CINCINNATI — Lori Monroe, a 40-year-old Democrat who lives in central Ohio, was startled a few weeks ago to open a letter that said a stranger was challenging her right to vote in the presidential election.
Monroe, who was recovering from cancer surgery, called the local election board to protest. A local tea party leader was trying to strike Monroe from the voter rolls for a reason that made no sense: Her apartment building in Lancaster was listed as a commercial property.
“I’m like, really? Seriously?” Monroe said. “I’ve lived here seven years, and now I’m getting challenged?”
Monroe’s is one of at least 2,100 names that tea party groups have sought to remove from Ohio’s voter rosters.
The groups and their allies describe it as a citizen movement to prevent ballot fraud, although the Republican secretary of state said in an interview that he knew of no evidence that any more than a handful of illegal votes had been cast in Ohio in the last few presidential elections.
“We’re all about election integrity — making sure everyone who votes is registered and qualified voters,” said Mary Siegel, one of the leaders of the Ohio effort.
Some Democrats see it as a targeted vote-suppression drive. The names selected for purging include hundreds of college students, trailer park residents, homeless people and African Americans in counties President Obama won in 2008.
I don’t doubt that many of these Tea Partiers sincerely believe their targeting of groups that happen to have voted for Barack Obama in 2008 is about “election integrity.” I imagine many sincerely believe in the talking points about “voter fraud” coincidentally being espoused by Republican governors, legislators and secretaries of state who are targeting the very same groups of voters in Florida, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Michigan and other one-time swing states.
I also don’t doubt that many of these very same Tea Partiers sincerely believe they are motivated, not by loyalty to the Republican Party but by loyalty to the United States of America, long may she wave. I’m virtually certain you can’t convince any of them that they sure seem like the tamed sheep of Karl Rove, Roger Ailes and the Koch brothers.
Maybe it helps them to think of themselves as useful idiots?