohio’s registration lists can cast ballots in Tuesday’s election. An earlier ruling found Ohioans who had not voted in recent elections had been removed from voter rolls.
- Georgia: Secretary of State Brian Kemp is being sued over a policy allowing for people to be removed from state voter rolls for failing to vote in recent elections. Lawyers in the case said roughly 372,000 voters were purged between 2012 and 2014.
- North Carolina: Last week the state chapter of the NAACP filed a lawsuit alleging that thousands of people – many of them black – had been removed improperly from voter rolls after being challenged by private citizens. A judge ordered the registrations restored for 4,000 people, citing a federal law that prohibits such removals too close to an election.
- Texas: A federal appeals court last summer ordered officials to relax the state’s 2011 voter ID law for the election, ruling that the statute discriminated against minorities and the poor. Experts had said the law was among the toughest in the nation, requiring voters to show one of seven forms of photo identification. A concealed handgun license is acceptable but a college student ID is not. More than 600,000 registered voters in Texas are estimated to be lacking an acceptable ID under the law.
- Alabama: A lawsuit challenging the state’s new voter ID law is pending, with a trial set for next year. The plaintiffs have argued the law disenfranchises voters who cannot obtain a state-issued ID.
- Wisconsin: The voter ID law that the courts had initially blocked went into effect for the presidential primary in April. As many as 300,000 voters in the state may not have the required photo ID.