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Election Protection Combatting Voter Suppression on Election Day

November 1, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 1, 2010

CONTACTS:
Debra Greenspan at dgreenspan@gpgdc.com or 203-824-4327; or
Stacie Royster at sroyster@lawyerscommittee.org or 202-445-6101

 

ELECTION PROTECTION COMBATTING VOTER SUPPRESSION ON ELECTION DAY AND BEFORE

 

WASHINGTON, DC – Across the country, groups are mobilizing to monitor polling precincts for fraud but recent events show that their actions:  poll watching, signs, slogans on clothing and other tactics can instead intimidate voters and suppress the vote. Election Protection, the nation’s largest, nonpartisan voter protection coalition, is mobilizing to prevent voter suppression efforts before and on Election Day.

In Minnesota, a number of Tea Party-related groups filed a federal suit against Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and other officials saying they should be allowed, under the First Amendment, to wear pins that say "Please I.D. Me" at polling locations even though they knew that identification is not required to vote. Election Protection filed a brief in support of the defendants making the case that this is not a free speech issue, but rather a deceptive practices issue.

In rejecting the plaintiffs’ request for a temporary restraining order that would allow them to wear the buttons, the U.S. District Court Judge Joan Ericksen relied, in part, on the specific concern Election Protection raised:

“The record suggests that the buttons are designed to affect the actual voting process at the polls by intimating that the voters are required to show identification before voting.  This intimation could confuse voters and election officials and cause voters to refrain from voting because of increased delays or the misapprehension that identification is required.”

“The district court properly recognized the confusion that would likely occur if the ‘Please I.D. Me’ buttons were permitted,” stated Jon Greenbaum, Legal Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the organization that filed the Election Protection brief along with Dorsey & Whitney LLP.  “Deceptive practices like the buttons have no place in the election process.”

To read the Lawyers' Committee's amicus brief, please click here.

Last week, Election Protection sent an open letter to election officials across the country discussing the possible impact of so-called “voter integrity squads” and how they could handle potential issues. Throughout the country, Election Protection is prepared to contact local election officials, and law enforcement as necessary, should allegations of voter intimidation or suppression arise.

In general, Election Protection experts are urging voters to do two things to combat voter intimidation tactics: verify their registration and stay calm.

“If you have called 1-866-OUR-VOTE or otherwise verified that you are registered and are in the correct polling location, you have the right to cast a ballot. If someone questions your eligibility to vote, alert a pollworker or other election official immediately, and if that does not work, call 1-866-OUR-VOTE.” said Barbara Arnwine, Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The most important thing you can do is remain calm and stay to cast your ballot, as is your right.”

Election Protection, as it does in every cycle, is taking allegations of election misconduct, whether it is voter intimidation or voter fraud, very seriously. Trained volunteers are provided with a set of procedures for determining the veracity of election misconduct allegations that are reported to Election Protection and the program is in communications with federal and state officials. Voters can receive assistance with any questions they have, including verifying their registration status, and can report any problems they experience while voting by calling the free, nonpartisan Election Protection hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683).

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Election Protection experts are available for interviews. Please contact Debra Greenspan (dgreenspan@gpgdc.com or 203-824-4327) or Stacie Royster (sroyster@lawyerscommittee.org or 202-445-6101) for availability.


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.