True the Vote, a Tea Party group focused on voter fraud, has announced a new program aimed at the Latino community. Voto Honesto (Honest Vote) seeks to educate Hispanics about voting and voter fraud. Like True the Vote, Voto Honesto plans to challenge invalid voter registrations and monitor polling places for illegal voting.
Unfortunately, virtually everything about True the Vote/Voto Honesto is suspect. They are tackling a nonexistent problem. Their activities amount to voter intimidation, and might be illegal. Not only is Voto Honesto perpetuating negative Latino stereotypes, the program is nothing more than an attempt to dampen Hispanic turnout.
Voto Honesto leader Adryana Boyne told The Huffington Post that “Certainly the Latino community has to be informed that there is voter fraud, too.” Except that there isn’t. In 2007, a five-year study by The Department of Justice found “scant evidence of voter fraud.” A report by New York University’s Brennan Center noted, “By any measure, voter fraud is extraordinarily rare.” Similar studies have reached the same conclusion. So the underlying purpose of Voto Honesto is to fix a problem that doesn’t exist.
Boyne says that Voto Honesto will focus on voter education and encourage Latinos to vote. However, while their website lists initiatives like pursuing reports of fraud and mobilizing poll monitors, there is no mention of voter education or get-out-the-vote efforts. True, the Vote/Voto Honesto’s website claims that they are nonpartisan. But both the founder of True the Vote and Boyne have long-standing ties to the Republican Party.
Boyne says that the buying and selling of votes is “happening more and more in the minority community.” She offers no supporting evidence for these allegations because they have no basis in reality. A spokeswoman for the National Council of La Raza told The Huffington Post that she had never heard of vote buying or selling among Hispanics. She called Boyne’s remarks “unfounded” and “odd.”
If Voto Honesto operates like True the Vote, their efforts will be a disservice to Hispanics. Consider that True the Vote has a history of stoking racial and ethnic fears. Their leaders often claim that non-citizens are voting, which is absurd; if anything, undocumented immigrants go out of their way to avoid any government contact at all costs.
True the Vote takes advantage of the fact that 46 states allow private citizens to challenge the eligibility of prospective voters. Their poll-watchers typically descend on minority communities, and then make voter challenges. The results can range from confusion and disruption at the polls to long lines that cause potential voters to give up and go home. Meanwhile, state and local officials across the country have repeatedly found True the Vote’s challenges baseless. Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted has condemned True the Vote’s campaigns, saying, “When you cry wolf, and there’s no wolf, you undermine your credibility and you have unjustly inconvenienced a legally registered voter, and that can border on voter intimidation.”
He’s right. Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) has already launched an investigation into True the Vote. In a letter to the group requesting more information about their practices, he cited their “horrendous record of filing inaccurate voter registration challenges.” These challenges may amount to a conspiracy to intimidate voters under Section 1985, Title 42 of federal law.
It is troubling that True the Vote/Voto Honesto are targeting target minority voters, who traditionally lean Democratic. In a close election, their efforts could have damaging consequences.
Voto Honesto is supposedly dedicated to preserving the integrity of our elections. In reality, the program is distorting it by disseminating false information, scaring voters, and skirting the edge of legality. Voto Honesto masquerades as Hispanic outreach while actually seeking to discourage Latino voters. It is a shameful, cynical affront to the democratic process.
Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and member of the USA Today Board of Contributors.