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Voting Rights Experts Ramp Up Efforts to Protect Voters and Combat Voter Intimidation
NEW YORK - November 5 - Voting rights experts at national public policy organization Demos will again pull out all the stops on Pre-Election and Election Day to ensure that every eligible voter is able to vote in this critical election year. To protect the fundamental freedom to vote, Demos works with advocates and policymakers around the country to foster an inclusive democracy, decrease bureaucratic barriers to voter registration and civic participation, and monitor the fair administration of elections.
As members of the non-partisan Election Protection coalition, Demos staff will serve as volunteer election law experts at the “1-866-OUR-VOTE” national hotline call centers on Monday and Tuesday, to help voters understand the state-specific rules in their jurisdictions as well as report any and all obstacles or attempts to discourage or intimidate voters. These voter education efforts provide a framework for solving voting irregularities and disenfranchisement problems on Election Day, including confusion over election rules and identification requirements, wrongful challenges to voter eligibility, poorly trained poll workers, long lines and under-resourced polling locations, and registration issues due to improper voting list purges.
“Unnecessary barriers to registration and voting, and improper voter challenges can erode the fairness of elections and suppress voter turnout among particular communities such as students, minorities, seniors, persons with disabilities and low-income individuals,” said Brenda Wright, Vice President for Legal Strategies at Demos. "Because the freedom to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, we are fighting to empower voters and to ensure that elections remain free, fair and accessible.”
Demos staff will be covering voting inquiries from states as disparate as Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, Mississippi and Massachusetts. Having served as Secretary of the State of Connecticut, Demos President Miles Rapoport is also available to speak about election administration and voter suppression.
“We’re particularly concerned with reports in Ohio and Wisconsin about efforts by private groups and candidates to manipulate training materials for poll watchers and election officials who will be at the polls on Election Day,” added Wright. “Combined with the long lines slowing down early voting in Florida, the polling places still without electricity in Pennsylvania, aggressive electioneering in North Carolina, and the potential for delays in Ohio if large numbers of provisional ballots are issued, these are among the states we are watching closely for potential problems.”
Demos and Common Cause co-published the recent study Bullies at the Ballot Box: Protecting the Freedom to Vote from Wrongful Challenges and Intimidation examining voter protection laws in 10 states where elections are expected to be close. The ten states reviewed in “Bullies at the Ballot Box” are Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. The report assesses laws on the books in all 10 states that prohibit voter intimidation and wrongful challenges to voter eligibility, and urges strong enforcement to prevent harassing conduct at the polls.
Demos also worked to help successfully pressure Clear Channel Corporation to remove anonymously financed billboards placed in predominantly African-American and Latino neighborhoods in Ohio and Wisconsin warning of criminal penalties for voter fraud and designed to stigmatize minority voters. This victory was accompanied by a pro-voting billboard campaign sponsored by the coalition urging residents to “Stand Up and Have Your Say – VOTE.”
Demos will release Voting in 2012: Lessons Learned, a report from Senior Democracy Fellow Tova Andrea Wang, a nationally known expert on election reform and political participation, after the election.