How a group is tackling voter intimidation in Arizona – Mother Jones
Mari Alvarado, a retired public school teacherwas an election worker in Maricopa County, Arizona for more than a decade, but she has never experienced anything like this in the past two years.
“Before, it was boring!” she says.
“All we had was ‘who brought the donuts.’ Now it’s like you better check your back, who’s coming and who’s leaving. That’s crazy! That’s not how we run elections. We’re just little old ladies, most of us.
During the primary in August, a woman walked into Alvarado’s polling station shouting “that the election was fraudulent and that people voted when they shouldn’t be voting,” she recalled. The woman continued to shout about Democrats and the Stolen Election “to the parking lot.”
“Disruptions, voter intimidation – and if they did this in the primary, what do you think will happen mid-term?”
In the days following the 2020 election, armed Trump supporters began gathering outside the vote tabulation center in Maricopa County. This year’s campaign is already filled with reports of voter intimidation. In October, a Arizona Republic photographer took a photo of a small group of people, standing or sitting on lawn chairs, filming a woman as she dropped her ballot into the drop box in Mesa:
— Michael Chow (@photochowder) October 25, 2022
Were it not for the larger context, the image might be mildly comical – militants camping out like modern Millerites, awaiting a promised revelation of a massive fraud that will never come. But dropbox watchers aren’t just sitting around passively. A few days earlier, the ABC affiliate in Phoenix hooked pictures of two people with face masks and tactical gear in a van outside the same drop box in Mesa. A few nights prior, a voter had been tracked and accused of being a “mule” as he attempted to cast a ballot in Mesa. There’s irony in the party that raises fears that a crime wave will also become the party to accost you in a dark parking lot, but the message behind this trend is pretty clear: Be careful.
For Democrats and Organizations that focus on training voters to vote for Democrats, these high-profile efforts to instill fear into a peaceful process have added another challenge, beyond combating gas price messaging and Rainbow Fentanyl: How to reassure voters that voting this year will be not just a comfortable experience, but maybe even…a kind of fun?
To get a taste of this counter-programming on a recent Saturday, I dropped by a park in Glendale, northwest of downtown Phoenix, for a “Burritos y Baletas” event hosted by Living United for Change in Arizona ( aka LUCHA), the central organizing Latino community that has played a major role in the political transformation of the state over the past decade. The objective of the event was twofold. Many of those present were going door to door. But because most Arizonans vote early and receive their ballots in the mail, attendees were also encouraged to bring their ballots with them to the event, where they could cast them together in a communal, festive atmosphere. , then take a bus to drop off their ballots at a polling station. Not just any bus, though – a party bus.
“We want to make sure that the community knows that they can vote together, that they can find a friend to go vote with, and feel safe and support them and participate – and that we rely on them to participate,” Alex Gomez, the group’s executive director, told me.
Stephanie Maldonado, the group’s organizing director, took the initiative to guide participants through the process. “We know how important it is to create spaces like this, where people look like us, where people speak our language, and where we put on the music that makes us feel happiest, and where we are represented,” she told them.
LUCHA covers all the bases. Maldonado made sure everyone had a black pen – the laws are very strict about this. “They’re trying to come up with an excuse to throw away our ballots,” she said. “If you’re going to go on canvas, take black pens!”
Everyone had a copy of what the group calls their “golden ticket” – a list of endorsements designed in such a way that it mirrors what’s on the ballot. One of the keys to their success this year is making sure voters flip their ballot to see the initiatives on the other side; one of the group’s top priorities is not a candidate but a referendum — Proposition 308, which would allow noncitizens who attended high school in Arizona to receive in-state tuition.
As people filled out their ballots, organizers checked that the writing on the green envelopes each ballot was placed in was legible. “Make sure it’s as clean as possible,” someone told a voter who was writing down their contact information, “because if anything happens, that’s the number to call.”
The volunteers who went to canvass received their own instructions, with the aim of facilitating the voting process and ensuring that the voters targeted by LUCHA did in fact turn up. If a voter has already received their ballot, a LUCHA canvasser can walk them through how to fill it out at the door, with the “golden ticket” as a guide, and then ensure the voter drops it off at the mailbox as soon as it’s done, all at once. If they haven’t received it, canvassers have QR codes that voters can scan to check the status of their ballot. Voters who want to vote the old-fashioned way can find their early voting location.
“They’re at the polls right now, 24/7, making sure they intimidate the people who are going to vote,” an organizer told volunteers in attendance, referring to right-wing observers. “They’re trying to stop us from voting, they’re trying to stop us from returning it, so it’s also our job to give those people we’re going to talk to the right to be at the fucking polling place.
Around 11:30 a.m., a shiny black bus pulled up to the parking lot. It was, indeed, a party bus – dark inside with blue nightclub lighting and bottled water instead of booze.
“Oh my god look at that!” shouted a female voter, taking a first look inside.
The young voters who chose to take the bus formed a single file column and triumphantly waved their green envelopes as they ran, one by one, through two rows of LUCHA volunteers – who clutched “Yes on 308” and cheered as they ran past. Then they did it twice more, just to make sure the band got a good social media foothold.
Flex that ballot. You better work 💅🏽 pic.twitter.com/LPCVxD0EWZ
— LUCHA Arizona (@LUCHA_AZ) October 22, 2022
I could just start to hear the thud of a bass as I walked away.