ACLU Urges Senate Committee to Support Comprehensive Election Reform Bill Says Americans Need Uniformity, Accuracy and Accessibility

June 27, 2001 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – Saying that effective federal legislation is the best way to repair the nation’s broken election system, the American Civil Liberties Union today urged a Senate Committee today to recognize the fact that the current system is insufficient to insure the constitutional right of all Americans to have their votes counted fairly.

“Elections are at the heart of our democracy,” said LaShawn Warren, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “The Supreme Court, in its Bush v. Gore decision, has made clear that the primary goal of any election system is to guarantee the equality of each and every vote. This is not the current reality.”

The ACLU’s comments were directed at the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which is meeting today and tomorrow to discuss possible alternatives to change the way elections are conducted in the United States.

The specific legislation endorsed by the ACLU has been introduced by Sens. Christopher Dodd, D-CT and Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-SD, and by Rep. John Conyers, D-MI. The bill, called the “Equal Protection of Voting Rights Act of 2001,” would meet the three principal goals of election reform – uniformity, accuracy and accessibility – and provide the money to help state and local governments fund necessary improvements.

Warren said the new “Equal Protection of Voting Rights Act of 2001” represents the most comprehensive response to the widespread problem of voting inequality that went largely ignored prior to the November 2000 election. Unlike the other measures introduced in Congress, Warren said the Equal Protection bill would set uniform performance standards for voting equipment, promote accuracy by upgrading technology and allowing voters to correct any balloting errors and ensure accessibility for all voters, including language minorities and people with disabilities.

Having also filed litigation in four states, the ACLU has already met with an early success: a state judge in Illinois ordered the use of improved voting technology in Cook County for municipal elections held two weeks ago.

“The Federal Government has the Constitutional obligation to give every vote in America an equal say in deciding on the direction in which America will go,” Warren said. “All other rights and liberties are moot without the right to choose one’s representative in this representative democracy.”

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