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Remember to Vote, Hope It Counts

Published: October 30, 2006

New York Times
Monday, October 30, 2006

Remember to Vote, Hope It Counts
By Michael Waldman, Wendy Weiser and Open, NY

On Nov. 7, many voters will encounter new voting machines, new computerized voter lists and new rules regarding registration and ID requirements. As primaries earlier this year demonstrated, local officials and poll workers are overwhelmed by all the changes some of them engineered by mischievous partisans who have passed laws and rules that would block many eligible citizens from voting.

There is a silent disenfranchisement afoot one that could affect hundreds of thousands of voters. Thats bad for democracy. In the 2004 presidential election, some states were decided by less than 1 percent of the vote. This year, dozens of Congressional races could be close enough that vote suppression would affect them.

What follow are examples of ways the vote could be suppressed next week around the country. Problems listed in one state may also apply to several others. Taken together, they show just how urgent it is that the country move toward a system of universal voter registration, in which the government takes responsibility to ensure that all citizens are on the rolls, with real protections.

Looking forward, Congress and state legislatures should spurn partisan attempts to manipulate elections by imposing new voting requirements, like proof of citizenship and identification. They should ban wireless components in voting machines and require an audited paper trail. Judges should continue to strike down illegal and anti-democratic laws. And citizens and journalists should demand to know who is being purged from the rolls, and why. All registered voters should cast their ballots and insist their votes be counted.

Errata: In item 3, the phrase, “which are counted only in recounts,” is incorrect. Federal law requires states to count all provisional ballots cast by eligible and properly registered voters.

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Michael Waldman is the executive director of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, and Wendy Weiser is the deputy director of the centers democracy program. Open is a graphic design studio.