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Election Protection Off to a Great Start Assisting Primary Election Voters in North Carolina and Indiana

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 Off to a Great Start Assisting
Primary Election Voters in North Carolina and Indiana
Nearly 400 Hotline Calls So Far Reporting Primary Election Barriers

(Washington, DC) May 6, 2008 – Election Protection, the nation’s largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition, together with a diverse group of partners, is in high gear helping voters in Indiana and North Carolina cast meaningful ballots through a comprehensive voter protection program.  Volunteers will be available throughout the day to continue assisting Primary Election Day voters with questions and to ensure that all voters know their rights.  Voters in both states can call 1-866-OUR-VOTE toll-free until 8 p.m. EST with any questions or issues that arise at polling areas. 

Election Protection is monitoring issues surrounding Indiana’s photo identification law.  This morning, in South Bend, Indiana, a freshman student at St. Mary’s College, excited to vote for the first time, left the polling place in tears because she only possessed a private college ID and was unable to vote.  The poll workers, nuns at a local convent, were trying to help the young student through her problem.  While they were helping her, they realized that some of their fellow nuns, who had just arrived at the polling place, also could not vote because of the photo ID law.  Not only was this group of nuns disenfranchised, but so would be four floors of retired nuns in their convent. 

“The situation this morning in South Bend is a glaring example of why Indiana’s onerous photo ID law erects an unnecessary barrier to the ballot box and disenfranchises legitimate voters,” said John Borkowski,Esquire, a partner at law firm Hogan & Hartson and Lawyers’ Committee board member who witnessed this incident firsthand.

Other incidents from Indiana 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.  Additionally, he said the mostly African-American voters were untrusting that the poll workers would ensure their votes would count.
  • At another polling place, 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.

Specific incidents reported in North Carolina 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.

Trained volunteers will continue to staff the Hotline to provide voters with free assistance and volunteers will remain at election officials’ offices in targeted areas across North Carolina and Indiana.  Field volunteers are on the ground to assist voters in person or place telephone calls to the appropriate election official. 

The toll-free number, administered by the Lawyers’ Committee is available to any voters who need information, assistance or need guidance in understanding their rights.  It is open to the entire voting public, but targets historically disenfranchised communities, including Hispanic, African American and low-income communities. 

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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