Intimidation is not integrity

Scaring voters from the polls is not a matter of Halloween fun.

Intimidation is not integrity

Editorial board

Election Integrity Watch, a coalition of conservative political advocacy groups against voter fraud, has filed suit against Minnesota election officials over a law that prevents the display of campaign materials in or near polling places, arguing the law violates their right to free speech. There is every indication, however, that the groupâÄôs motives are less than democratically pure.

For one thing, the stateâÄôs law is hardly subject to question in this case. Laws like it are common and were also upheld by a 1992 Supreme Court decision, Burson v. Freeman, in which the court argued that even First Amendment rights are subject to qualification when the right to unimpeded voting is at issue.

For another, the lawsuit hinges on a dubious technicality: They claim that buttons bearing slogans like “Please ID Me” and “DonâÄôt Tread On Me” are “not political,” despite their strong ideological implications.

Further hurting the coalitionâÄôs cause is the fact that MinnesotaâÄôs election officials cite very low rates of fraudulent voting. The stateâÄôs electoral system appears to work extremely well, and even if it didnâÄôt, its reform would be better left to official channels than volunteer activists trained to haunt polling places on alert for suspicious activity.

The EIW has apparently raised voter fraud only as a bogeyman; the likely upshot isnâÄôt better elections, but rather the discouragement of the most vulnerable voters, including minorities and senior citizens.

Still, the group is right about at least one thing: The integrity of MinnesotaâÄôs elections is of the utmost importance. That integrity, though, is contingent on the ability of every eligible citizen to vote without being campaigned at, questioned or intimidated in any way.