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Statements on Voter Registration Issues

Voting rights experts weigh in on voter registration issues.

October 14, 2008

For Imme­di­ate Release: 

CONTACTS:    

Deb Green­span, dgreen­span@­glover­park­group.com, 202–741–5573
Meg Reilly, mreilly@­glover­park­group.com, 202–292–6975

VOTING RIGHTS EXPERTS STATE­MENTS ON VOTER REGIS­TRA­TION ISSUES

Jonah Gold­man, Director of the National Campaign for Fair Elec­tions, Lawyers’ Commit­tee for Civil Rights Under Law’s Voting Rights Project.

In the next three weeks, we must main­tain the integ­rity of the system, while also work­ing to ensure that anyone who is prop­erly registered is not intim­id­ated by polit­ical oper­at­ives ques­tion­ing their right to vote. We must unmask voter suppres­sion tactics disguised as voter integ­rity meas­ures.

 The concerns we’re seeing now with voter regis­tra­tion are emin­ently fixable. We need a system in which regis­tra­tion drives and the crush of new applic­a­tions to be processed before Elec­tion Day are replaced by a more stand­ard and logical process. Govern­ment should make sure that all citizens are perman­ently registered to vote as soon as they become eligible and that regis­tra­tions are auto­mat­ic­ally updated with changes in address and marital status. This will elim­in­ate the need for community groups or partis­ans to conduct voter regis­tra­tion drives and make our govern­ment clearly respons­ible for main­tain­ing voter rolls through­out the year.

Wendy Weiser, Demo­cracy Deputy Director, Bren­nan Center for Justice.

These attacks are a diver­sion from the real prob­lem, which is that hundreds of thou­sands of Amer­ic­ans will not have their votes coun­ted this elec­tion because of public policies that prevent them from getting and stay­ing on the voter rolls. Until we have a stand­ard, auto­matic voter regis­tra­tion system where every eligible voter is added to the rolls, voter regis­tra­tion groups  will play an import­ant role in help­ing register citizens -espe­cially people with lower incomes, minor­it­ies, and young people. We need to make sure that all our elec­tions are free from intim­id­a­tion, fraud, and vote suppres­sion. This debate should make clear once and for all that we need to reform the system so that all eligible Amer­ic­ans are on the voter rolls, can vote, and have their votes coun­ted.

Tova Wang, Vice Pres­id­ent of Research, Common Cause.

It is unfor­tu­nate that some would seek to distract us from the real work that needs to be done to ensure a fair elec­tion in which every eligible voter can cast a ballot and all the ballots are coun­ted. While there is simply no evid­ence of voter imper­son­a­tion fraud at the polling place there is ample evid­ence of real people’s votes that may go uncoun­ted due to unfair prac­tices of voter purging and other vote suppres­sion tactics. Ulti­mately all this under­scores the need for a system in which the govern­ment shoulders its fair share of the respons­ib­il­ity to ensure that Amer­ic­ans are prop­erly registered and stay registered.

BACK­GROUND:

The good news is that voter regis­tra­tion groups and elec­tion offi­cials are identi­fy­ing prob­lems and are resolv­ing them. The current system iden­ti­fied and disqual­i­fied the frac­tion of voter regis­tra­tion forms that were incor­rectly filled out by work­ers.

Even though Mickey Mouse never showed up at the polls, the process ensured that he won’t appear on the voter rolls.

The bad news is that the millions of voters who registered prop­erly through community organ­iz­a­tions are now being targeted and intim­id­ated by partis­ans attempt­ing to cast a cloud of suspi­cion. Most of these new regis­trants are racial minor­it­ies and recently natur­al­ized citizens.

Also troub­ling is that in the crush of processing new applic­a­tions before Elec­tion Day, too many eligible voters are being thrown off the voter rolls by elec­tion work­ers who are overzeal­ously bureau­cratic or motiv­ated by partis­an­ship.

Elec­tion Protec­tion

Elec­tion Protec­tion is the nation’s largest nonpar­tisan voter protec­tion coali­tion, led by the Lawyers’ Commit­tee for Civil Rights Under Law. Through its 1–866-OUR-VOTE Hotline (1–866–687–8683) and dedic­ated team of legal experts and trained volun­teers, Elec­tion Protec­tion helps all Amer­ican voters, includ­ing tradi­tion­ally disen­fran­chised groups, gain access to the polls and over­come obstacles to voting, offer­ing live assist­ance. The coali­tion has more than 100 part­ners at the national, state and local level, and is provid­ing live voter protec­tion services now through Elec­tion Day for all 50 states. For more inform­a­tion about Elec­tion Protec­tion and the 1–866-OUR-VOTE Hotline, please visit: www.866our­vote.org.

The Bren­nan Center for Justice

The Bren­nan Center for Justice at New York Univer­sity School of Law is a non-partisan public policy and law insti­tute that focuses on funda­mental issues of demo­cracy and justice. Our work ranges from voting rights to redis­trict­ing reform, from access to the courts to pres­id­en­tial power in the fight against terror­ism. A singu­lar insti­tu­tion – part think tank, part public interest law firm, part advocacy group – the Bren­nan Center combines schol­ar­ship, legis­lat­ive and legal advocacy, and commu­nic­a­tions to win mean­ing­ful, meas­ur­able change in the public sector.

Common Cause

Common Cause is a nonpar­tisan, nonprofit advocacy organ­iz­a­tion foun­ded in 1970 by John Gard­ner as a vehicle for citizens to make their voices heard in the polit­ical process and to hold their elec­ted lead­ers account­able to the public interest.

Now with nearly 400,000 members and support­ers and 36 state organ­iz­a­tions, Common Cause remains commit­ted to honest, open and account­able govern­ment, as well as encour­aging citizen parti­cip­a­tion in demo­cracy.