Republican poll watchers allegedly targeting black precincts in Pittsburgh


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Posted by Daniel Denvir @ 11:44 AM

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2012

Civil rights and other progressive groups have sent a letter to Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perezalleging that the Pennsylvania Republican Party and Pittsburgh Tea Party are targeting Pittsburgh precincts with large numbers of black voters “under the guise of combating alleged voter fraud.”

“We have seen their list and it strongly suggests that the Pennsylvania Republican Party is coordinating with the Pittsburgh Tea Party to target African American voters for intimidation at the polls,” according to a statement fromService Employees International Union (SEIU) Associate General Counsel Nicole Berner. “The Pennsylvania Republican Party has serious questions to answer about where they are putting their poll watchers and why.”

According to the letter, the rights organizations obtained a partial list of targeted precincts distributed at a Pittsburgh Tea Party poll watcher training coordinated with the Republican Party. The precincts have a black voter registration of over 79 percent.
 
Full text of the letter is below:
 
November 5, 2012
 
The Honorable Thomas E. Perez
Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530
 
Dear Assistant Attorney General Perez:
 
The undersigned civil rights and community organizations write to raise concerns about the
likely targeting of African-American voters by the Republican Party and groups and individuals
acting in concert with it in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Allegheny County is one of 51
jurisdictions that will be monitored by the Civil Rights Division of Department of Justice on
Election Day 2012 as part of the Department’s efforts to enforce the Voting Rights Act, to
prevent discrimination, and to the protect the rights of voters of color.
 
We have received information that strongly suggests the Republican Party, under the guise of
combating alleged voter fraud, has assigned Election Day poll watchers disproportionately to
majority African-American precincts in Allegheny County. We are in receipt of a partial list of
targeted precincts that was distributed at a poll watcher training conducted by the Pittsburgh
Tea Party Movement. The Pittsburgh Tea Party Movement conducted this training, on behalf of the
Republican Party, as part of its program to combat alleged voter fraud in Allegheny County.
We understand the Republican Party has targeted approximately 111, out of a total 1,319
precincts, in that county. The partial list, which is attached hereto as Exhibit A, includes 59 of
the total 111 precincts targeted by the Republican Party. We are unaware of any history of
voter fraud at any of these 59 locations. We are concerned that these locations are being
targeted for impermissible, racially-motivated reasons.
 
A comparison of the 59 Republican Party targeted precincts to the other precincts in Allegheny
County reveals that the targeted precincts disproportionately contain African-American voters.
Specifically, the targeted precincts are over 79% African-American. By contrast, the nontargeted
precincts contain, on average, less than 11% African-American registered voters.

Moreover, although the targeted precincts include only 3% of the total number of voters in
Allegheny County, they contain 18.5% of the registered African American voters. The vast
majority of these precincts are among those with the mostly highly concentrated African-
American populations in the County. A statistical analysis of the 59 Republican Party targeted
precincts is attached hereto as Exhibit B.
 
On the basis of the above, the undersigned organizations are extremely concerned that the
racial composition of the targeted precincts districts suggests that race may have been a factor
in the decision of the Republican Party to target these 59 precincts in its voter fraud prevention
program with the purpose or potential significant effect of deterring qualified African-American
voters in Allegheny County from casting their ballots and thereby suppressing the minority vote.
 
We call upon the Justice Department monitors to make every effort to ensure that voters at
these targeted locations are able to cast their ballots freely and fairly on Election Day and to
inquire of the Republican Party and the Pittsburgh Tea Party Movement as to the source of its
list and the basis of the targeting.
 
Respectfully submitted,
 
Advancement Project
1220 L Street, NW, Suite 850
Washington, DC 20005
Common Cause
1133 19th St NW
Washington DC 20036
 
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
1401 New York Avenue, NW, Suite 400
Washington, D.C. 20005
 
Service Employees International Union
1800 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20036
 
American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania
313 Atwood Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
 
One Pittsburgh
841 California Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
 
Pittsburgh A. Philip Randolph Institute
60 Blvd of the Allies, Room 208
Pittsburgh, Pa 15222
 
Pittsburgh United
841 California Ave
Pittsburgh PA 15212
 
CC:
David Hickton
U.S. Attorney
Western District of Pennsylvania
700 Grant Street, Suite 4000
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
 
Chris Herren
Chief, Voting Section
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530
 
Meredith Bell-Platts
Deputy Chief, Voting Section
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530
 
Spencer Ross Fisher
United States Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division, Voting Section
950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20530
 
David Knight
United States Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights
950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20530

 

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