Members of a conservative Houston group accused of voter intimidation say they are sending dozens of volunteers to watch that no illegal voting or other fraud takes place at the polls on Tuesday, but critics like Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, say the group just wants to prevent minorities from voting.
The King Street Patriots, who have ties to Tea Party activists, have dispatched volunteers to 36 of the 37 voting precincts in Harris County to monitor the crucial midterm elections on Tuesday that are expected to return Republicans to power in the House, MyFoxHouston.com reported.
The New Black Panther Party says it will monitor the Patriots after Patriots leader Catherine Engelbrecht was caught on video warning poll watchers about Black Panther members in Houston.
Quannell X, leader of the Panthers in Harris County, said the group will be at the polls to make sure minorities can vote. Quannell X promised that members his group will not intimidate voters at the poll or carry a nightstick like members in Philadelphia did in 2008, leading to a controversial Justice Department investigation.
Jackson Lee called for the Justice Department to investigate incidents of voter intimidation and to send poll monitors to Houston. The Justice Department on Friday issued a list of locations it plans to send monitors for Tuesday's midterm elections, and Harris County is among the locations.
Jackson Lee said there have been at least 15 reports of voting rights abuses this week alone in Houston.
"Many of these incidents of voter intimidation have been occurring in predominantly minority neighborhoods and have been directed at African-Americans and Latinos," she said in a written statement. "It is unconscionable to think that anyone would deliberately employ the use of such forceful and intimidating tactics in 2010 to undermine the fundamental, constitutional right to vote."
In her letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Jackson Lee said "poll watchers have been reportedly over-stepping the boundaries between observing and interacting in the democratic process by hovering directly behind voters as they entered their votes."
But the King Street Patriots, who say they want to “true the vote” in Houston, claim they're actually the victims of intimidation. Jonathan Saenaz, an attorney for the group, said the Patriots have written a letter to the Justice Department asking for an investigation.
The group brought forward several poll watchers on Thursday who said they found themselves intimidated by voters, county poll watchers and members of the Democratic Party.