Washington -- October 23 -- People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF) President Ralph G. Neas said Saturday that disturbing news reports from Ohio point to the potential for massive voter disenfranchisement in November and additional confusion and chaos at the polls in Ohio and other states that have seen huge increases in voter registration.
The New York Times reported [link] that the Republican party has registered thousands of people to serve as partisan "vote challengers" at Ohio polling places, in what they say is an effort to prevent "voter fraud." Meanwhile, the Columbus Dispatch reported [link] that based on a mailing to newly registered voters, the GOP plans to challenge 35,000 voters in an effort to keep them from the polls.
"Based on the lessons of history, this isn't an effort to prevent voter fraud. It's an effort to prevent voting. It's an effort to keep people away from the polls by creating confusion, congestion and chaos. That's un-American," said Neas.
"What is so threatening about tens of thousands of new voters coming to the polls? Doesn't democracy work best when more people vote, not fewer? Obviously, voter fraud must not and should not be tolerated. But there is no evidence of massive voter fraud in this country. Instead, there is evidence of massive voter disenfranchisement. Our priority must be to bring more people to the polls, not keep them away.
"In recent years, the Republican party has been forced to sign at least three court-ordered consent decrees for attempting to challenge voters or suppress voter turnout on the basis of race. The question must be asked, is history repeating itself? Are these tactics once again targeted against minority voters?" Neas asked.
Information on those consent decrees can be found in the "The Long Shadow of Jim Crow," a report released recently by People For the American Way Foundation and the NAACP.
"I was surprised to read that party officials have not decided whether to open its trainings for vote challengers to the press and the public. The trainings for the nonpartisan Election Protection coalition are open to the press and the public, and all its materials and activities are available online. I would urge all Ohio party officials, Democrat and Republican, to throw open the doors of their trainings, invite the public and the news media, and make all their materials public," said Neas.
People For the American Way Foundation is one of the founding members of the nonpartisan Election Protection coalition, a collaborative effort with more than 100 national, state and local partners dedicated to voter education and empowerment and the protection of voting rights. Calls to the Election Protection hotline, 1-866-OUR VOTE, spiked Saturday morning from people who had read the news report and were calling to volunteer in Ohio to protect voter rights.