Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Voters with outstanding warrants or unpaid traffic fines face arrest by undercover officers at polling places.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, September 2008]
Origins: Every presidential election prompts the circulation of misinformation regarding voting procedures. Sometimes the misinformation is merely an expression of political humor,
The message starts out with the ploy of offering a helpful
An anonymous flier circulating in African-American neighborhoods in North and West Philadelphia states that voters who are facing outstanding arrest warrants or who have unpaid traffic tickets may be arrested at the polls on Election Day.As the Philadelphia Daily News noted, the fliers distributed in that city may have been newly minted, but the technique they embody is a familiar one:
Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Everett Gillison said that the message is completely false.
"The only thing that police officers are going to do that we'll be encouraging that day is that they'll be exercising their own individual right to vote," Gillison said.
He plans to put up statements on the city and police Web sites to let citizens know that the handouts are false. He said that he also will record a public-service announcement for broadcast.
Gillison referred the matter to the U.S. Attorney's Office and the district attorney.
"We are not going to stand for any intimidation of voters," Gillison said. "Not in this city."
Telling people to beware of voting if they have outstanding warrants is an old trick. In Maryland's 2002 gubernatorial election, anonymous fliers in African-American communities warned people to pay parking tickets and resolve outstanding warrants before heading to the polls.Last updated: 5 October 2008
"It seems to be clearly aimed at lower-income voters that might have had some problems in the past and clearly aimed at discouraging people from voting," said Zack Stalberg, who heads the political-watchdog group Committee of Seventy.
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