Election Protection Off to a Great Start Assisting

May 6, 2008

Stacie B. Miller
Lawyers' Committee
for Civil Rights Under Law

(202) 662-8317
(202) 445-6101 (cell)
smiller@lawyerscommittee.org

Tim Bradley
Brennan Center for Justice
646-452-5637 or
314-440-9936

 

Nearly 400 Hotline Calls So Far Reporting Primary Election
Barriers


(Washington, DC)
May 6, 2008
– Election
Protection, the nation's largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition, together
with a diverse group of partners, is in high gear helping voters in Indiana and North
Carolina cast meaningful ballots through a
comprehensive voter protection program.  Volunteers
will be available throughout the day to continue assisting Primary Election Day
voters with questions and to ensure that all voters know their rights.  Voters in both states can call 1-866-OUR-VOTE
toll-free until 8 p.m. EST with any questions or issues that arise at polling
areas. 

Election Protection is monitoring issues surrounding Indiana's photo
identification law.  This morning, in South Bend, Indiana,
a freshman student at St. Mary's College, excited to vote for the first time,
left the polling place in tears because she only possessed a private college ID
and was unable to vote.  The poll
workers, nuns at a local convent, were trying to help the young student through
her problem.  While they were helping
her, they realized that some of their fellow nuns, who had just arrived at the
polling place, also could not vote because of the photo ID law.  Not only was this group of nuns
disenfranchised, but so would be four floors of retired nuns in their
convent. 

"The situation this morning in South
Bend is a glaring example of why Indiana's onerous photo ID law erects an
unnecessary barrier to the ballot box and disenfranchises legitimate voters,"
said John Borkowski, Esquire, a partner at law firm Hogan &
Hartson and Lawyers' Committee board member who witnessed this incident
firsthand.

Other incidents from Indiana
include:

  • Multiple
    reports of voting machine problems, including from a school teacher who
    had to leave without casting a ballot because he had to get to school
    before classes started.  Additionally,
    he said the mostly African-American voters were untrusting that the poll
    workers would ensure their votes would count.
  • At
    another polling place, voters were not offered paper ballots when machines
    went down, and countless voters left without casting a ballot. 
  • A
    voter, previously convicted of a misdemeanor, was prevented from voting by
    a poll worker. Election Protection provided him with the code provision
    which dictates that only those convicted of a felony and those
    incarcerated cannot vote.

Specific incidents reported in North Carolina include:

  • Poll
    workers at a local precinct announced at 6:20 a.m. that there were no
    ballots and voters were sent home. Election Protection followed up and
    discovered that the polling place had the ballots in a box which had not
    been opened.
  • Election
    Protection has also received multiple reports of registered Independents
    who were not allowed to vote in either primary, or were given Republican
    ballots despite believing they were registered as Democrats at polling
    sites.

Trained
volunteers will continue to staff the Hotline to provide voters with free
assistance and volunteers will remain at election officials' offices in
targeted areas across North Carolina and Indiana.  Field volunteers are on the ground to assist
voters in person or place telephone calls to the appropriate election official. 

The
toll-free number, administered by the Lawyers' Committee is available to any
voters who need information, assistance or need guidance in understanding their
rights.  It is open to the entire voting
public, but targets historically disenfranchised communities, including
Hispanic, African American and low-income communities. 

The Lawyers' Committee, along with primary May 6 partners, Democracy
North Carolina, the Brennan Center for Justice and NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and
other partners across both states recruited, trained and deployed legal
volunteers to help voters at the polls, in the courts and through the 1-866-OUR-VOTE
Hotline.  As Election Protection's
interim report on previous primaries across the country this election year
suggests, the infrastructure that supports the nation's election system often
breaks down preventing countless eligible voters from accessing their right to
vote. 

For more
information about Election Protection and the 1-866-OUR-VOTE and Hotline, or to
read the Lawyers' Committee's report, please visit www.866ourvote.org.
 

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University
School of Law is a nonpartisan
public policy and law institute that focuses on fundamental issues of democracy
and justice, including voting rights and fair elections. Visit www.brennancenter.org
for more.

The Lawyers' Committee for
Civil Rights Under Law (LCCRUL), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was
formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the
private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The
principal mission of the Lawyers' Committee is to secure, through the rule of
law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of housing,
community development, employment, voting, education and environmental justice
.  For more information about the LCCRUL, visit www.lawyerscommittee.org.

 

 

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