Democrats Allege That Calls to Latino Voters Have Threatened Arrest

John Stanton and Rebecca Plevin
Roll Call
Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Colorado Democrats charged today that Latinos in their state are the target of a voter-intimidation scheme.

In automated and live calls, Democrats allege, Latinos have been told that their ethnicity makes them ineligible to vote in today’s elections. The calls also threatened that Latinos would be arrested at polling places if they did attempt to vote, party sources said.

Although it remains unclear who is responsible for the calls — and how widespread the alleged intimidation is — aides to Democratic House candidate Angie Paccione said they have received two complaints today from Latinos in Weld County, which is part of the district held by GOP incumbent Rep. Marilyn Musgrave.

A source in Musgrave’s campaign categorically denied that the GOP was responsible for any such calls and said Musgrave has not received any complaints today about voter intimidation.

Colorado is at least the second state in which accusations of voter intimidation through automated phone calls have surfaced in recent days.

The FBI is investigating similar complaints in Virginia, where residents said they were threatened with arrest if they attempted to vote today.

The liberal watchdog group People for the American Way today called for a Congressional investigation into the widespread use of misleading robo-calls this cycle.

PFAW also called on citizens to keep records of robo-calls and to copy down any phone numbers associated with them if possible.

“These voter deception and voter suppression tactics are despicable and unacceptable,” said Ralph Neas, president of PFAW. “Regardless of the outcome of today’s elections, the new Congress must investigate these attacks on the integrity of our elections.”

Paccione spokeswoman Marcella Salazar called the calls “anti-democratic and discriminatory,” and added that the state party was preparing to send a complaint to the Department of Justice calling for an investigation.

The spokeswoman also said Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) recorded a robo-call this morning that is being directed at all registered Latino Democratic voters, warning them to ignore the calls and urging them to exercise their right to vote.

According to Coloradans who have received the calls — which date back at least two weeks — both the robo-calls and the live callers ask for voter’s party affiliations. Those who identify themselves either as Democrats or as unknown or independent were then warned that they were not eligible to vote and that they would risk arrest at the polls if they attempted to vote.

Oralia Ramirez, a 24-year-old resident of Gilcrest, Colo., said she received one of the automated calls, which began with a menu of party affiliations. When she pressed three for “you don’t know,” she was transferred to a person who asked her who she was voting for today and what her party affiliation was. When Sanchez responded that she was unsure, “He asked, ‘Are you Hispanic, Latino, black?’” and when she said she was a Latina, the caller said “‘Oh so you are Hispanic. You’re Hispanic, so you can’t vote. You aren’t even registered to vote, so don’t waste your time. Just by looking in my records you can’t vote.’ Then I just hung up.”

Salazar said the campaign has received at least one other complaint from a voter, who received a similar phone call two weeks ago in which a caller threatened the voter with arrest if he attempted to vote.

Prior to the call, Ramirez said she had not planned on voting this year, but the episode has further shaken her faith in the system.




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