True the Vote Founder, Staffers Address Ohio Summit
Nonpartisan election integrity watchdog True the Vote held the “True the Vote Ohio State Summit” August 25 in Worthington, co-sponsored by the Ohio Liberty Coalition and the Ohio Voter Integrity Project. True the Vote – headquartered in Houston, Texas – trains poll workers and poll watchers in Ohio and many other states.
True the Vote works with right-of-center nonprofit groups across the country to coordinate grassroots volunteer efforts. Because True the Vote supports voter ID laws and works to help citizens keep states’ voter rolls accurate, the group is demonized by unions and left-wing politicians for “racism” and “voter suppression.”
True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht began the event by explaining how the organization came to be. Through 2008, Engelbrecht said, “I figured if I voted for the right person, I’d done my bit.”
Beginning in Harris County, Texas in 2009, Engelbrecht and other local volunteers concerned about the nation’s direction began devoting time to poll watching. At their polling places, Engelbrecht and her peers observed people voting without presenting any identification, or voting with a second registration card after showing a registration card that was denied. They watched poll workers walking citizens through not only how to vote but who to vote for.
Expanding efforts to see that state and federal laws were obeyed by election officials, volunteer poll workers, and voters, True the Vote recorded 800 incident reports on a single day in 2010 – with violations up to and including physical assault.
“This has never been and will never be about politics, although many people would like to make that the case,” Engelbrecht said, in a reference to liberal critics of True the Vote.
Engelbrecht was forceful in her remarks, but displayed none of the animosity or partisanship True the Vote critics attribute to her organization. She estimated that True the Vote poll watchers have seen no issues in 80 percent of the precincts they have observed.
As Engelbrecht and others sorted out technical issues with a connection to the venue’s projectors, True the Vote Operations Director Vickie Pullen discussed the web-based training and networking tools available to volunteers at TrueTheVote.org.
Pullen noted that in Texas, 6 of 18 election law reforms introduced as a result of True the Vote efforts have been approved by the state’s legislature. She explained that the voter roll validation aspect of True the Vote’s operations are winding down for the current cycle, as states will be printing general election voter lists in the next several weeks.
Pullen also reiterated several points about the group’s goals with regard to poll worker and poll watcher training. “Make sure you know what the laws are and that you’re following them,” she said.
True the Vote Election Day Operations Director Bill Ouren explained in greater detail the difference between election workers and election observers. Election workers are paid by counties and municipalities to administer elections, while election observers are unpaid volunteers who bring issues to the attention of election officials to see that election laws are obeyed.
Ouren explained the process followed by True the Vote for equipping volunteers, helping them find polling places, and assisting them on election day. Despite coordinated left-wing attacks on the group, Ouren said that many precincts have invited True the Vote observers and poll workers back after seeing their professionalism and expertise in action.
“If you cannot serve and obey the law – if you cannot find both parties guilty – we ask that you volunteer with someone else,” Ouren said. “If you can’t be nonpartisan, then go to the party and ask if they have a job for you.”
Ouren maintained the theme of other speakers addressing the True the Vote Ohio State Summit. “We want to make sure that the laws in place are followed. That’s all we’re trying to do. If you don’t like the law, you change the law; you don’t break the law.”