NEW YORK, NY -- October 29 -- Today Miles Rapoport, President of the nonpartisan public policy organization Demos and former Secretary of the State of Connecticut, issued the following statement in response to recent efforts
"As the election approaches, chilling reports continue to surface of major efforts to prevent people from voting. Legions of partisan 'challengers' are being readied for the polls on election day; Latino registrants in rural Georgia are being targeted; and tens of thousands of new Ohio registrants are being challenged. All appear to be organized campaigns.
"These anti-democratic activities must be stopped. It will be an indelible stain on any political party or group that makes it their goal to depress the vote on Tuesday. Political leaders, election officials, and law enforcement authorities at all levels of government must ensure that every eligible citizen can cast a vote.
"But it's not too late to avoid disaster. Even at this late hour, steps can be taken to maximize access and minimize disruptions at polling places. These include:
Recruiting additional poll workers to handle the expected turnout and challenges.
Setting up separate areas within polling places, away from the main sign-in area, to adjudicate challenges so that bottlenecks do not occur.
Posting and distributing clear guidelines on what voter challenges are legal and which are impermissible, including warnings of potential Voting Rights Act violations.
Guaranteeing rapid access to government attorneys and law enforcement officials to prevent disruptive behavior, stop voter harassment or intimidation, and prosecute illegal conduct.
"The nation expects an accurate and transparent tabulation of winners and losers on Election Day. But our democracy requires a fair and inclusive system for citizen participation that welcomes new voices into the process. Shame on those who would do otherwise; applause for those political leaders, election officials, and law enforcement authorities who step up to ensure full access."
For information about challenges to the integrity of our elections in 2004, download the 'Democracy at Risk' press briefing kit at www.demos-usa.org.
Demos: A Network for Ideas & Action is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy organization based in New York