Supporters of Mississippi Democrat Mike Espy are being told they don’t need to vote in Tuesday’s special election in a last-minute voter suppression campaign, according to reports.
“There were evidently some calls made to Espy supporters. Most of them were older supporters,” Espy told Palast Investigations.
Espy gave an example of a supporter who was called by a person claiming to be a pollster. When the supporter said she planned to vote for Espy, she was told that there was no need to vote in Tuesday’s election because her vote had been recorded over the phone as part of their call.
This is a particularly egregious example of something called “push polling,” where opponents of a candidate use the guise of being a pollster to present certain information to voters, often negative and in this case dangerously untrue.
There have also been efforts to fraudulently convince voters that voting by text or tweet is possible, which it is not.
#Mississippi: Mike Espy makes a stunning charge of a new #VoteSuppression tactic. In the vote-stealing biz it’s called "push polling." And it’s a crime. https://t.co/6QbN5EjQMd #MississippiRunoff #MississippiSenateRace pic.twitter.com/1WqFjhBTQY
— Greg Palast (@Greg_Palast) November 27, 2018
Palast Investigations attorneys have notified the State of Mississippi of a related intent to sue under the National Voter Registration Act, alleging that Mississippi illegally purged voters ahead of the midterm elections.
While the push poll hasn’t been directly linked to Espy’s opponent, Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R), she has stated that voter suppression against Democrats is a good thing.
“And then they remind me that there’s a lot of liberal folks in those other schools who that maybe we don’t want to vote,” Hyde-Smith said. “Maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult. So, I think that’s a great idea.”
That these efforts seem both brazen and desperate isn’t a surprise. Hyde-Smith even being in a runoff is a blow to a deeply conservative state and the idea of another Doug Jones-style upset has been fueled by a steady drumbeat of gaffes from Hyde-Smith.
Like her comment about attending public hangings, her support for voter suppression also has a racist underpinning. Voter suppression this year in Georgia took the form of blocking the registration of black voters, for instance. Voting while black comes with a swath of unique challenges, and Hyde-Smith supports adding new ones.
If you’re a registered voter in Mississippi, please remember that you can’t vote by phone, by text, by tweet — only by ballot.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.