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Voting Rights Experts' Statements on Voter Registration Issues

October 14, 2008

For Immediate Release: October 14, 2008

CONTACTS: \t
Deb Greenspan, dgreenspan@gloverparkgroup.com, 202-741-5573
Meg Reilly, mreilly@gloverparkgroup.com, 202-292-6975

VOTING RIGHTS EXPERTS STATEMENTS ON VOTER REGISTRATION ISSUES

Jonah Goldman, Director of the National Campaign for Fair Elections, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s Voting Rights Project.

In the next three weeks, we must maintain the integrity of the system, while also working to ensure that anyone who is properly registered is not intimidated by political operatives questioning their right to vote. We must unmask voter suppression tactics disguised as voter integrity measures.

The concerns we’re seeing now with voter registration are eminently fixable. We need a system in which registration drives and the crush of new applications to be processed before Election Day are replaced by a more standard and logical process. Government should make sure that all citizens are permanently registered to vote as soon as they become eligible and that registrations are automatically updated with changes in address and marital status. This will eliminate the need for community groups or partisans to conduct voter registration drives and make our government clearly responsible for maintaining voter rolls throughout the year.

Wendy Weiser, Democracy Deputy Director, Brennan Center for Justice.

These attacks are a diversion from the real problem, which is that hundreds of thousands of Americans will not have their votes counted this election because of public policies that prevent them from getting and staying on the voter rolls. Until we have a standard, automatic voter registration system where every eligible voter is added to the rolls, voter registration groups will play an important role in helping register citizens —especially people with lower incomes, minorities, and young people. We need to make sure that all our elections are free from intimidation, fraud, and vote suppression. This debate should make clear once and for all that we need to reform the system so that all eligible Americans are on the voter rolls, can vote, and have their votes counted.

Tova Wang, Vice President of Research, Common Cause.

It is unfortunate that some would seek to distract us from the real work that needs to be done to ensure a fair election in which every eligible voter can cast a ballot and all the ballots are counted. While there is simply no evidence of voter impersonation fraud at the polling place there is ample evidence of real people's votes that may go uncounted due to unfair practices of voter purging and other vote suppression tactics. Ultimately all this underscores the need for a system in which the government shoulders its fair share of the responsibility to ensure that Americans are properly registered and stay registered.

BACKGROUND:
The good news is that voter registration groups and election officials are identifying problems and are resolving them. The current system identified and disqualified the fraction of voter registration forms that were incorrectly filled out by workers.

Even though Mickey Mouse never showed up at the polls, the process ensured that he won’t appear on the voter rolls.

The bad news is that the millions of voters who registered properly through community organizations are now being targeted and intimidated by partisans attempting to cast a cloud of suspicion. Most of these new registrants are racial minorities and recently naturalized citizens.

Also troubling is that in the crush of processing new applications before Election Day, too many eligible voters are being thrown off the voter rolls by election workers who are overzealously bureaucratic or motivated by partisanship.

Election Protection
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 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.

The Brennan Center for Justice
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law is a non-partisan public policy and law institute that focuses on fundamental issues of democracy and justice. Our work ranges from voting rights to redistricting reform, from access to the courts to presidential power in the fight against terrorism. A singular institution – part think tank, part public interest law firm, part advocacy group – the Brennan Center combines scholarship, legislative and legal advocacy, and communications to win meaningful, measurable change in the public sector.

Common Cause
Common Cause is a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization founded in 1970 by John Gardner as a vehicle for citizens to make their voices heard in the political process and to hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest.

Now with nearly 400,000 members and supporters and 36 state organizations, Common Cause remains committed to honest, open and accountable government, as well as encouraging citizen participation in democracy.