Ohio

ProgressOhio Joins Smear Campaign Against True The Vote

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ProgressOhio Executive Director Brian Rothenberg was quoted in an October 29 AlterNet story accusing True The Vote (TTV) of conducting illegal poll worker training, continuing a liberal assault on the election integrity group.  AlterNet writer Steven Rosenfeld began his story with an assertion that TTV “may be pushing their anti-democratic agenda into illegal territory in Ohio by interfering with that state’s official poll worker training regimen.”

Rothenberg told Rosenfeld, “A few weeks back it was reported that TrueTheVote had talked about doing trainings. It appears that some offshoot of the Tea Party is now training elections workers in Hamilton County and we’re starting to hear that it’s happening in other counties, and that requests are being made for lists of poll workers throughout Ohio – to provide extra training.”

The AlterNet story concluded with an unfounded opinion from Rothenberg, noting that, “when it comes to interfering with training poll workers, ProgressOhio said Husted appears to be ‘looking the other way.’”

“True the Vote does not, nor has it ever, offered poll worker training in Ohio. Our mission is to inspire, motivate and train citizen volunteers to observe elections on behalf of ballot stakeholders,” TTV founder and president Catherine Engelbrecht explained to Media Trackers Ohio.

“TTV is unaware that third parties may be encouraging trainees to supplement their coursework with our material,” Engelbrecht said. “However, our training assets are designed to enrich a citizen’s overall education. TTV’s state-specific e-books explain the rights and responsibilities of a citizen wishing to observe an election. Our content is derived from Ohio election codes.”

TTV provides training for volunteer poll observers – who, as TTV emphasizes, may not interact with voters – and works with groups such as the Ohio Voter Integrity Project (Ohio VIP) to help maintain accurate voter rolls.

ProgressOhio predictably shares the “voter suppression” concerns of its union financiers. In an August 27 story, ProgressOhio referred to a TTV event in Westerville as a “controversial voter suppression summit.” A September 28 ProgressOhio blog post summarized a lengthy quote from a Los Angeles Times hit piece on TTV and Ohio VIP as “dirty tricks from Republicans trying to steal another presidential election.”

At the end of August, TTV and D.C.-based conservative nonprofit Judicial Watch filed suit against Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, alleging that his office has failed to comply with federal law regarding voter list maintenance. Husted, a Republican, has also been smeared by liberal politicians and activists for refusing to provide exactly the permissive in-person early voting hours demanded by Obama for America and the Democratic National Committee.

ProgressOhio was launched by ProgressNow founder and former Clinton attorney Mark Huttner in 2006 at a cost of roughly $500,000, nearly half of which came from outside Ohio. Rothenberg, whose $107,330 salary amounted to more than a third of the group’s spending in 2010 according to IRS documents, was the communications director for the Ohio Democratic Party when he was hired to run ProgressOhio.

AlterNet contributor Rosenfeld is one of many progressive activists who insist voter fraud could only theoretically disenfranchise voters – while assailing election integrity efforts because they could theoretically disenfranchise voters. A Rosenfeld story published at Salon on August 25 was titled, “Inside the plan to steal the election,” and subtitled, “The conservative initiative True the Vote is designed to obstruct the voting process at every turn. Will it work?”

There is no indication that Rosenfeld sees a contradiction in simultaneously ridiculing concerns about voter fraud and hyperventilating about “vigilante group” TTV planning to “steal the election” by suppressing voters’ rights.

Based on an alleged Kerry-Edwards campaign memo obtained in 2004 by conservative website Colorado Peak Politics, the demonization of election integrity efforts has been encouraged by the highest echelons of Democratic Party leadership for years.

Rothenberg and Rosenfeld are joined in their self-styled campaign against voter suppression by union front We Are Ohio, the Ohio Education Association, and Democrat elected officials including Nina Turner, who led a charge against “oppressive” anti-fraud billboards which she outrageously compared to Jim Crow laws.

An October 17 letter to Husted from Turner and several other liberal state senators accused TTV of using “unnecessary challenges and intimidating tactics” to “undermine protection of the right to vote of all citizens.” Like ProgressOhio, the Democrat officials cited as evidence liberal hit pieces from the LA Times and New York Times.

In a response to the letter, Engelbrecht stated, “In reality, any fear or inconvenience experienced by a voter was due to the county election board’s call for a hearing, required if in fact a registration is questionable and those questions irresolvable without presentation of further evidence. (Ohio Election Code 3503.24). Such determinations are made solely at county discretion.”

Addressing claims that TTV encourages poll watchers to interfere with voters at polling places, Engelbrecht said, “Legislators claims that TTV training material illegally coaches poll watchers to challenge voters at the polls, demonstrates a desperate need to misinform their constituency for political gain. Our materials clearly reference Ohio Election Code on the matter.”

“Poll watchers cannot challenge, or even communicate with voters, according to state law. Our training reflects those facts,” Engelbrecht added.

While advocates of all-encompassing government hype a manufactured narrative that election integrity efforts represent an attack on democracy, they dismiss as hype documented examples of actual or attempted voter fraud.

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