Evidence Suggests PA GOP Poll Watchers Systematically Targeting African American Precincts

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Tyler Prell, SEIU: 202-701-5796

Evidence Suggests PA GOP Poll Watchers Systematically Targeting African American Precincts

WASHINGTON - After receiving information indicating that the Pennsylvania Republican Party and the Pittsburgh Tea Party may be systematically sending poll watchers to predominantly African American precincts in Pittsburgh, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Common Cause, The Advancement Project, The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the ACLU, together with a number of local community groups, sent a letter to Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez, who is responsible for enforcing the Voting Rights Act, asking that the Justice Department "make every effort to ensure that voters at these targeted locations are able to cast their ballots freely and fairly" and also to ask the Pennsylvania Republican Party about the source of its lists and the basis of its targeting.

"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," said Nicole Berner, SEIU Associate General Counsel. "The Pennsylvania Republican Party has serious questions to answer about where they are putting their poll watchers and why."

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 non-targeted 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

###

With 2 million members in Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in the Americas. Focused on uniting workers in healthcare, public services and property services, SEIU members are winning better wages, healthcare and more secure jobs for our communities, while uniting their strength with their counterparts around the world to help ensure that workers—not just corporations and CEOs—benefit from today's global economy.

Share This Article

More in: