Voter deception efforts came into full bloom today, after some weeks of scattered evidence appearing around the country.
Election Protection says minority voters seem to be a prime target, which hardly news in this seamy corner of American politics. New voters are apparently targeted as well.
The most common trick is one we've already heard about: a message that Republicans should vote today, and Democrats (or Obama supporters) should vote tomorrow. That disinformation turned up in handbills in minority neighborhoods in several states. In the Tidewater area of Virginia, authorities found one fake notice bearing the Board of Election seal, but concluded it was an "office prank" and didn't investigate further.
This being the Internet age, a don't-vote-today email went out early this morning to 30,000 students at George Mason University in Northern Virginia: "Please note that election day has been moved to November 5th. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you." A hacker sent the email from the account of University Provost Peter Stearns, who then scrambled to send out not one but two corrections.
Directives for Democrats to vote tomorrow also cropped up on FaceBook and in text messages. Rock The Vote, a group that's part of the Election Protection alliance, says it found messages circulating at Florida State University, Middle Georgia College and Missouri State, among others.
EP also says students at Drexel University in Philadelphia got notices that they could be arrested if they had outstanding parking tickets when they tried to vote.
In Virginia, the registrar in Blacksburg, where Virginia Tech is located, announced that students could lose financial aid eligibility if they registered to vote in Virginia. That's not what the law says. Since then, the main polling place for Virginia Tech students has been abruptly moved 6-1/2 miles away from the campus.
And in another tech twist, Barbara Arnwine of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (also in Election Protection) said robo-calls are telling voters that they can vote by touch-tone phone, either because they're established voters or because it's a way to avoid the long lines at polling places.
Election Protection lawyers said they've seen deceptive fliers and robo-calls in roughly a dozen states — a big upswing from 2004.
Jonah Goldman of the Lawyers Committee said the deceptive practices seem mainly to be aimed at likely Obama voters. "That's a big part of what we're seeing," he said.