As we take a moment to celebrate both local and national wins and catch our breaths after an anxiety-inducing election season, we are also keeping a watchful eye on the upcoming transition of power and Georgia Senate runoffs that will shape the national balance of power over the next four years. On the local level, we are reflecting on the ROP network’s Defend Democracy campaign in particular. We issued a toolkit, set up a hotline, and ran public service announcements and radio ads out of concerns about voter intimidation and disinformation and how they might affect folks’ ability to vote freely, openly, and easily.
Through the efforts of this campaign and many years’ experience, our network was prepared to respond to reports of intimidation across rural Oregon while at the same time, we hoped that voting across the state would go off without a hitch. Here is a snapshot of the reports we received, and the ways our network was able to put a stop to intimidation and disinformation!
- Someone posed as a caller from the Tillamook County Democrats and called registered Democrats in the county, telling them their ballots had been invalidated and their votes would not be counted in an attempt to dissuade people from voting.
- Individuals tailgated and watched people vote in Cottage Grove from their vehicles in an apparent attempt to discourage folks from actually dropping off their ballots.
- Ballots, either blank or already filled out, were stolen out of mailboxes in Corvallis, Eugene and Hood River. Many people were able to get reissued ballots, but in one incident in Hood River, a voter whose ballot was stolen reached out to the hotline after her replacement ballot was not delivered to her new address. Fortunately, she contacted the county clerk’s office and picked up her new ballot in person just one day before the election. For voters living far from their county clerk’s office or who are unable to visit in-person, such obstacles could have kept them from voting altogether.
- A campaign worker in Coos Bay was attacked while preparing materials for an event the next day to contact voters about the upcoming election. While she was locked inside the Coos County Democrats’ Headquarters, the perpetrator emptied an unknown homemade liquid onto the door and into the ventilation system generating offensive, noxious fumes that made it difficult for her to breathe, causing her to vomit and remain ill for several days.
In the majority of reports we received, rural Oregonians were able to take decisive action and stop intimidation in its tracks or find a way to vote despite the barriers.
- In Deschutes County, organizers worked with local elections officials to put up “Ballot Box traffic only” and successfully stopped pickup trucks from hanging out near the ballot drop site, covering people with diesel exhaust and revving their engines when folks tried to vote.
- Local leaders in Lake County wrote a Letter to the Editor calling on the Lake County Sheriff and successfully pressured him to respond when people getting their signs repeatedly stolen and their property damaged called for help.
- In Lane County, when several people with guns began questioning and intimidating people trying to drop their ballots at a dropbox in Springfield, organizers made sure they did not come back. ROP and our friends with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Oregon Food Bank, Oregon Justice Resource Center, ACLU of Oregon, and Western States Center wrote a letter to the Attorney General and Secretary of State calling for a coordinated response to this incident as well as any future reports of voter intimidation.
Thanks to the hard work and quick responses of organizers all over the state, none of these incidents escalated into larger threats! What lessons have you learned from this election season that we can lift up and share? What is your group working on now that the election season is (mostly) done? Here are a few ways we are seeing groups take action:
- With a newly elected Secretary of State taking office in a few months, we have an opportunity to share our concerns about election security and voter intimidation, and make sure the 2022 election goes more smoothly! Contact the Secretary of State-elect directly by going to https://shemiafororegon.com/ and clicking on the “Contact” button, and tell us how your conversation goes!
- Many groups across our network are building community and supporting a culture where we are able to express our political views and can vote without fear of intimidation, violence, or theft. What are you doing to foster a safe and welcoming community? Want support in getting started? Reach out to us at email@example.com!
- We know the potential for intimidation and threats is not over. If you have safety or security concerns, please reach out to us for resources and support by calling the hotline at 541-714-3257, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The ROP network was built to last for the long haul, and we will continue building community, defending democracy, and advancing human dignity for years to come!