FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 2, 2010
Stacie Royster, email@example.com, 202-445-6101
Deb Greenspan, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-741-5573
Election Protection Finds Problems Persist at Polling Places Across the Country
Nonpartisan Coalition Urges New Congress to Implement Commonsense, Modern Reforms
WASHINGTON, DC - Election Protection, the nation's largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition, received at the time of this release, more than 20,000 calls to its 1-866-OUR-VOTE Hotline.
As Election Protection has found in our programs over the past decade, despite the best efforts and intentions of election officials and poll workers, too many voters are prevented or frustrated from voting because of a registration and election system that is outdated and in need of modernization.
"Every election cycle, too many eligible American voters are failed by an outmoded system," said Barbara Arnwine, Executive Director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "When the political dusts settle, there should be one issue we all agree on -- that the Americans that choose to show up and exercise their most fundamental right -- the right to vote -- deserve a modern, responsive election system."
Although a midterm contest with lower turnout, the experience of 2010 demonstrates that the cracks in our election infrastructure don't just have the ability to affect close races, but also impact our fundamental democratic processes.
The other unfortunate story of the 2010 election is that political gamesmanship too often took the form of deceptive and intimidating practices that took advantage of the complexities and vagaries of our voting system. However, there are ways to make the process more responsive and easier for voters to navigate.
"Reform needs to start with how we register voters," said Jon Greenbaum, Chief Counsel of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "We need to have a 21st century system that harnesses technological advancements to make sure that every eligible citizen has the opportunity to cast a ballot."
Below is a rundown of some of the major trends and some specific, illustrative stories reported to Election Protection:
Voters reported a number of problems at poll locations throughout the Cleveland area. Overcrowded polling places, misinformation from poll workers, improper enforcement of voting rules and confusion about poll location assignments are some of the many problems that faced Ohio voters.
Election Protection volunteers and legal experts on the ground in Cleveland reported massive crowds, long lines and improper enforcement of voting policies in the final hours of voting in Ohio. Even after being contacted by the Board of Elections, poll workers in Cuyahoga County precincts continued to feed voters misinformation about how to fill out their ballot. Additionally, voters report they were not given enough time in the voting booth to complete their ballots.
There were multiple reports of voter intimidation in Arizona. Election Protection volunteers reported that an assigned Republican poll watcher within the 75-foot polling place perimeter, who was also observed videotaping voters, became confrontational with both an Election Protection volunteer and a volunteer for the Raul Grijalva campaign waiting outside of the perimeter. Election Protection alerted the Tucson Police Department and the volunteer was removed by order of the Arizona Secretary of State. The first reports of the poll watcher came in at approximately 10:30am and he was removed at approximately 2:00pm PST.
Californians are reporting major problems at poll locations across the state including registered voters not appearing on voter rosters, polls running out of ballots, polls running out of provisional ballots, polls opening late, polls closing early and many polls not opening at all. These problems threaten to significantly disenfranchise California voters. Election Protection legal volunteers are working to resolve these issues quickly to ensure that no one leaves their polling location without effectively casting a ballot.
Earlier today, voters in Chicago precincts reported receiving misinformation from poll workers about casting provisional ballots. It was reported that Election judges were not properly trained on the voting process for individuals placed on the suspended voting list and therefore instructed poll workers to give these voters provisional ballots. In fact, under Chicago Election law, suspended voters are entitled to cast a regular ballot if able to provide two valid forms of identification. After receiving calls from legal experts on the ground in Chicago, Election Protection notified the proper election officials who followed up with the appropriate polling places to rectify the problem.
Before polls closed, voters in Baltimore and Prince George's County reported receiving robocalls stating, "Obama and O'Malley have already won and there is no reason to go vote, sit home." The calls were shared with Election Protection and were reported towards the end of the day.
In Ann Arbor, University of Michigan several students reported that they faced a problem with voting at their current residence. When they turned 21, the state automatically reverted their driver's licenses to their original address as opposed to their current school addresses. They either had to vote at their parents' residence or cast a provisional ballot.
In Wayne County, a 72-year-old African-American man was detained by police at his polling place after being accused by a challenger of "sneering" at him.
Election Protection is the nation's largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition, led by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Through its 1-866-OUR-VOTE hotline (1-866-687-8683) and dedicated team of legal experts and trained volunteers, Election Protection helps all American voters, including traditionally disenfranchised groups, gain access to the polls and overcome obstacles to voting, offering live assistance. The coalition has more than 100 partners - including the NAACP, National Bar Association, NALEO, Native Vote, Asian-American Justice Center, National Education Association and the Brennan Center for Justice - at the national, state and local level and is providing live voter protection services now through Election Day for all 50 states.
For more information about Election Protection and the 1-866-OUR-VOTE Hotline, please visit: www.866ourvote.org