Women’s Voices, Women’s Voter Suppression

I just learned that the suspicious and misleading robocalls from “Lamont Williams” to North Carolina voters, were actually the work of Women’s Voices, Women Vote. WVWV is an organization that works to empower single female voters, and which I used to support. Turns out they have a habit of sending poorly-timed voter registration information, causing thousands of voters to mistakenly think they are not registered to vote!

WUNC’s Laura Leslie posted the audio of the robocall on her blog on Monday, but as far as I can tell has not actually done a story about it. (She’s probably too busy begging for money. Way to schedule a pledge drive at the height of our primary, WUNC!)

Today I read a long investigative piece by my friend Chris Kromm at the Institute for Southern Studies that shows that WVWV was behind this, and that they have been confusing voters all over the nation with their automated phone calls and voter registration packets. “Women’s Voices’ questionable tactics have spawned thousands of voter complaints in at least 11 states and brought harsh condemnation from some election officials for their secrecy, misleading nature and likely violations of election law.”

WVWV claims that their campaign in North Carolina was designed to get unregistered, single, female voters to register to vote in the November general election. However, there is overwhelming evidence indicating quite the opposite. For example:

  • The voice on the calls is a male calling himself “Lamont Williams.” Not exactly ideal for the supposedly female target audience.
  • Many of the people who received the calls are married, male, and/or already registered.
  • WVWV is no newcomer to politics. They have been operating since at least the 2004 election. They are a well-funded organization with a savvy staff. The two top leaders each have at least two decades of political experience a piece. (One as Congressman David Price’s ’96 campaign manager – the one year Price lost.)
  • In fact, many WVWV staff and advisors gained experience working for the Clinton Whitehouse. For example, board member John Podesta (President and CEO of the Center for American Progress) served as President Clinton’s Chief of Staff for over two years.
  • There is no way that these seasoned political operatives could have missed the fact of our prominent May 6 primary, or that anyone with experience in voter engagement wouldn’t be fully aware of the timing involved.

I can only logically conclude that they are either intentionally suppressing voters (in an Obama-friendly state, hmm) or are criminally negligent and unable to carry out their stated mission of “Improving unmarried women’s participation in the electorate and policy process.” Either way, the only responsible step I can imagine is immediately cease operations and consider whether to reorganize or disband this organization.

WVWV’s President Page Garder re-posted her press release as a blog entry over on Huffington Post. Let’s let her know what we think of it.

More related links & discussion: NPR News Blog, BlueNC.

9 thoughts on “Women’s Voices, Women’s Voter Suppression

  1. Yesterday I just received one of the voter registration forms from this group in CO. It really does not make any sense to me that I would be getting this now since I already participated in Colorado’s caucus (voted for Obama). I will definitely look into what’s been going on here in CO, for this form definitely makes it sound like I am not able to vote unless I fill it out despite participating in elections from my current address for the past 2.5 years! Thanks for the heads up.

  2. Before everyone gets too far ahead of themselves implying a Clinton conspiracy, please look further at each of the board members of WVWV.org

    Maggie Rheinstein has given Obama $3400 in Jan, $600 Feb and $300 Mar 2008. Willliam McNary is not only a long time Obama supporter, he is also an elected IL Obama delegate.

    The money the others gave Clinton last year equals the amount Rheinstein has given this year to Obama.

    I wish that Facing South had included this information as well and not just focused on two Clinton donors and implying some nefarious relationship because some worked or supported Bill Clinton, gheez we all did.

    I don’t like what WVWV has done and is doing, BUT I especially don’t like that “investigative reporting” left out two key and active supporters of Obama and just focused on Clinton. Thereby allowing the internet and blogs to Run Wild with conspiracy theories without all the information.

    this is nasty politics and leaves a very bad taste in my mouth

  3. Julie, I’ll admit that the potential Clinton connection is not the most important part about this story. (But that may be just the distraction that the media pounces on.)

    If it’s not an intentional attempt at voter disenfranchisement, then I have to conclude that the folks running WVWV (and/or MHSC) are simply massively incompetent. This isn’t very likely looking at their resumes, but I’d be convinced that it was true if key staff are fired over this incredible screw-up. Does anyone think that will happen?

  4. More links:
    DailyKos Voter Reg Pro Thinks NC Robo-Call Program Is A Scam
    Talking Points Memo: North Carolina AG Opens Investigation of Robo Calls
    And Open Left has blog entries from WVWV board member Mike Lux and ally Becky Bond of Working Assets.

    The problem with these last two is they explain how well-meaning people could have taken such a misguided approach, but no-one has yet explained how this could happen TWELVE TIMES.

    If we are to believe that this was unintentional, then some people are clearly not qualified for the very important work of empowering, and not confusing and discouraging, voters.

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