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Election Protection Fields Nearly 800 Calls During North Carolina and Indiana Primary Elections

May 6, 2008

 

CONTACTS:
Stacie B. Miller
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
(202) 662-8317                                   
(202) 445-6101 (cell)
smiller@lawyerscommittee.org

Tim Bradley
Brennan Center for Justice
646-452-5637 or 314-440-9936

 

Election Protection Fields Nearly 800 Calls During
North Carolina and Indiana Primary Elections

Indiana Voter ID Law Emerges as a Significant Issue;
Scattered Problems Reported Throughout Both Primary States

 

May 6, 2008 – As polls closed across both North Carolina and Indiana this evening, the Election Protection Coalition reported receiving nearly 800 calls to the Voter Protection Hotline throughout the day.  Election Protection and its diverse group of partners, which comprises the nation’s largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition, responded to voting problems through a comprehensive voter protection program.  Nearly 100 citizen and legal volunteers answered calls on the 1-866-OUR-VOTE Hotline and monitored polling places throughout both primary states. 

Jonah Goldman, director of the National Campaign for Fair Elections of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Right’s Voting Rights Project said, “As this historic primary season has progressed, record numbers of voters have turned out to exercise their fundamental right to vote.  It is unfortunate, however, that many of these eligible voters were disenfranchised and unable to cast a ballot.  In state after state, including both North Carolina and Indiana, we’ve seen eligible voters lose their right to vote because of poorly trained poll workers, problems with voting machines and inaccurate voter registration rolls.”

 “Today, Election Protection volunteers spoke to thousands of voters. We protected voting rights by answering questions, resolving problems, and advocating on behalf of voters. We learned that students, elderly persons, women, persons of color and even nuns are at risk of disenfranchisement,” said Myrna Pérez, counsel at the Brennan Center. 

One of the most closely watched issues going into the primaries today was Indiana’s photo identification law, requiring voters to present a government issued ID before casting a vote.  Election Protection received a significant number of calls and complaints regarding the law, which was recently upheld by the US Supreme Court.  In one example, a freshman student at St. Mary’s College in South Bend, Indiana, called the coalition hotline after she was denied the right to vote because she only possessed an ID from a private college.  The poll workers, nuns at a local convent, were trying to help the young student through her problem.  While doing so, and prior to the student’s incident, they realized that some of their fellow nuns were also prevented from voting because of Indiana’s restrictive photo identification law.  In fact, they later realized that several floors of retired nuns in their convent would not be able to vote in the Indiana Primary Election.

Confusion about voter ID requirements in Indiana threatened to prevent a registered member of the military from voting—a caller reported to Election Protection that poll workers refused to accept his current U.S. Military ID, claiming that it was insufficient identification. Fortunately, the caller was able to speak with a precinct judge who corrected the poll workers.

Students also experienced problems in both states. In Indiana, students at Purdue University weren’t able to use their state-issued photo IDs to vote because the cards lack an expiration date, while in North Carolina multiple students who had registered by the deadline were still denied the right to vote.

Problems emerged with absentee ballots as well. Voters at a nursing home in Hancock County, Indiana received incorrect absentee ballots—residents who had requested Democratic ballots received Republican ballots, and vice versa.

Other Indiana incidents include:

  • Multiple reports of voting machine problems, including from a school teacher who had to leave without casting a ballot because he had to get to school before classes started.  Some voters were not offered paper ballots when machines went down, and countless voters left without casting a ballot. 
  • A voter, previously convicted of a misdemeanor, was prevented from voting by a poll worker. Election Protection provided him with the code provision which dictates that only those convicted of a felony and those incarcerated cannot vote.

Additional North Carolina reports include:

  • Poll workers at a local precinct announced at 6:20 a.m. that there were no ballots and voters were sent home. Election Protection followed up and discovered that the polling place had the ballots in a box which had not been opened.
  • Election Protection has also received multiple reports of registered Independents who were not allowed to vote in either primary, or were given Republican ballots despite believing they were registered as Democrats at polling sites.

The Lawyers’ Committee, along with primary May 6 partners, Democracy North Carolina, the Brennan Center for Justice and NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and other partners across both states recruited, trained and deployed legal volunteers to help voters at the polls, in the courts and through the 1-866-OUR-VOTE Hotline.  As Election Protection’s interim report on previous primaries across the country this election year suggests, the infrastructure that supports the nation’s election system often breaks down preventing countless eligible voters from accessing their right to vote. 

For more information about Election Protection and the 1-866-OUR-VOTE and Hotline, or to read the Lawyers’ Committee’s report, please visit www.866ourvote.org

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law is a nonpartisan public policy and law institute that focuses on fundamental issues of democracy and justice, including voting rights and fair elections. Visit www.brennancenter.org for more.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (LCCRUL), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of housing, community development, employment, voting, education and environmental justice.  For more information about the LCCRUL, visit www.lawyerscommittee.org.

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